The History of the Van Lunen Center
The Van Lunen Center for Executive Management in Christian Schools was established at Calvin College in January of 2007, courtesy of a $2 million gift to the college from the Richard D. Van Lunen Foundation. The Van Lunen Center was established to serve faith-based schools large and small across the U.S. and Canada with a big-tent philosophy, reaching out to schools from a wide-range of faith traditions, including Catholic, evangelical Protestant, Episcopal, independent Christian, Lutheran and Reformed Christian day schools. The 21 fellows selected for summer 2007 represented a wide range of faith traditions, school sizes and geographic location. The Dedication of the Van Lunen Center was held on October 3, 2007, Calvin College. Dr. Shirley Roels, Director of the Van Lunen Center, gave the keynote address, "Heading the Faith-Full School."
Since the start of the program in 2007, the Van Lunen Center has enrolled cohorts with 21 to 24 heads of schools beginning each July. These Van Lunen Fellows represent schools from all over the United States and Canada, and include one head of school from Japan and one from Korea. In addition to the faith traditions listed above, cohorts have included Fellows from Southern Baptist, Mennonite, and Presbyterian schools.
After serving as Director of the Van Lunen Center from 2006 to 2012, Dr. Shirley Roels stepped into her full-time role as Senior Advisor for the Council of Independent Colleges - NetVUE. Dr. Bruce Hekman became Interim Director for the 2012-2013 program year. In 2012, the Van Lunen Center Governing Board appointed Mr. Jim Marsh as Director of the Van Lunen Center. Jim Marsh became Director on August 1, 2013.
Excerpt from the Dedication by Dr. Gordon VanderBrug
The Foundation’s focus is Christian schools. Why Christian schools? Because we firmly believe that Christian schools are an important element in helping to make ‘the kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven’.
There were some things that were extremely important to us in the development of the Center. They are built into our six core values, and include developing executives who modeled management from a faith perspective, and having a program which is both collaborative and applied in its approach.
I’d like to underscore just one of the core values—the one that we have come to affectionately call the Big Tent. The importance of this core value is underscored in the graphical reference to a tent profile built into our logo.
It seems to us that within the various parts of Christendom we are particularly good at spending time at how we differ, but not nearly as good at spending time on the vast majority that we hold in common. The possibility of building a program that serves all kinds of Christian schools—Catholic, Lutheran, evangelical, Reformed and Episcopalian - and thus embodies ‘spending time on what we hold in common’ was exceptionally exciting.
We thought it would even strengthen how we all operate within our particular contexts. We did not intend to ask heads of schools to ignore their difference, but to respect them and explore them, while focusing on what we held in common. And I think that we have an excellent start to making this a reality.