Calvin College: Wikis


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Coordinates: 42°55′49″N 85°35′17″W / 42.93028°N 85.58806°W / 42.93028; -85.58806

Calvin College
Motto "My heart I offer to you, Lord, promptly and sincerely."
Established 1876
Type Private Liberal Arts College
Endowment $80.8 million[1]
President Gaylen J. Byker
Faculty 900
Students 4,100
Location Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
Campus Suburban (390 acres)
Affiliations Calvin Theological Seminary, Christian Reformed Church, MIAA, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, IAPCHE
Colors Maroon and Gold            
Nickname Bulldogs
Calvin College Logo

Calvin College is a comprehensive liberal arts college located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founded in 1876, Calvin College is an educational institution of the Christian Reformed Church and stands in the Reformed tradition of Protestantism.[2] Calvin College is named after John Calvin, the 16th century Protestant Reformer.



The Christian Reformed Church in North America founded the school on August 4, 1876 as part of Calvin College and Theological Seminary (with the seminary becoming Calvin Theological Seminary) to train church ministers. It began with seven students enrolled in the first year. The original location was Spring Street in Grand Rapids, MI. The initial six-year curriculum included four years of literary studies and two years of theology. In 1892 the campus was moved to the intersection of Madison Avenue and Franklin Street (Fifth Avenue) in Grand Rapids. In September, 1894 the school expanded the curriculum for those who were not pre-theological students, making the institution in effect a preparatory school. In 1900 the curriculum was further broadened and made more attractive to students interested in teaching or preparing for preprofessional courses at universities. A year later Calvin admitted the first women to the school [3].

In 1906 the literary department of the college became known as John Calvin Junior College and the college held its first commencement [3]. The student newspaper "Chimes" was first published in 1907. Around 1910, the West Michigan cities of Muskegon and Kalamazoo fought to have Calvin relocate to their respective cities. Muskegon offered $10,000 (approximately $250,000 in 2007 dollars) and a tract of land to attract the college. The city of Grand Rapids countered with its own $10,000 offer and the junior college chose to stay in Grand Rapids. The two-year college in time became a four-year college, and the preparatory department was discontinued. John Calvin Junior College moved in 1917 to the Franklin Street Campus which at the time was the south east edge of Grand Rapids. Two years later the college appointed its first president, the Rev. J.J. Hiemenga. Then a year later, in 1920, the college transitioned into a four year college following the liberal arts philosophy of the Free University in Amsterdam as laid out by Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper [4]. The next year the college awarded its first bachelor's degree. In 1924, with the opening of Grand Rapids Christian High School, the college offered its last year of preparatory education, focusing exclusively on higher education and opened its first dormitory. The next year, the college began offering a teacher training program and in 1926 appointed its first female faculty member, Johanna Timmer, as Dean of Women. The college dedicated its library, the Hekman Library on March 8, 1928. The college later dedicated its seminary building at the Franklin Street Campus on October 29, 1930. Still under the leadership of Rev. Hiemenga the college faced significant trouble during the onset of the Great Depression as financial hardship beset the college.[citation needed]

Although the school grew slowly in its early years, by 1930 it had reached its pre-World War I size of 350-450 students. By 1950 the enrollment had climbed to 1,270, this same year the college joined the M.I.A.A.. During this period the college experienced severe space limitations at the land-locked Franklin Campus as enrollment continued to climb . Also at this time of growth William Spoelhoef became president of Calvin. At the Franklin campus, the college was located on one large city block. In 1956, the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church authorized the college to purchase the Knollcrest Farm from J.C. Miller for $400,000 (approximately $2.9million in 2007 dollars). Originally outside of town in the southeast of Grand Rapids, the Knollcrest farm increased Calvin's campus from approximately one large city block to 390 acres (1.6 km²) with a 100 acres (0.4 km²) nature preserve. Many were reticent about the project and the college's ability to finance it. Under the bold leadership of President Spoelhoef the college made plans to move forward. The Theological Seminary, since it did not need to be in close proximity to the college, built a new academic building on the site and began holding classes there in 1960. As space constraints became more noticeable the college built its first academic building on the Knollcrest Campus and held classes there in 1962. For the next 10 years, the college continued to operate at both the Knollcrest and Franklin campuses, fully transitioning to the Knollcrest Campus in 1973. During the latter decades of the 20th century, Calvin grew to around 4,200 students, where the enrollment has remained since. In 1991, the Seminary and the College established separate boards of trustees.

