Letters to the Editor

Calvin’s influence appreciated
This is to let you know how much I appreciate Spark. I write as a “senior citizen” who graduated in 1959, then continued at the seminary. I was especially appreciative of “The Greening of the Campus” (winter 2008), and the increasing interest of the decision makers to implement all possible areas where renewable measures are feasible. I am proud to be a graduate of Calvin and appreciate how it has grown in size as well as matured in being more cosmopolitan. Although I support Calvin among other numerous worthy sources, Spark is a good reminder of the scope of Calvin’s influence on the world beyond the Christian Reformed Church, and I am inclined to increase my support because of Calvin’s influence on the younger generation, who will therefore influence the world some of us will depart in the not-too-distant future and on which we may have a more limited impact. May God continue to use Calvin to do His work in the world!

Jan Friend ’59 BD ’62
Dupont, Wash.

Say ‘no’ to ivy
Upon seeing the winter 2008 cover of Spark, I immediately questioned the accuracy and credibility of its contents. With a headline like “Going Green,” why would you choose to showcase English ivy (Hedera helix), one of the most invasive plants in the U.S.? You should be well aware of the damage caused by invasive species.

Diane Sundling Kolak ’95
Lake Ann, Mich.

Kudos to recycling founder
I enjoyed the “green” article in Spark (winter 2008). In recycling, emeritus engineering professor James Bosscher was the “father” of the entire area’s recycling enterprise and probably should have received some recognition. It is amazing how quickly those basic facts get lost; we all now assume recycling as a part of daily life, but in the very recent past this was not so. Jim Bosscher deserves a loud accolade.

Harvey J. Bratt ’50
Grand Rapids, Mich.

No global warming
It was with interest, and then with great disappointment, that I read about the greening of Calvin. I was pleased to see that students were becoming ecologically aware, but my pleasure in this was more than offset by the news that nearly all the students in an engineering class admitted to the brainwashing of the United Nations by claiming to believe the unproven hypothesis of human-caused global warming.

I would request that you inquire what real observable evidence this professor could present as to the truth of this belief—and belief is what it is. It is not science. It is a new social dogma, dangerously close to a religion. The fact of the matter is that the globe has been cooling for the last decade, and will most likely cool for the next 30 years.

The warming cycle our Earth just concluded was a natural one, like all the warming and cooling periods we have had in history. The idea that man caused or even could cause a change in climate is not only wrong, it is the most dangerous idea I have seen in my lifetime. The economic misery of trying to cure a non-problem will cause untold deaths around the world. I can’t believe that Calvin would support a professor who did not realize that General Circulation model projections are the only “proof” anyone has ever had of AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming), and not a shred of real empirical evidence has ever been presented.

Douglas Danhoff ’68
Oakdale, Calif.

Steps toward sustainability
The “Going Green” edition of the winter 2008 Spark was fantastic. I am pleased and proud that Calvin College has taken sustainable development to such an impressive level. They are demonstrating that our respect of God’s creation must guide our use of creation. The staff and administration have integrated sustainability into so many aspects of the day-to-day operations of the campus. Many campuses across the country are starting green-campus initiatives and no doubt could learn from what Calvin is doing.

As sustainability becomes more woven into the fabric of who Calvin College is, I would suggest that Calvin take two more important steps forward. The first would be to hire a full-time sustainability coordinator. This position is crucial in assuring that all the initiatives on campus are well-coordinated and meet some measurable sustainability standards, much like the LEED certification process. My second suggestion would be to require sustainable development be part of the academic curriculum. This may entail making it a general education requirement much like science, math and English are required of all students. An optional strategy might be to encourage all academic departments to directly address sustainability in some shape or form. We have taken these two steps at the campus where I teach (College of Menominee Nation), and it has elevated environmental sustainability to a whole new level as a decision-making tool. I encourage Calvin to keep up the good work, and I will certainly join the alumni discussion Listserv on sustainability that was started.

William Van Lopik ’75
Keshena, Wis.

Celebrate our heritage
The ongoing controversy surrounding the resignation of Dr. Denise Isom regarding her church affiliation (“Letters,” winter 2008) raises a number of related issues surrounding our Reformed heritage and our managerial decision-making processes at Calvin.

