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2001 Outstanding Service Award: Dirk Pruis '82
By Michael J. Van Denend '78

 
 
Dirk Pruis
Dirk Pruis receives his award at Homecoming.

A Calvin College interim class is studying Wall Street. The students walk down the famous avenues of New York City gawking at the sights and sounds of the busiest metropolis in the country. Then, business professor Don Attebury directs them into Goldman Sachs & Company, one of the financial giants of the district. Almost at once, the Calvin students feel as though they're back at Knollcrest Campus. Dirk Pruis, Class of '82, is their host—and new mentor.

The students will hear from one of Goldman's best on transaction strategies and perhaps learn something even more important as Pruis gives a talk on "A Christian Perspective on Wall Street."

Pruis, one of the Alumni Association's 2001 Outstanding Service Award winners, has always had Calvin in his heart and mind.

"My earliest memories of Calvin are set on the Franklin Campus," he said. While obviously too young to have attended the college when it was on Franklin, Pruis's father, Don, was a long-time business professor at Calvin.

"I spent a lot of time with my dad on campus and got to know many people there," Pruis said. "I remember helping move my dad's office from the Franklin Campus to the Knollcrest Campus. In fact, I really wanted to skip high school and go right to Calvin since I knew my way around better, knew more people and felt more comfortable."

A three-time NCAA All-American diver for Calvin, Pruis said the physical education staff gave him significant support and direction during his college days.

"He'd probably be surprised to hear this, but Jim Timmer was quite a guiding influence on me. He coached swimming at the time and counseled me on career matters and my general direction. He challenged me to broaden my horizons and not do the easy thing."

Timmer allowed Pruis leeway in helping shape the Calvin summer swimming program, too, and the experiences of developing a competitive summer age-group swim team as a Calvin student and later helping guide new swimmers and divers while a grad student at Michigan were invaluable.

One other plus was meeting Liesl Vande Creek '88, a Calvin swimmer (and also an All-American) who later became Mrs. Pruis.

Pruis's support for Calvin has shone in diverse and influential ways. He was selected for the service award for his willingness to help Calvin wherever he happens to be—and that has been in some far-flung places.

After his Michigan MBA degree, Pruis was hired by the local office of a "Big Eight" accounting firm. After handling a big job working for a New York partner, he was offered a transfer to the Big Apple. Later, Goldman snatched him away and he's been there ever since. He's been a vice president involved in broker/dealer regulations and in various financial and strategic management positions for the company.

Goldman sent Pruis to Mexico City for a year and a half and upon his return he submitted an application to be on the Alumni Association Board. He was elected, made an immediate positive impact and was soon chosen by his Board peers to be the Association President during the third year of his term. During this time, he played a major role in revitalizing the NewYork/New Jersey Alumni Chapter.

However, just prior to the year of his Presidency, Goldman sent Pruis to Japan to serve as the controller/CEO of the office in Tokyo. How could he still be the Board President? Pruis managed to work this out well. He was able to arrange trips back to the U.S. so that Goldman business and the Association meeting coincided. And, while in Japan, he helped renew ties between Calvin and the Christian Academy of Japan (CAJ).

"At the time I arrived, the Calvin-CAJ relationship was a bit strained," said Pruis. "I got to know the wonderful staff there and together we worked on ways to reestablish a strong Calvin connection. They asked if I would talk about global economic policy to seniors and I agreed—as long as I could also talk about Calvin."

The Calvin-CAJ partnership is still strong and Pruis also initiated a Japan Alumni Scholarship Fund through the Association, providing scholarships to high school students living in Japan and desiring a Calvin education.

When his time in Japan was completed, Pruis and the family moved back to New Jersey and he immediately became re-involved in local Chapter ventures, including the student interim program. But Calvin needed his Japanese expertise yet again.

In the summer of 2000, the Calvin Alumni Choir intended to go on an ambitious Asian Tour and almost didn't include Japan because it had fewer direct contacts there.

"I knew that there were many, many important opportunities for the choir in Japan," said Pruis, "so I asked to be involved in the planning to make certain Japan would get the benefits and vice versa."

Pruis was able once again to combine work assignments with Calvin volunteering and, along with missionary and Calvin alum Larry Spalink, helped arrange a wonderful set of experiences for the Alumni Choir—life-changing experiences for all involved.

"There were tears in my eyes during the service at Tokyo Union Church," he said. "And when the choir sang a Japanese folk song in Japanese, people were on the edge of their seats. Their concerts affected many people."

Pruis was also pleased to see the personal interaction between choir members and Japanese concertgoers.

"Seeing Japanese people coming out of their shells as they mixed well with choir members after the concert was amazing. In my time in Japan, I rarely saw that openness and risk-taking. What a wonderful mixture of God's children!"

Choir manager Darlene Meyering said the Japan leg of the tour set the tone for the entire trip and without Pruis, it wouldn't have been possible.

"Dirk was the maestro of that part of the tour," she said. "I work with many volunteers, but Dirk is one of the finest in his attention to details, knowledge of the country, good counsel on particulars and, above all, love of Calvin and heart for seeing the message of Christ spread."

Choir director Pearl Shangkuan echoed Meyering.

"Dirk made the doors of Japan open up for us. We could have had no better guide and advisor. His efforts enabled our music to reach many hearts and for the Japanese people to teach us important lessons," Shangkuan said.

As busy as a globetrotting vice president on Wall Street can be, Pruis finds his Calvin efforts come naturally.

"Calvin's a shining light for the Kingdom," he said. "To me, the college is the main solid institution guiding Reformed education and theology. I've never been prouder to be alum and will always do all I can for the school."

He's certainly proved that statement to be true—from New York to Tokyo and back again.

The Outstanding Service Award
Previous winners; nominate a person or organization.

New Jersey-New York Alumni Chapter
Interim photos

Alumni Choir
Asia 2000 Tour

Christian Academy in Japan

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