At the turn of the millennium, with enrollment over 4,000 students, Calvin began several new construction projects. Among these were a new communications and political science building, a conference center and hotel. In 2006, Calvin announced an expansion of the Fieldhouse which was completed in the spring of 2009 [5].

The curriculum has expanded to include professional training in a variety of fields, but the college maintains a strong commitment to a liberal arts curriculum, which the college views as a means to develop students' understanding of God's world and their place in it.

George W. Bush as Commencement Speaker, 2005

The school made national headlines in 2005 when US President George W. Bush served as commencement speaker. While most of the community was supportive, a significant number of faculty and students protested his speaking—some in opposition to the administration's policies, while others were concerned over the politicization of the event. Some protested by wearing stickers with the phrase "God is not a Republican... or a Democrat" to the commencement. This has given Calvin a reputation for having more liberal students and faculty than most evangelical colleges.[6][7]

In the summer of 2008, The Capella of Calvin College, the concert choir of Calvin, earned two third prizes in the Mixed and Free Category at the 37th Florilege Vocal de Tours Competition in Tours, France. [8]

In August 2009, the College's Board of Trustees issued a controversial memo to all employees that said that faculty were prohibited from teaching, writing about, or advocating on behalf of homosexuality or homosexual issues like same-sex marriage. Many faculty members were critical of the policy and of the way it was adopted without consultation by the board.[9]


Calvin offers majors or minors in 115 academic or pre-professional fields[10]. The most popular majors are business, engineering and nursing[11]. Calvin is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities [12] and as an institution in the Reformed tradition of Christianity, subscribes to a robust theology that produces a high regard for participating in and forming culture[13]. This is expressed in its mission statement:

Calvin College is a comprehensive liberal arts college in the Reformed tradition of historic Christianity. Through our learning, we seek to be agents of renewal in the academy, church, and society. We pledge fidelity to Jesus Christ, offering our hearts and lives to do God's work in God's world.[14]

Core: Gateway

When students matriculate into Calvin, they begin their studies with a seven-week course known as Prelude. Prelude introduces students to issues of learning, identity, vocation, discernment, and awareness through discussions and presentations. Students also take Developing a Christian Mind (DCM), a first-year interim course which introduces the development of a Christian worldview and a faith-based engagement with culture.

Core: Competencies and Studies

Calvin students are required to take a number of essential classes known as Core Competencies and Core Studies. Core Competencies, such as written rhetoric, foreign language, and information technology, develop skills essential to success in the academic and professional worlds. Core studies courses are designed to introduce students to a variety of disciplines, providing them with a greater understanding of the world and integration of ideas essential to a well-rounded liberal arts education. Typically a number of Core Competencies and Core Studies courses will overlap with major and minor requirements.

Core: Capstone

The Capstone course, generally taken during the junior or senior year, draws together themes and concepts from the core curriculum and major area of study. This course emphasizes taking stock of what students have learned in their time at Calvin and how they can use that knowledge to engage the world and their chosen field.

Other opportunities

In addition to engaging the world after graduation, Calvin also encourages academic exploration outside of the classroom while still studying at Calvin.