First, I would guess that most of us are not privy to the amount of discussion, prayer, heartache and compassionate dialogue that undoubtedly occurred before this decision was made. I believe those entrusted to lead our college have the best intentions and the best interests of our college at heart.

Second, perhaps Dr. Isom’s exception request, however well intentioned and legitimate, if approved would only have prompted dozens more requests, all with equally convincing and worthy causes for the college to consider. Perhaps changing Calvin’s position on this topic would lead to a questioning of other college policies that generate personal inconvenience for some. Perhaps it was something different altogether. Sometimes we need to put personal feelings aside and stand firm on policies in an effort to maintain order and structure for the entire institution. I do it as a parent every day. We make choices. We weigh opinions, outcomes and long-term consequences. Whether or not we agree with a particular policy, we need to realize that many times institutions, governments, corporations, schools, churches and families don’t operate well based on an “it depends” system of management. We can’t just change a policy because we feel badly for the individual involved. That doesn’t usually translate into great leadership qualities or sound public policy.

Of course I hope we can strive to welcome those students and faculty from other faiths and other ethnic backgrounds, but the bottom line is, if you come to Calvin, you are knowingly choosing a distinctively Dutch, Reformed education and environment. And, when you choose to teach here, you are choosing to teach in a Reformed, Dutch community with ALL of its values, requirements and even guidelines regarding church membership. I’m afraid too many of us are trying to make Calvin into something that fits our current needs and neglect to see it as a college with a rich, well-defined heritage holding a unique position in a post-modern society which seems to cater to a morally relativistic worldview. Ideally, people choose Calvin College because they agree with its worldview. There are plenty of state colleges that have no requirements. We are not Baptist. We are not Lutheran. We are not Catholic. We are not publicly funded. We can do our best to make it a welcoming atmosphere for anyone, but let’s not compromise or be embarrassed by who we are.

And finally, many of the conversations I have heard regarding this issue have been related to an ongoing embarrassment with being Dutch and Reformed. I do not see this in other cultures. I have Italian, Hispanic, Cuban, African-American and Asian friends who do not constantly berate their own heritage nor attempt to distance themselves from it. Most are proud and strive to preserve and cherish their heritage—building monuments, hosting festivals, designating city neighborhoods, opening restaurants, starting and maintaining colleges and hospitals with a decidedly ethnic and/or religious slant, and generally standing up for their culture in the public square. Why is it that this new generation of Reformed Dutch is apparently embarrassed with who they are and where they came from? I happen to like our customs, our food, our work ethic, our faith, our churches, our intellectual prowess AND our college.

Amanda Jager Peterman ’94
Jenison, Mich.

Sensitivity for fellow Christians
In reading the winter issue of Spark closely, I noted that at their biennial retreat, the Calvin board of trustees had training in anti-racism and racial reconciliation. Calvin advertises that it is “an equal opportunity employer.” What is wrong with this picture, when a highly competent professor must resign because she doesn’t belong to the “right church?” Calvin rightly celebrates the growing diversity of its student body and yet apparently is afraid to risk its “purity” by extending that policy to professors. Could there possibly be a connection between the recent dip in enrollment and this kind of episode in the life of Calvin? As our global consciousness grows in the 21st century, so must our sensitivity grow toward our fellow Christians (not to mention those of other religious persuasions).

I grew up in the Christian Reformed Church and graduated from Calvin in 1966, having received an excellent education there. However, in 1971 I joined the Presbyterian Church, with my major concern being the limited role of female leadership in the CRC. I have never regretted my decision. I am grateful that the Spirit is gradually working to allow the ordination of women in the CRC, but am deeply saddened by the decision about Professor Isom.

Kathleen DeKorne Mezoff ’66
Gallup, N.M.

Diversity, not conformity
Two letters in the winter issue of Spark decrying the resignation of former Calvin professor Denise Isom compel me to address the issue of diversity. Each letter claimed “embarrassment” or being “ashamed” of Calvin’s enforcement of its long-held policy of requiring faculty to be members of the Christian Reformed Church or another acceptable Reformed church. Both authors seek, in the name of diversity, a change in this policy of which Dr. Isom was aware before becoming a Calvin employee. Such change might increase diversity on a micro-level, but it would actually hurt diversity on a macro-level.

