Alums support ‘Average Joe’

Scholarship recognizes alternatively gifted students


Winter 2012

The first year that the Average Joe Scholarship was awarded at Calvin, there were only four applicants. Turns out average Joes don’t look for scholarships because they don’t think there’s anything available for them.

And that’s the intent, according to Joe Westra ’06, who established the scholarship to recognize ordinary students. “I thought there were plenty of scholarships for people who get really good grades or who are good at music or something else; I wanted to reward somebody who hasn’t done anything exceptional but still works really hard.”

The Average Joe Scholarship requires a GPA of less than 3.2 (it does require a minimum of 2.7). Other criteria include being a business major, highly motivated and entrepreneurial.

“It’s nice to be able to reward a hard-working student with a scholarship, who normally wouldn’t qualify for one based on their academic record,” said Lynne Heerema, assistant director of financial aid. “This scholarship makes that possible.”

And many students fit the criteria.

“There are tons of people out there who didn’t get straight As that end up in really successful careers,” said Westra, who is a regional sales manager for Systems Components in Denver, Colo.

In fact, two of them—Drew DeVries ’06 and Chris Hofstra ’06— are good friends of Westra’s and have joined him in supporting this scholarship.

“Joe and I share a lot of similarities in personality and approach to life,” DeVries said. “When I heard about this scholarship I was on board because Calvin College is a cool place, and I love what I got out of it. I think this fits the profile of what I think a successful student can be; I resonated with the whole style of it. It’s for somebody who is academically good enough.”

DeVries, who recently sold his first business and is working on a second business venture, admits he would have fit the criteria for this scholarship. “I got Bs and Cs, which wasn’t good enough to be recognized for anything,” he said. “But a GPA is not always a direct measure of someone’s intelligence; it can be measured in so many different ways.”

“My long-term hope,” said Westra, “is that this scholarship provides other people with something to think about and consider in terms of how they might be able to support Calvin and contribute to the hard work of students in some way they can relate to.”