  • Internships - The college has numerous internship opportunities to gain valuable work experience. The Career Development Office helps to place students in internships and to find vocational callings after graduating[15].
  • Honors Program - Calvin has an extensive honors system to challenge students beyond the already academically rigorous courses of the college. The Honors Program offers a variety of courses, lectures and other challenging activities in and out of the classroom[16]. Starting in the fall of 2008, Honors students will be able to live on a special floor in one of the residence halls. This floor is intended to foster an academically focused living-learning community[17].
  • Off Campus Programs - Calvin offers ten study off campus programs at locations including England, The Netherlands, Washington, D.C., Spain, Ghana, and China. Calvin also partners with numerous other colleges to offer dozens of other off-campus learning opportunities. Calvin also offers dozens of off-campus interims as well[18].
  • Interim - Every January, students spend three weeks taking a single course for credit. These courses are designed to allow students to take courses outside of the major and explore many new opportunities. Courses have included island hopping in the Galápagos, classes on knitting, the music of U2, learning to sail in the Florida Keys and learning about traditional Chinese medicine along with many others[19].


Located on what was once described as one of the beautiful residential properties in Michigan, many felt the Knollcrest Farm was the perfect place for a college campus. Calvin acquired the 166-acre (0.67 km2) property in the mid-50s and began a process of turning a biologically diverse farm into a center for Christian higher education[citation needed]. The master plan for the site was developed by William Beye Fyfe, a strong supporter of Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie style of architecture[20]. Working with President Spoelhof, Fyfe came up with a set of design principles for the campus aimed to both symbolically represent and physically promote such ideals as the integration of faith and learning; integration of administration, faculty, and students; and the inter-relatedness of all the disciplines[citation needed]. The integration of knowledge was symbolized in the arrangement of the academic buildings. Unlike many college campuses which feature an impressive structure at the center of the campus, such as a chapel or administrative hall, Calvin has no such building. The major buildings on campus are all in a great circle around the Commons Lawn. The lawn was intended and serves as the common point of interaction between faculty, students, and administration. Following the ideal of an integrated community, all of the buildings are intended serve a variety of purposes. Administration is mixed with classrooms, faculty offices and lecture halls. The departments are not sequestered apart from other departments by residing in separate buildings, but many departments share facilities to encourage the solidarity of purpose and unity contributing to a strong inter-departmental character and stronger Christian community. In addition, the Prairie style of the buildings—low-slung, set into the contours of the land, and all constructed of the same beige brick that has come to be known in Grand Rapids as "Calvin Brick"[citation needed]—was intended to reflect Calvin's belief that we are caretakers of God's natural creation.

Academic Buildings

Calvin has nine academic buildings on campus. The first to be constructed was Hiemenga Hall, named after John Hiemenga and built in 1961. Hiemenga Hall houses numerous academic departments including modern languages, history, philosophy, classical languages and religion. The building also houses the Honors Program office, Student Academic Services as well as other programs and offices. It is connected to the campus chapel and Spoelhof Center via underground tunnels.

The Science Building houses many of the science departments at Calvin, including physics, astronomy, psychology and nursing. The building also features an impressive observatory for an undergraduate college. When there are favorable skies, the observatory is open to the public on weeknights. Calvin is the only institution in which new solar system object discovery is a regular assignment[citation needed]. The Science Building is also distinctive for having been designed in the shape of a hexagon, emulating the benzene ring.

Built in the mid-1990s, John "Doc" DeVries Hall houses classrooms, faculty offices, research labs and a greenhouse. In addition to the Biology and Chemistry departments, the building houses the West Michigan Regional Lab, a consortium between the college and local hospital, Spectrum Health. Attached to DeVries Hall and the Science Building is North Hall, which houses several departments including economics, business, geology, geography, environmental studies, computer science, and mathematics. The college also has an engineering building housing department offices and project design and construction centers.

The Fine Arts Center is one of the most quickly recognized buildings on campus, given its giant heptagon shape. Designed around the central auditorium, which seats 1200, the FAC houses the Music and English departments. The FAC auditorium is the preeminent musical performance space on campus featuring exceptional acoustics. At the back of the stage is the 39 rank, 32 stop mechanical action organ built by Schlicker Organs in 1966. Reflecting the musical heritage of its supporting church, the Christian Reformed Church, the music department has a number of students who study pipe organ performance and play on four pipe instruments in the FAC. There have been an estimated 18,000 events since its opening. The auditorium is also equipped with acoustical curtains, a stage lift, three catwalks, and several separate electrics making the FAC able to handle a wide variety of events from recitals to rock shows. The building is closed for 2009-2010 for extensive remodeling.