Diversity celebrates differences and varieties. When you want Italian food, you go to a place that specializes in Italian food. In previous decades, these restaurants were primarily located in neighborhoods with an Italian identity created because of the number of Italian immigrants and their descendants. One could enjoy the different sounds, sights, flavors, languages and smells of different peoples in a truly diverse society.

Today, society, in its drive for diversity, is actually stamping it out. Gone are the Italian and Polish neighborhoods, all subject to equal housing laws. Gone are the businesses that primarily catered to an ethnic clientele, destroyed by equal employment laws which made the companies hire individuals who did not share the same heritage as their clientele.

True diversity requires gathering together people of a common religion, perspective, heritage, custom or whatever makes the group unique, in a common enterprise. If every institution must no longer be distinctive, there will be conformity and a complete lack of diversity.

For true diversity to exist, Calvin must be particularly dutiful to maintain its mission, which does not encompass general Christianity. Rather, Calvin is distinctly and historically Reformed with its unique tie to the Christian Reformed Church that should be cherished and nurtured. Calvin’s contribution to diversity is the fact that it is Reformed, and the best way to preserve that distinction is to require its faculty members to be members of the CRC. Without this distinctiveness, the Midwest, nation and the world will lose diversity, as Calvin slides into general Christianity and perhaps some other destination in the future.

I assume that most people would agree that in the name of diversity every restaurant should not have the same menu. Similarly, we should not insist that every Christian college have the same requirements. “Diversity” must not lead to conformity.

Jim Davids ’73
Chesapeake, Va.

Dr. Spoelhof remembered
As the Calvin community remembers the life, work and witness of President Spoelhof, I also have a story to relate. In late afternoon of early January 2008, President Spoelhof sat in a high-backed chair facing the main entry to Raybrook. In this elegant room, workers were about to dismantle the Christmas tree, dimming festive lights for the final time. Storage boxes covered the floor, ready to receive ornaments. Visiting my mother-in-law at Raybrook, I was about to pass Spoelhof but asked amid my rush, “President Spoelhof, is somebody picking you up for a ride?” He often sat in the chair waiting for a driver. “No,” he responded cheerily, “but I’ve come here to see the lights for what might be my last time. I didn’t want to miss their glow.”

This faithful Christian verbalized a foreshadowing of what awaited him. Now, like those lights packed away, his earthly flame has dimmed. But our faith reminds us he now sees the Light of Lights and eternally rests in the glow of Christ, His Savior and Lord.

Jack R. Van Ens ’67
Arvada, Colo.

NOTE: You may leave a memory of President Spoelhof on his memorial Web site by signing the Guestbook.

Thanks to career development
I recently received a copy of the Spark and read Glenn Triezenberg’s “Career Comment” about his last Prelude lecture. I appreciate Glenn’s candor and his willingness to talk with anyone seeking advice, and, as one who took advantage of that offer as a Calvin business student and as a Calvin alum, I’d like to say thank you. It continues to be important to stay on top of the career game, especially during these tough economic times. I’ve found Glenn and the rest of the career development office staff to be a wonderful resource.

Kelli Muilenburg ’07
Seattle, Wash.

Good stewards
What a delight to read about van Reken Hall and the van Reken family (winter 2008). I met Randy (van Reken) when we were high school seniors. I wrestled him four times that year and lost all four times. I ran into Randy a few times at Calvin and in Michigan and met his father once at Calvin. They are very nice people, and it is a thrill to see Stanley exercising such good stewardship over all he has been given.

Kip Haggerty, ex’77
El Segundo, Calif.

Alums and sons read Wednesday Wars
I’m attaching a photo of four sixth-grade boys who are in a book group with their moms. The latest book we read and discussed was (Calvin professor) Gary Schmidt’s Wednesday Wars. The moms and boys loved the book! From left: Stefan Burke, son of Valerie Broekhuizen Burke (’87); Christian Rhoades, Kyle DeVries, son of Dave ’87 and Susan Wagner DeVries ’88; Luke Brandsen, son of Rod Brandsen ’89.

Kerri Brandsen,
Holland, Mich.

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