Calvin University Dedicates School of Business
A New York Stock Exchange ticker showing the stock prices for the day greeted dozens of alumni, business leaders, donors, professors, students, and others as they streamed into the new Calvin University School of Business building.
They came on Wednesday, Sept. 14, to attend guided tours and a dedication of the 15,000-square-foot facility.
Before the official ribbon cutting took place outside, visitors checked out a two-story video screen, spacious state-of-the-art classrooms, breakout rooms featuring the latest in computer technology, and private spaces set aside for group or individual study.
Funded by a $22.25 million anonymous gift—the largest single gift in Calvin’s history—the business school is located adjacent to the DeVos School of Communication on Calvin’s east campus. Half of the gift helped to pay for the building, and the rest is helping to fund other elements, such as an endowment to help start new academic programs and to serve new populations of students at Calvin.
“The fact that Calvin University secured such a generous gift and then built the school in record time shows the commitment of people in West Michigan and at Calvin for quality Christian education,” said James Ludema, dean of the business school, in a video interview from his home, where he and his wife were quarantining because of COVID.
As for the building itself, he added: “It is a very student-centered building, allowing students to do work alone or in collaboration.”
Ludema said that while he was very disappointed not to be on hand for the dedication, he is excited about the wide range of opportunities the school will make available for connecting and working with businesses in West Michigan, across North America, and beyond.
“Always keeping in mind that at the heart of our work is giving glory to God,” he said, “we will be offering a major in supply-chain management, continuing education for people in the trades, and opportunities to help start and grow businesses,” he said.
Katherine Winkle, a finance and social work major, stood in the sunlit atrium of the school as dozens of people milled about, chatting. She monitored a display for the Women’s Business Network, of which she is a member.
“I love this building. It is full of large windows and sunlight,” she said. “It is a tremendous space for us to be. The classrooms are great, and there are collaborative work spaces and other spaces to use when you want to be away from everyone and work alone.”
Looking into one of the second-floor classrooms, replete with futuristic-looking work stations, Nathan Welfen, director of a financial literacy program for students, said: “This building is awesome. It brings a lot of positive energy.”
During the ribbon-cutting and dedication service, Wiebe Boer, Calvin’s new president, said that although he came late to the project, he believes this new endeavor has wonderful prospects and a rich future.
“This is a big step for us,” he said. “This is a state-of-the-art building and program that allows us to immediately engage with the broader business world. Other people did the work, and I get to declare victory.”
He added that he believes the school “will be an agency of renewal and will set the standard for how business can have a social impact.”
Before the dedication, he spoke about the expanding scope of the school. “Whether one is seeking an undergraduate or graduate degree or a certificate in business, what they will find at Calvin are excellent faculty, many of whom came from Fortune 500 companies, who are ready to equip students with Christian business principles and ethics for an ever-changing business landscape.”
Also speaking at the dedication was Michael LeRoy, the former Calvin president, who earlier played an important role in soliciting donations and getting the project off the ground.
“I feel lighter than air and am so grateful to be here to celebrate with everyone the opening of the Calvin University School of Business,” he said. “This is the answer to a dream that Calvin would have a school [of this caliber] serving the world.”
Another speaker was philanthropist Sidney J. Jansma, Jr., a Calvin graduate and chair of the board of Wolverine Gas and Oil Corporation.
“I’ve loved business all of my life. I picked and sold asparagus when I was young and enjoyed it,” he said. “Business has been my calling from God. I’ve always had a Bible in my briefcase wherever I’ve gone. As a business person I’ve been in partnership with God.”
He said he looks forward to seeing how the business school will grow and prosper. He also said that the school, like the university itself, “stands on the shoulders of hundreds of men and women who have come before us and who prepared themselves to partner with God as well.”
Mary Hulst, Calvin’s chaplain, was the final speaker. She reminded people that “we can use money for good or ill. . . . We can be faithful with a little and start small – try an idea and see where it goes.”
“Money can be a tool for good, or it can become our master,” she added. It’s important to remember, she said, that we are called to lift all things up to the Lord.
The School of Business recently launched new offerings at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, along with a new startup incubator, the Calvin Startup Garage. The university’s portfolio of undergraduate offerings now includes operations and supply-chain management, marketing, accounting, financial planning, finance, human resource management, and entrepreneurship. The university also offers a master of accounting degree and, as of 2021, a master of business administration (MBA) degree.