Director's Desk • 1924: The campaign for flag planting
By Michael Van Denend '78

If you didn't get a chance to read the story on Calvin alumna Laura Rip '04, a facilities engineer at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica (Spring 2007 Spark), please do so.

During all of my years here at Calvin, that's the only continent that had not previously been the backdrop for an alumni profile. Now the Calvin flag flies at the South Pole, too.

And that's just the point of the second comprehensive fund-raising campaign in Calvin's history: This college is a prime conduit for gifted and faith-inspired young people to serve God and others on every continent of the globe.

Titled "No Greater Task: Hearts and Minds Renewing God's World," the campaign encompasses student scholarship and faculty research endowments, as well as building and infrastructure projects that will keep those massive costs out of tuition and fees.

But the title of the campaign is intended to remind alumni and friends that this initiative is not ultimately about budgets and buildings. It is about giving alumni such as Laura Rip the opportunity to go as far as God leads her-even to the South Pole-to do her part in renewing God's world.

Rip, an engineering major at Calvin, said this about her calling: "I found that I wanted to put my energy into being a better steward of God's creation by trying to remedy some of the issues we have with pollution. That's a cause I'm excited about."

Calvin has been about this business of renewal throughout its 130-year history. What has changed is the expansive view of a Calvin education today-and where that vision leads today's Calvin graduates.

When I graduated from Calvin in the late '70s, I was challenged to serve in the Kingdom, but my perspective of the "what" and the "where" of possible service was limited. I don't blame the college for that; there were simply fewer educational opportunities that it could offer me, and the prevailing winds of student interest at that time had definite boundaries.

Today, my son Luke, who will be a senior at Calvin this academic year, has not only been challenged by his professors to think globally, but his view of what he might do has been enhanced with courses and programs that know few cultural limits.

He is in his fourth year of studying Japanese language and has spent an entire summer in that country. He hopes to be in Cambodia this interim. The exciting field of Asian studies and the creative professors who teach courses in that area have opened up countless options for him after graduation. Virtually none of this was open to an earlier generation of Calvin students.

Calvin flags are being planted in places we never dreamed possible. And even closer to home, alumni are using their hearts and minds in fields unimaginable a couple of decades ago: biotechnology, communication disorders, urban studies, to name a few.

And when a Calvin flag is planted it stands for this: that Jesus Christ has claimed this corner of the Kingdom, too-this home, this office, this street, this stand of trees. Yes, as Laura Rip has demonstrated, even this chunk of floating ice!

This is a renewal project that ought to energize all Calvin alumni. The campaign needs every friend of the college to get on board.

There is really "no greater task" than sending more of these well-trained young men and women of character into a world that needs them desperately. They will lead our churches, schools, businesses, professions, nonprofits and governments in the decades ahead.

Let the flag planting continue! Help make it so with your involvement in the Campaign for Calvin.


Michael J. Van Denend,
Executive Editor, Spark