Both Lloyd DeVries '68 and Phyllis (P.J.) Van Dam DeVries '69 remember a moment in their professional careers when the value of a Calvin education was suddenly strikingly clear.
Neither had been keen on attending Calvin. For Lloyd, granted an early release from the Navy to go to college, Calvin was simply the first school to accept his application. For P.J., it was the college her parents would help pay for.
Seventeen years after graduating, Lloyd found himself in New York City as the general manager of the world's largest envelope manufacturing plant, owned by Williamhouse-Regency Inc. He had been hired to computerize the plant's operations and give it a better infrastructure. While chairing a meeting with the plant's senior staff and officers from corporate headquarters, Lloyd remembers, there was a lull in conversation.
"I looked around the room at all these people who had graduated from Ivy League schools, who had Harvard and Yale MBAs, and all of a sudden I thought, 'Here I am, a Calvin grad with an MBA from Michigan State, chairing this meeting. Why was I brought here?' It came to me that though other staff were very competent in their technical areas, and had figured the practical and financial angles of computerizing the company, they left out important interpersonal and workflow dimensions of implementing it with employees. They didn't put the whole package together."
P.J. had similar moments-many of them-as a human resources director for Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services and the Greenville hospital system after the couple moved back to west Michigan.
"In hospital management circles we often talked about big ethical questions dealing with quality of life and death," she said. "My Calvin education prepared me to discuss them from a variety of perspectives, including the moral and ethical. I felt I was a step ahead. That was true, too, when we had to deal with layoffs or employee discipline and health issues. I had been given a way to see these issues that took into account the whole person and the whole community."
Both Lloyd and P.J. say they only really understood the value of their Calvin education once they'd left "the west Michigan-CRC cocoon." Besides New York, the couple lived in Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio, while Lloyd moved through the envelope manufacturing business. They moved back to Grand Rapids when he started his own such business in 1986.
All his experience in business, combined with positions P.J. has held as a human resources professional, lead them to advise Calvin students thus: "Don't make your world too small. You can compete with the best grads from the best schools because your technical knowledge is built around a center that holds it together and makes it meaningful and relevant."
Each year the DeVrieses have an opportunity to give that encouragement to two particular students. They've endowed two scholarships for those who must work to earn some or all of their college expenses, as both Lloyd and P.J. did.
In the scholarship recipients, they see an immediate return on their gifts to Calvin. With another kind of gift, the return both to them and to the college is more long-term.
Together, on Jan. 1, 2000, Lloyd and P.J. retired. Though only in his mid-50s, Lloyd felt that by starting and growing a successful business he had "conquered the mountain." P.J., too, was ready for something new. And both were asking themselves, "How much is enough? How much do we really need?"
Now the DeVrieses split their time between Corpus Christi, Texas, and Grand Rapids. P.J., a certified master gardener, volunteers giving presentations and tours of her Michigan garden where she breeds daylilies. (Her maroon-and-yellow "Good Knight" variety is planted on Calvin's campus.) Lloyd volunteers for SCORE, a national nonprofit association whose members offer free, confidential counseling to small-business owners. SCORE's Corpus Christi chapter has named him its 2007 Volunteer of the Year, and both sit on Calvin's Planned Giving Advisory Council.
As full-time volunteers, the DeVrieses receive some of their present income from returns on a charitable trust they've established with the college, income assured them for the rest of their lives. Their gift has increased the college's asset base, ensuring that Calvin can continue to offer new students what it offered the DeVrieses.
Because, in Lloyd's words, "The world needs more Calvin grads."
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