Skip to main content

Calvin Remembers Two Influential Women

February 14, 2024

The Calvin University community is grieving after losing two women who dedicated decades of their lives to serving students and making the institution a better place. Rhae Ann Booker, who served at Calvin for two decades, most recently as assistant dean of academic multicultural affairs, died Feb. 3, 2024, at age 56. Edna Greenway, who taught in the Spanish department for a quarter of a century, died Jan. 9, 2024, at age 88.

Rhae Ann Booker

“When we at Calvin say that we stand on the strong shoulders of those who went before, we must remember intrepid pioneers like Rhae-Ann Booker,” said Joel Carpenter, who served as provost at Calvin from 1996 to 2006.

“During her years at Calvin, she put her heart and soul into making this a place that is better equipped to serve all our students,” said Carpenter.

Carpenter said he first crossed paths with Booker during the early days of the antiracism project on Calvin’s campus. In 1998, Carpenter said, the officers of the Christian Reformed Church underwent antiracism training and then challenged the Calvin community to do the same. That’s where he first saw Booker’s fingerprints on the foundations of Calvin’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging efforts.

“Calvin, Rhae-Ann was unafraid to testify, did not feel like home to her, even though she was a Calvin graduate,” said Carpenter. “So, how could that change? How could we make Calvin a place where people of color not only feel at home but also become equal partners and co-owners of the campus community?”

Questions like these drove Booker to devote 20 years of her career to working at Calvin.

Addressing those questions “was the aim of the Calvin antiracism initiative and From Every Nation (FEN, 2004), Calvin’s long-term plan to become a just, reconciling, and cross-culturally partnering place,” said Carpenter. “If you look at the back page of FEN, you will see Rhae-Ann’s name there as one of its architects.”

Carpenter noted that Booker not only helped craft the document but also “played a major role in giving legs to the ideas and principles” that were listed on its pages.

During her two-decade tenure, Booker served in many roles, as an evaluator, as director of precollege programs, as director of multicultural student development, and as assistant dean of academic multicultural affairs. In each of her roles she was about opening doors and helping Calvin feel more like home for all.

“She exemplified servant leadership and the example of putting God first, the other person second, and herself third,” said Nygil Likely, Calvin’s chief diversity officer. “Her legacy will be rooted in the work of precollege programs and most notably through the Entrada Scholars Program.”

The Entrada Scholars Program is Calvin’s premier college access program. Since it launched in the early 1990s, almost 2,000 ethnic minority high school juniors and seniors have participated in the program and found a clearer pathway to higher education. Who was there from the start? Rhae-Ann Booker.

She was also responsible for helping to create UnLearn Week, which is now the kickoff event for a broader initiative: UnLearn 365, programming designed to help unlearn biases and promote biblical antiracism.

“Rhae-Ann is a champion and pioneer of excellence in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging,” said Wiebe Boer, president of Calvin University, who also worked for Booker in the 1990s as an Entrada coach. “Calvin University is where it is today because of Rhae-Ann and the legacy she has forged.”

To honor Booker’s significant contributions to Calvin University, the President’s Office and supporters of Rhae-Ann’s work established a scholarship in her name this past month that will serve to continue her legacy of opening doors wider for all students to have opportunities to pursue their educational goals. The $2,500 Dr. Rhae-Ann Booker Entrada Scholarship is set to be awarded to a student for the first time in 2024-2025.

Booker is survived by her husband of 30 years, Michael; her bonus daughter, Acelia Jones (Jason); two grandchildren; four siblings (Daniel, Ezekiel, Jennice, and Jewellyne); and her father, Rayford Richardson, Sr.

Edna Greenway

Patient, generous, and kind. Compassionate, humble, and wise.

These are some of the words members of the Calvin community chose to describe their former professor and colleague Edna Greenway.

The two words expressed most often were faithful and encouraging.

“Edna was a shining example of a person of faith living out her vocation,” said Dianne Zandstra, a colleague and mentee of Greenway. “We all looked up to Edna.”

Greenway taught in the Spanish department at Calvin for a quarter century. While at Calvin, she developed programs for elementary- and secondary-education Spanish teachers, pioneered a program in bilingual education, and established ties between Calvin and the Hispanic people and culture. She was also involved in the creation of a program to certify teachers of English as a second language.

What she did at Calvin was impressive, but how she went about this work is what is remembered.

“She was faithful to her colleagues, including while she was department chair, in supporting, encouraging, and appreciating us,” said Marilyn Bierling, a longtime colleague and good friend of Greenway’s. “Her door was always open to give us advice or simply chat about what mattered to us at that moment. . . . She was a true mentor for me.”

“She was an educator at heart, willingly sharing teaching materials and ideas with colleagues,” said Marcie Pyper, a former colleague.

Greenway was also faithful to her students.

“Her relationship with her students was not contractual but rather covenantal,” said Cynthia Slagter, who knew Greenway first as her teacher at Calvin and later as a colleague. “Students understood that her care for them was rooted in her faith.”

“Professor Greenway, as I knew her then, loved to encourage her students specifically,” said Alisa Tigchelaar, who took a 1991 interim class on teaching Spanish language with Greenway. “I still regularly recall how she once told me that I explained a tough structure well to students and encouraged me to consider teaching after she’d seen me lead the afternoon groups for Spanish 122. That specific encouragement was one of the reasons I decided to choose Spanish and become a professor. She was without a doubt an encourager.”

Greenway’s love for teaching seemed always present, from her time on the mission field when she homeschooled her five children and helped establish a Christian school where she taught reading and music, to her service as a first-grade teacher at Seymour Christian School in Grand Rapids, Mich., to her 30-year career in higher education between Calvin University, Calvin Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. Even in retirement she was still teaching, volunteering in recent years as a tutor at Buchanan Elementary School and as a discipleship leader at The Potter’s House Christian School in Grand Rapids.

Greenway saw this work of teaching and mentoring as her call to be faithful. “This is the same word she used to describe an essential characteristic for her education students: ‘faithful,’” said Bierling.

“Her faith permeated everything that she did,” said Pyper.

Now, thanks to Greenway’s faithfulness and encouragement, her decades of teaching continue to have ripple effects.

“She embodied the idea of faith-infused teaching. This is a legacy of hers that I try to carry on and that we tried to enshrine in the Edna Greenway Scholarship that we established [in 2001] when she retired,” said Slagter.

The Edna Greenway Scholarship is an endowed scholarship given each year to the education student writing the best essay on “the importance of the integration of faith in their own lives and careers.” In this way future teachers have and continue to benefit from Greenway’s “Reformed Christian perspective on teaching and learning.”

Greenway is survived by her children: Irma Dominguez (Francisco), Kathy DeJong (Jeff), Jeff Greenway, Scott Greenway (Kelly), and son-in-law Bob Deurloo, 18 grandchildren, 40 great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren. Greenway was preceded in death by her husband, Roger; daughter Wendy Deurloo; daughter-in-law Marilyn Greenway; grandson Joel Dominguez; and brother John Beebe.