On a bright sunny day in early March, under a large white and yellow-striped tent, administrators, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and city commissioners, including Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, joined together to celebrate the university breaking “new” ground.
“This work stands on the shoulders of giants, and there are lots of giants we give gratitude and thanks for today,” said Michael Le Roy, president of Calvin University, in his opening remarks.
“As followers of Jesus, we believe in business education, and that this education meets the needs of human communities by providing meaningful work, producing the food and goods and services and technology that we rely on so much today. This is all needed for human beings to be able to flourish,” said Le Roy. “So, it’s by God’s grace that the Calvin University School of Business is set to become a premiere learning hub, advancing business knowledge, skills, and values upon a Christian liberal arts foundation. And we are so excited to launch this vision here today.”
Space for the vision
Tom Betts, one of the associate deans of the School of Business, imagined how that vision would play out in the physical space.
“I want to welcome you to our new facility, now it may not look like much right now, but join me in a vision of what it will look like in 18 short months,” said Betts. “We’ll stand here or just over there (pointing behind him to the site of the new building) and a senior human resources student will make the short walk from the KE Apartments across the beautiful newly landscaped area up the steps and into Professor Stansbury’s business ethics class in a new case study-style classroom.”
Over the next few minutes, Betts provided scenario after scenario highlighting the countless opportunities that the features of the new space will open up for students, faculty, staff, and the business community. From an atrium illuminated with natural light, to a two-story video screen where students will be able to watch the breaking news about Google’s newest product, to state-of-the-art classrooms, technology-enabled breakout rooms, and private study carrels.
A dream, a reality
In 18-months, these scenarios will become realities. And it all started with a phone call.
“(Cate and Sid Jansma) called us up a year-and-a-half ago and challenged us to dream big, to think big about what a Christian school of business at Calvin University could look like,” said Bob Eames, an associate dean of the School of Business, during his remarks, “what kinds of new learners and what kinds of new programs we could create, and what kinds of needs we could serve together.”
So, Eames and his colleagues started dreaming, and soon came up with a vision.
“We are very, very grateful for our project planning team that moved this from an idea, to a gift, to a groundbreaking in less than 18 months. It’s phenomenal,” said Le Roy.
A shared vision
It was made possible by the generosity of Calvin supporters. While the Jansma’s provided a lead gift to the project, during his remarks at the ceremony Sid Jansma emphasized that this project represented a community of faithful supporters committed to an enduring and compelling mission.
“We are standing here today on the shoulders of thousands of people who have kept this institution going for more than 100 years. It’s just a joy to be a part of it today. We stand in a long tradition of people who wanted a beautiful Christian education in higher education, and I thank God for that,” said Jansma.
“We know that God loves us and God has called us to love others, and so we are here as a group to supply education to young people and others to help them improve their lives and learn how to serve God in this world for the rest of their lives,” added Jansma.
Trusting the Lord
As the program concluded, before the physical breaking of ground, Mary Hulst, university pastor, fittingly offered a prayer. The closing words of that prayer could really be seen as a benediction for the people and the space that will help shape business leaders for years to come.
“May this space be filled with your Spirit, that in our work we will be faithful, in our study we will be diligent, and in observing the surprises of your grace, we will laugh often. As we pray for this space, O Lord, we pray for ourselves. Use all of us to proclaim your healing to a broken world, to be light in dark places, salt where things are spoiling. Use this building creator God, and use us. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. And all God’s people say …”
The time finished with a loud chorus of “Amen’s.”