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals live at Calvin College, 2000

The Spoelhof Center, named after president emeritus William Spoelhof, houses the art, education, social work and sociology departments, the Office of the President, and several other administrative departments. The Gezon Auditorium is also housed in the Spoelhof Center. Dedicated in 1974, the Gezon Auditorium primarily serves as the main stage for the Calvin Theatre Company. Like the FAC, it has flexible lighting and sound systems and serves as a venue for concerts, lectures and other events. On the lower level of the Spoelhof Center, there is an art gallery which hosts a variety of exhibitions. The Spoelhof Center connects to the Science Building and Hiemenga Hall via underground tunnels.

Across the beltline, the DeVos Communication Center was built in 2002. The DeVos houses the communication and political science departments. It also features a movie theatre as well as a sound stage and production facilities for students and faculty to create a variety of film, television, and other media programs. It also features a forum area for classes and debates, as well as speech pathology and audiology labs.

Athletic Facilities

The Calvin Fieldhouse has been home to the combined health, physical education, recreation, dance and sport department. In spring 2007, the college began a $50 million construction project to renovate and expand the Calvin Fieldhouse. The fieldhouse reopened in spring 2009 as the Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex, the 362,000 square feet (33,600 m2) facility includes a new 5,000 seat arena (Van Noord Arena) which is currently the largest arena in a Division 3 school, an Olympic-regulation swimming pool (Venema Aquatic Center) which seats about 500, a tennis and track center (Huizenga Center)containing 4 tennis courts which are sometimes used for intramurals, 14,000 square feet (1,300 m2) of weight training rooms and a custom made rock climbing wall. The(Hoogenboom Health and Recreation Center)contains the original renovated gym that is now used for basketball, volleyball, PE classes, intramurals, and other non-sporting events. The Hoogenboom also has a dance studio as well as racket ball courts and exercise laboratories.

Since opening in 2009 the Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex has hosted a number of concerts including Lupe Fiasco and Jars of Clay with Thousand Foot Crutch.

Hekman Library

Beginning in 1917 with 3,500 volumes, the "library room" eventually became the modern Hekman Library now boasting over 1.8 million volumes[21]. The collection's emphasis is on collecting works in the traditional liberal arts disciplines. The library's strongest collections are in Theology, Religion, American literature, British literature, and Philosophy.

Associated with the Hekman Library is the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies. The center is a research library specializing in John Calvin and Calvinism. With many rare items, books, manuscripts, articles and literature, the Meeter Center is acclaimed as one of the most extensive and user-friendly of all Calvin and Calvinism collections. The Meeter Center is the largest collection of Calvin materials in North America.

Hekman Library is currently the second largest private academic library in the state.


Calvin College Chapel seen from the Commons Lawn

Though always part of the master plan, The Chapel was not built until the late 1980s. The chapel holds daily services in a protected time slot to ensure that all students and faculty members are able to attend the 20 minute worship services if they so choose. Chapel services follow a daily rhythm with the respective days known as Getting Started, Community Voices, The Word, Sacred Spaces and the very popular Friday SongFest[22]. While on average, only 500 or so students attend chapel the first four days of the week, Fridays invariably fill the chapel to its 1,000 seat capacity.

Designed by GMB Architects, the chapel sits at the highest point of the academic circle and its spire rises above all of the academic buildings. Shaped as an octagon, with seating in the round, the Chapel offers exceptional acoustics for both instrumental and vocal music, in addition to the spoken word. The Chapel also features a large organ built by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders. The three manual instrument features mechanical key action with a detached console. The facade pipes, made of 75% burnished tin, conceal some 2,500 pipes. In addition to the sanctuary, the Chapel has small prayer rooms, classrooms, meeting spaces, a kitchen, theatre storage and rehearsal spaces.

