A surprising president-elect

Michael K. Le Roy to become 10th president of Calvin College

by Michael Van Denend '78
Spring 2012

Here’s how one presidential search committee member put it: “If you had told the members of our committee that we would complete this process by unanimously choosing a person that not one of us had heard of prior to our first meeting, I am sure every one of us would have said that wasn’t possible.”

That same committee is more convinced than ever before that all things are possible with God and in a process bathed in prayer.

Michael K. Le Roy, currently the executive vice president and provost at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash., is the board of trustees’ choice to be the tenth president of Calvin College.

Le Roy is not an alumnus of Calvin, he’s not a member of the Christian Reformed Church and he is certainly not Dutch.

I’m not sure very many people watching this process would have figured on that. And maybe that’s good. It is one way to make clear that the search committee was sincere in its consistent message of being open to God’s leading. It also underscores Le Roy’s testimony to the Calvin community after his selection that he had left this process totally in God’s hands—and was continually amazed as every supposed barrier to his selection melted away.

I had the chance to meet and to hear Le Roy in early January at a dinner with faculty, staff and trustees. I was impressed with his spirituality, humility and excitement to be a part of the special place that is Calvin College.

He talked about Calvin being a college at which “intense curiosity and deep conviction was present in equal measures”—the word “and” being most important in the phrase. The president of Calvin College was charged with “managing the paradox” of those twin pillars, making certain that neither one harmed the other.

That sounds a whole lot like what presidents Spoelhof, Diekema and Byker have been about for the last 62 years—and what Calvin has been known for in its 136-year history.

Le Roy said that the president had to be “educator in chief,” conveying the importance of maintaining the balance of curiosity and conviction to Calvin alumni and friends.

“Our supporters,” he said, “need to know the benefits of the paradox, that thinking critically and carefully is an important—and rare—attribute of our college.”

The Calvin Alumni Association is a ready partner to assist the educator in chief in that mission. We do that with sincere gratitude to the eight Dutch CRC alumni who led the institution so well before and with anticipation that the ninth president will continue that mission in new and interesting ways. (By the way, Le Roy will join a CRC after he and his family move here.)

Le Roy mentioned that he had received over 1,500 e-mails in the weeks after the December announcement of being the search committee’s choice. I told him not to expect that volume of communication to wane any time soon. But perhaps we can work together to keep his mailbox from crashing.

If you’re an alum of Calvin and have some thoughts for the new president, send them to our office at alumni@calvin.edu; if you’re a Calvin parent and wish to do the same, use parents@calvin.edu. We’ll share them with Le Roy. And together, on inauguration day—Oct. 17, 2012—we can be surprised by joy.