Gaylen J. Byker

Dr. Gaylen J. Byker


Dr. Gaylen Byker, a 1973 graduate of Calvin College, returned to his alma mater the summer of 1995 as the school's ninth president and just the third president in the last 44 years. He retired in June 2012.

Upon his appointment he explained the return to his roots, saying: “When I was a child, growing up in a Dutch Reformed home in the small town of Hudsonville, I was easily convinced of the excellence of Calvin College in the big city to the east. By the time I graduated from Calvin, in 1973, I was well acquainted with its demands and expectations. Now, after traveling throughout the world as a lawyer, professor, investment banker, and entrepreneur, I am more persuaded than ever of the significance of Calvin’s important contribution to the world of ideas and knowledge.”

Born April 10, 1948 in Northwest Iowa, but raised in Hudsonville, Byker is a graduate of Unity Christian High School, Calvin College, the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania.

Initially enrolled at Calvin in the fall of 1966, Byker withdrew after six weeks, knowing that he most likely would be drafted into the Army. In the spring of 1967 he entered the Army. He earned a commission at the age of 19 and served as an artillery officer in Washington state and Vietnam, where he supervised 90 enlisted men in combat situations and was repeatedly decorated. He was discharged with the rank of captain and returned to study at Calvin.

He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree with concentrations in philosophy, English, political science and speech with a minor in Russian language (through courses taken at Grand Valley). A Dean’s list student each semester at Calvin, Byker then went on to earn a law degree at Michigan (cum laude) and picked up a master’s degree (magna cum laude) in world politics at Michigan on the side! He then earned a Ph.D. in international relations at Pennsylvania.

Byker left a lucrative career in the business world to become the president of Calvin College, moving from a post as the vice president for development and hedging with the Offshore Energy Development Corporation in Houston, Texas, a natural gas exploration, production and pipeline company operating primarily in the Gulf of Mexico.

Byker also has worked for Chase (Manhattan) Investment Bank in New York as a manager of commodity-indexed swaps and financing and has practiced law.

Byker, whose personal interests include theatre, geography, biking and dog obedience training, is married to the former Susan Lemmen, a teacher and 1971 Calvin graduate. The couple has two daughters. Byker’s parents are Gary and Henrietta Byker. Gary Byker, now deceased, is a former state senator in Michigan.


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