A tunnel system connecting to the Spoelhof Center creates an outdoor plaza at ground level and the multi-use Lab Theatre below. The Lab Theatre is a blackbox theatre built in 1988 as a part of the chapel building project[23]. The Lab Theatre was built during the chapel construction project.

Bunker Interpretive Center

The Bunker Interpretive Center is a home base for formal programs and an educational resource for the approximately 5,000 casual visitors that the Calvin College Nature Preserve receives annually. The Bunker Interpretive Center is Gold LEED certified.

Discrimination Policy

Calvin College exerts its right under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to discriminate on the basis of religious criteria in its hiring, personnel practices and admissions. Among other things, this means that the college requires faculty members to be church members and proscribes sexual relations outside of marriage as well as homosexual relations of any sort.[24] This has lead Calvin College's employment advertisements to be flagged as discriminatory by the American Philosophical Association.[25]

Student Life


Residence Life

Calvin has seven residence halls on campus which house the majority of the freshmen and sophomore classes. One of the most notable events put on by residence life is "Chaos Day" during which the residents of each of the residence halls have their own theme, decorate their dorm, and dress in costumes to then compete in a number of relay races and similar games. Floor Serenades, or when one floor goes around campus singing songs to other floors, as well as Floor Dates, when two or more floors plan an activity together in order to meet new people, are common occurrences on campus.

Student organizations

Calvin has a variety of student organizations on campus which provide students with opportunities for involvement as well as leadership development. Some organizations such as the Visual Arts Guild and the Film Arts Committee have been around for several decades, while other clubs have only recently been formed.

  • Student Senate
  • Abstraction: enhances interest in, comfort, and involvement with computers
  • Airband: develop, organize, and plan for the Airband show
  • American Institute of Architecture Students
  • Anime Club: a forum for the art form of ‘anime’ as an indicator of Japanese culture and explore the social and philosophical issues of anime storylines
  • Asia Club: inform the Calvin community about Asian culture
  • Biology Club: seeks to increase awareness of and appreciation for the general revelation of God's creation
  • CVN4, Calvin Video Network, Television Channel
  • Calvin Equestrian Club: allows equestrian enthusiasts to gather in fellowship and heighten their understanding and practice of horsemanship.
  • Film Arts Committee: shows independent and foreign films to students
  • Calvin IMPROV: Calvin's improvisational comedy team
  • Calvin College Republicans
  • SWAT: Spontaneous Wits Attesting Truth (ministry focused improvisational comedy team)


Tuition and Other Fees
Year Tuition Room/Meal Plan Other Fees Average Need-based Award
2009-2010 23,810 8,275 225
2008-2009 22,940 7,970 225
2007-2008 21,460 7,460 16,000

Student Statistics

  • Students: 4,200 undergraduates
  • Student/Faculty ratio: 12:1
  • Average Class Size: 22
  • Female: 54% Male: 46%
  • 52% from Michigan
  • 39% from out of state
  • 9% from other countries
  • From Private Schools: 58%
  • From Public Schools: 41%
  • From homeschooling: 1%
  • 88% retention rate from first to second year (compared to 71% nationally)
  • 75% five year graduation rate (compared to 52% nationally)
  • 313 faculty (over 83% with terminal degrees)

First Year Student Profile (middle 50% of students)

  • GPA (4.0 scale): 3.3-3.9
  • ACT Composite: 23-29
  • SAT Critical Reading and Math: 1100-1330

Notable faculty


Calvin College Knight Primary Logo

The Calvin College athletic department boasts eights men's and nine women's intercollegiate teams. All varsity teams are proud members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (Division III) and the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. There are currently both men's and women's athletic programs in basketball, cross country cross country, golf golf, soccer soccer, swimming swimming, diving diving, tennis tennis, and track and field track and field. In addition, there are men's athletic programs in baseball baseball and women's athletic programs in softball softball and volleyball volleyball.

