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Calvin Commencement to Shift Off Campus
updated May 14, 2007

For the first time in over 40 years graduates of Calvin College will have their Commencement ceremony in downtown Grand Rapids.

The 2007 Calvin Commencement, slated for Saturday, May 19 at 2 pm, will be held in VanAndel Arena, on Fulton Street in downtown GR. Commencement 2007 marks the 87th such conferring of four-year degrees in Calvin's 131-year history.

Commencement 1965 at Civic AuditoriumThe last Commencement not to be held in the Calvin Fieldhouse took place in 1966 at the old Civic Auditorium, which was located less than a mile from the site of VanAndel Arena (the Civic was south of the Grand River near the current DeVos Place).

Calvin also plans to hold its May 2008 Commencement ceremony at VanAndel Arena before moving back to campus in May 2009.

The reason for the move is simple.

Construction on Calvin's Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex, which will include a new arena, a new aquatics center and a new indoor track and tennis center, will begin this spring and that work will allow only limited access to Calvin Fieldhouse (which will be renovated into a health and recreation center).

Calvin president Gaylen Byker says that while polls of seniors over the years have indicated they prefer to graduate on campus, those polls also show that a Commencement at VanAndel was preferred over other possible on-campus options, such as an outdoor ceremony.

And he says Calvin commencements in 2007 and 2008 will reflect as much as possible typical Calvin Commencement ceremonies of the past.

"Given the concerns of accessibility, safety, parking, and convenience for the faculty, graduates and families attending the commencement ceremony, the committee has done a tremendous amount of research and background work to ensure that the ceremony reflects our normal practices as much as is possible," he says.

Byker notes that one advantage of the VanAndel Arena is that the college expects to be able to accomodate about 8,000 guests, significantly more than it hosted in the past in Calvin Fieldhouse and the Fine Arts Center auditorium.

In addition to the ceremony at VanAndel Arena a number of events that weekend will take place on campus.

For example the annual department of nursing pinning ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 17 in the Fine Arts Center. The Commencement worship service will happen on Friday, May 18 at 5 pm in the Calvin Chapel, the celebration cookout will also be that day on the Commons Lawn, there will be a bachelor of arts exhibition and reception in the Spoelhof College Center Art Gallery and much more.

The speaker for 2007 will be Michelle Loyd-Paige, a professor of sociology at the college who also serves as dean for multicultural affairs. Her title? "Leave A Little Dust."

In addition 1971 graduate William Garvelink and 1974 alumnus Joel Holtrop will receive the 2007 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Calvin Alumni Association.

About 900 graduates are expected to participate in this Saturday's ceremony.

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