April 08, 2008 | Myrna Anderson

Calvin College will hold its 54th annual Honors Convocation at 7:30 p.m., Wed., April 16 in the Fine Arts Center.

Calvin College will hold its 54th annual Honors Convocation at 7:30 p.m., Wed., April 16 in the college’s Fine Arts Center. The event recognizes not only the 55 students who will graduate with honors in one or more subjects, but the 1,905 Dean’s List honorees, of whom 121 have been on the list every year of their Calvin careers. A reception in the Commons Dining Hall will follow the event.

“This is the one occasion in the year when we celebrate, as a community, academic achievement,” said Calvin classical languages professor Kenneth Bratt, the honors program director. “Certainly, we honor our athletes and musicians at various times of year, and this event is recognition for the efforts of our best students.”

According to tradition

The event will follow the pattern it has since Bratt took over Honors Convocation 10 years ago. The honors graduates, suitably attired in academic gowns, will be seated onstage and will receive gold honors medallions. Dean's List honorees will receive certificates. Two speakers—one faculty member and one honors graduate—will deliver short messages to the students, faculty and families who attend.

Bruce Berglund, a Calvin professor of history and director of Calvin’s Fullbright Scholarship Program will represent the faculty.

The second speaker was chosen in part because she is a somewhat atypical graduate, honors or otherwise, Bratt said. Karen Kaashoek, 49, will accept her diploma wearing an honors medallion almost 27 years after her originally targeted graduation date.

Kaashoek, the director of Catherine’s Care Center, was surprised to learn she’d been chosen to speak on behalf of the honors graduates. “My first question was, ‘Why the heck me?’” she related, laughing. After exiting Calvin without a degree in 1980, Kaashoek earned a nursing degree at Purdue University. “But when people ask where’s my alma mater, I always said ‘Calvin,’” she said. “It’s where I felt a sense of connection."

She did have a little trepidation about returning, however. (To graduate with honors in her interdisciplinary major in psychology, sociology and education Kaashoek had to petition the college to recognize honors credits earned nearly thirty years ago.) “I’ve always enjoyed taking classes. I could have been a professional student,” she said. “I was concerned coming back to Calvin at being not only old enough to be the parent of most of my classmates, but some of my professors as well. I wondered if that would be awkward. I haven’t found it to be. I felt very much welcomed.”

A unique perspective

“I try to pick a speaker every year who I know can address what it’s like to be an honors student at Calvin,” said Bratt. “And Karen brings a unique perspective. She can talk about how things don’t always work out the way we’ve planned. And that’s okay because sometimes things work out better than the way we’ve planned.”

Bratt is enthusiastic about the event as a celebration not only of the students, but of Calvin’s sizeable honors program. “For a college of 4,000, we have roughly 500 students involved in honors work in any given year. Though not all of them graduate with honors, it is an opportunity that students can take or not.”

In 1993, when Bratt assumed the directorship of the program, Calvin’s honors graduates numbered only two. Since that time, Calvin has given more structure to the program by strengthening requirements in all disciplines, while recognizing and encouraging academic talent early on.

Recent stories