Calvin also includes several non-varsity sports such as:

Nickname History

Between 1920-21 and 1926-27 accounts of the team's athletic contests often spoke of the "Calvin-ites." And finally, in 1926-27, the first reference to "Calvin Knights" appeared. Whoever made the transition from Calvin-ites to Calvin Knights might never be known. But what is certain is that in 2001-2002 Calvin College athletic teams celebrated 75 years of being known as the Knights. A happy coincidence has led to a long tradition of athletic success and a wearing with pride of the Knight nickname.

Calvin-Hope rivalry

ESPN placed the Calvin-Hope rivalry as #4 overall in the nation's greatest college basketball rivalries and #1 in NCAA Division III.[citation needed] In addition, ESPN has profiled the rivalry.[26]

Athletic Championships

Year Sport Association Finish
2009 Men's Soccer NCAA III National Runners-up
2008 Women's Cross Country NCAA III National Runners-up
2007 Women's Track and Field NCAA III National Runners-up
2006 Men's Cross Country NCAA III National Champions
2005 Men's Cross Country NCAA III National Runners-up
2005 Women's Track and Field NCAA III National Runners-up
2004 Men's Cross Country NCAA III National Champions
2004 Women's Track and Field NCAA III National Runners-up
2004 Men's Ice Hockey ACHA III National Champions
2003 Men's Cross Country NCAA III National Champions
2002 Men's Cross Country NCAA III National Runners-up
2002 Men's Track and Field NCAA III National Runners-up
2001 Men's Cross Country NCAA III National Runners-up
2001 Women's Track and Field NCAA III National Runners-up
2000 Men's Cross Country NCAA III National Champions
2000 Men's Basketball NCAA III National Champions
1999 Women's Cross Country NCAA III National Champions
1998 Women's Cross Country NCAA III National Champions
1998 Men's Cross Country NCAA III National Runners-up
1994 Women's Cross Country NCAA III National Runners-up
1993 Women's Cross Country NCAA III National Runners-up
1992 Women's Cross Country NCAA III National Runners-up
1992 Men's Basketball NCAA III National Champions
1986 Women's Volleyball NCAA III National Runners-up


  • Chimes, weekly student newspaper
  • Dialogue, journal of commentary
  • Knightfile, seasonal sports magazine
  • Inner Compass', a television talk show
  • Prism, yearbook
  • Spark, magazine for alumni and friends
  • Uncompressed], Cultural Discussion publication
  • Dynamic Link, Software developers share stories about their work and faith

Alumni groups

  • River City Improv, Calvin's alumni improv team
  • Knights for Life (K4L), alumni group for current students
  • Alumni Choir
  • Alumni Orchestra
  • Alumni Theater Company

Notable events

See also

Category:Calvin College alumni


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2009. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2009 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2008 to FY 2009" (PDF). 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. Retrieved March 3, 2010. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "History". Calvin College. 2008-09-19. Retrieved 2009-03-10. 
  4. ^ see his "Stone Lectures" at Princeton University, 1898
  5. ^ Anderson, Myrna (2009-02-24). "Calvin dedicates new fieldhouse". Calvin College. Retrieved 2010-03-10. 
  6. ^ Bush Visit to Calvin College Exposes Divisions | Christianity Today
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Murray, Dave (August 28, 2009). "Calvin College professors call for discussion about memo warning against homosexual advocacy". The Grand Rapids Press. 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Mission and Vision Statements, Calvin College
  15. ^ Career Development Office, Calvin College
  16. ^ Honors Program, Calvin College
  17. ^ Honors Floor, Residence Life, Student Life Division, Calvin College
  18. ^ Off Campus Programs, Calvin College
  19. ^ Lists of Interim Offerings, The Registrar's Office, Academic Services, Calvin College
  20. ^
  21. ^ Statistics, About the Hekman Library, Calvin College
  22. ^
  23. ^ Theatre Locations: Behind the Scenes, Calvin College
  24. ^ Policy on Discrimination and Harassment
  25. ^ Calvin College in Violation of APA's New Antidiscrimination Policy
  26. ^ Reynolds, Lauren (July 24, 2007). "No hate, just heat in Hope-Calvin rivalry". ESPN. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 

External links


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