October 18, 2021 | Matt Kucinski

An image of a campus building next to a classroom image of a nursing professor talking to a student.
[photo taken pre-COVID]

Calvin University is launching a School of Health. An anonymous alumni donor has provided a transformational $15 million lead gift to establish the school. This gift – the second-largest single donation in the institution’s history – funds a signature step on Calvin’s path toward Vision 2030.

“Everywhere we see growing demand for quality health sciences education,” said Michael Le Roy, president of Calvin University. “We are deeply grateful for the vision that prompts this outstanding gift. Not only will it allow us to significantly expand our programs, but it will also create additional pathways for students who feel called to serve in one of the health professions.”

New paths

The $15 million gift will support academic programming in health sciences by funding leadership and academic personnel, the development of state-of-the-art laboratories, and expansion of opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including training for non-degree seeking students.

Noah Toly, provost of Calvin University, says it is rare for a Christian university of Calvin’s size to have both a school of health and the state-of-the-art facilities to support it on campus.

“Among the most exciting developments will be repurposing West Michigan Regional Lab to support faculty scholarship and teaching in health and health sciences,” said Toly. “This will include a new cadaver lab for teaching human anatomy, alongside additional virtual dissection tables to support anatomy exposure for students who may not be in a traditional semester-long course.”

The planned cadaver lab is complemented by other major innovations, including upgraded simulation-based experiential learning in nursing and other health-related fields. The most recent update, a $575,000 technology-rich laboratory/classroom, promotes collaborative learning, a project funded by alumni in the medical professions.

A reputation of excellence

The establishment of the Calvin University School of Health significantly expands opportunities for students of all ages and backgrounds, and it does so by drawing on the reputation of its faculty and alumni.

“The strength of Calvin’s health-related programs is rooted in excellent teaching and research mentoring. Our faculty regularly receive grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Michigan Health Endowment, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,” said Arlene Hoogewerf, academic dean. “These grants allow faculty to contribute to their discipline while at the same time engaging students in active research projects. This strong emphasis on mentoring students gives them outstanding research experiences, more than they’d receive as an undergraduate at a Tier 1 research institution.”


Further expanding the opportunities for students are Calvin’s partnerships with medical schools at Wayne State, Michigan State, and the University of Michigan. The university’s pre-health advisor also works on the Medical Mile in downtown Grand Rapids.

While the university enjoys plenty of connections in the medical community, it also invests in community-based research and service, working alongside underrepresented populations in Grand Rapids neighborhoods to improve community health.

“We are grateful that a portion of the gift will support the university by developing additional capacity for community engagement and employer relations, focused first on the School of Health but leveraged for the benefit of our entire Calvin community, our community partners, and our Grand Rapids neighbors,” said Toly.

“We appreciate these strong partnerships, and we are poised to grow those connections in multiple directions,” said Kevin den Dulk, associate provost of Calvin’s Global Campus, the office charged with helping the university extend its reach to new populations. “I’m excited that we have faculty and staff with wide connections as well as committed alumni who will contribute to the strength of the School of Health.”

A collaborative approach

One outstanding strength of the new School of Health is its place in a web of interconnected, interdependent schools at Calvin University—schools that work together to prepare students for a complex world with complex challenges—schools that value a liberal arts education.

“Health covers everything,” said den Dulk. “If you are looking at the social determinants of health, generating empathy among nurses through training in literature and the arts, preparing for health administration, or teaching basic diagnostic techniques, it is crucial to draw in different disciplinary expertise and think about health for the whole person.”

A steering committee of faculty, staff, and administrators is working to define the full scope of the School of Health, which will include the disciplines of nursing, kinesiology, exercise science, speech pathology and audiology, and public health.

Over the next few months, the group will continue assessing market demand and bring recommendations for new program offerings at the undergraduate and graduate levels as well as opportunities for adult learners who are not seeking a degree. By fall 2022, the university will have launched three new master’s programs in health-related fields. Meanwhile, the university administration and select faculty will collaborate in the search for a dean with vision, passion, experience, and expertise to lead the school and begin work with an architect to redesign space for its programs.

About Calvin University

Founded in 1876, Calvin University is a top-ranked, liberal arts institution that equips its nearly 3,300 students from 47 U.S. states, 49 countries, and four Canadian provinces to think deeply, to act justly, and to live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world. Calvin is proud to offer 100+ majors and programs, including a growing number of graduate-level programs. Calvin students engage in intensive internships, community-based service learning, and significant research that results in publishing and presenting alongside world-class faculty.

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