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Namekeeper
By Michael Van Denend ‘78

 
 

It has been said that one’s good name is a precious thing to be protected at all costs. The person who has spent more time than any other individual protecting Calvin alumni names is Twylla Vandermolen Nieboer ’62. Since 1982, she’s been the alumni records clerk and knows more about the first, middle, last, maiden and nicknames of Calvin alumni than anybody else.

You should be very glad that Twylla is your namekeeper.

Mike Van Denend and Twylla Nieboer
Mike Van Denend presents a special edition of the Outstanding Service Award to Twylla Nieboer.

The Alumni Association Board is pleased and made sure Twylla knew it by presenting her with a special edition of the Outstanding Service Award this October.

And Twylla’s response? "It has always been a joy to work at Calvin. I never get up in the morning grumpy about going to campus. I’m eager to see my friends and meet the people that come in the door during the day. I can’t imagine being anywhere else," she said to the Board.

Lucky for you and me.

Twylla grew up in Peoria, Iowa and attended Calvin intent on being an elementary teacher. She did just that for three years, at Oakdale Christian School in Grand Rapids and later did tutoring and other volunteering in a number of school settings. Along the way she married Will Nieboer ’61 and together they raised daughters Kim ’88, Michelle ’91 and Jaci ’93.

The Herculean task of getting alumni data from hard copy to computer had just been completed when Twylla, looking for a part-time position to help with the girls’ tuition costs, joined the alumni office. But her efforts over the next 18 years would prove even more amazing.

There are over 52,000 personal records on the alumni database and Twylla cares for each good name harbored there. She adds new address, occupation and educational degree information, as well as marriages, births, deaths and now email addresses. While that may sound to you like a simple data entry position, I assert that since Twylla massages that alumni records file so carefully and knowledgeably, her importance to the Alumni Association is inestimable.

It isn’t easy, for example, differentiating between the 22 John De Vrieses in the alumni files!

Give Twylla a last name and I am certain that, in many instances, she will know where that alum resides and probably could connect some other information, too, such as relatives or occupation or current connection to Calvin.

One of the first pieces of advice given to me as a rookie alumni director was to make certain the computer records on alumni were accurate and as complete as possible. "You can program all of the events you want," I was told, "but if you can’t find your alumni and you don’t know what their interests are, you might as well save yourself the effort."

That counsel has remained with me and thanks to Twylla, Calvin’s "lost alumni" numbers are so low as to be the envy of Associations from coast to coast. She is particular, precise and protective. The "protective" part of that sequence should make alums especially happy.

Twylla hovers over Calvin’s alumni records like a lioness watching her cubs. The Association gets asked weekly for information on alumni and she is ever vigilant, making certain that only Calvin College and Alumni Association projects have access to the data. Over the years, she and I have discussed many issues related to the care and keeping of alumni records. You could not ask for a more conscientious guardian angel.

Your good name is of utmost importance to us. That’s why the right person among all 52,000 of Association members is on the job. If you need something fixed on your file, want to track down that long lost residence hall friend or need to get connected to alumni in your new hometown, Twylla’s just a phone call (616-957-6474) or email away.

We hope God continues to grace us with her gifts for a long while ahead.

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