She was from Benton Harbor and didn’t know a soul at Calvin; he was from Battle Creek and had cousins and friends represented in all four classes on the Franklin campus.
Marj Kok, a first-year student and aspiring Thespian, and Bob Boot, a junior and right-fielder for the baseball Knights, were introduced by a classmate, and the result was a God-blessed marriage, a wonderful family, dedicated lives of service and a lifelong connection to Calvin.
“I didn’t want to go to Calvin,” said Marj. “I only went to Grand Rapids four times a year, for communion services at Sherman Street Christian Reformed Church because there wasn’t a Reformed church where we lived. But there was no question that I would go. My father was adamant about that.”
With Bob’s family ties to the school, the choice of college wasn’t an issue.
“There were only about 450 students at Calvin when we attended,” Marj recalled. “We knew everyone, and we all ate together in the basement of the dorm. The friends we made there are still our friends. While we appreciate the excellent education, the deep friendships with other Christians stand out as most important. Those relationships mean so much.”
Bob recalls influential professors such as Johannes Broene in psychology and John Timmerman in English.
“Doc De Vries kept me out of med school because I took his organic chemistry course,” he joked.
“I remember walking by his house and telling Doc that he’s the guy who put me in the insurance business. And, you know, I am sincerely grateful for that. It has been a wonderful career,” Bob said.
Marj added that another formative experience for her at Calvin was being a member of the Thespians.
“My claim to fame was having a role in the production of I Remember Mama, directed by Melanie Batts,” she said.
The Boots moved to Kalamazoo, where they became involved in church and Christian school activities and leadership. But always, Calvin was a major focus of volunteer attention.
Bob was the president of the Kalamazoo alumni chapter and had a key role in two major fund-raising drives for the college. More recently, both Bob and Marj served as members of the Heritage chapter leadership committee. They have been faithful and generous donors to their alma mater.
“At Calvin, we learned that we’re to give of ourselves, be an example and be active in your community,” said Marj. “And Christian education has remained a high value for us.”
Their three children—Shari ’72, Susan ’74 and Scott ’77—are all Calvin graduates, and four grandchildren are also alumni.
In later years, a move to the Naples, Fla., area did not mean that the Boot connection to Calvin had to end. They have been active in keeping “the Calvin spark” alive in their winter community by hosting the Calvin-Hope satellite basketball broadcast for all 11 years of that event. In addition, Bob and Marj host an annual luncheon for alumni and friends that typically involves a Calvin faculty or staff member.
“I’m pretty certain we’ve hosted something down here for alumni for 18 years in a row,” said Bob.
“We love the school, and we try to stay in touch,” said Marj. “We are always recruiting for Calvin. We want others to stay connected, too.”
This January, there was another successful Calvin-Hope satellite game in Naples, this year at a new location, Big Al’s City Grill.
“We told the restaurant we’d have about 80 to 90 attending, but we wound up with 112. It was a great turnout, with of course a great conclusion to the game,” Bob said, noting Calvin’s thrilling 66-64 victory over the Flying Dutchmen.
Marj’s father, Dr. Harry Kok, a pioneer radiologist, established the first-ever named scholarship at Calvin in the waning months of his life before he died of cancer at the age of 49.
Bob and Marj followed suit by establishing their own endowed scholarship at Calvin.
“My father loved Calvin so much; that had a tremendous impact on me,” said Marj. “And if he could see the school today, my my,” she paused.
“Well, he would say, ‘God has certainly blessed Calvin College.’”
Bob and Marj Boot found each other at Calvin and found a cause they could support together.
“Whenever we come to Calvin, it is a homecoming,” said Marj. “We feel like we’re home.”
Each year since 1969, the alumni association presents Outstanding Service Awards to alumni and friends who have given extraordinary service to Calvin College. At Homecoming, these persons receive the award for their tremendous support of the college.
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