November 14, 2023 | Matt Kucinski

A few hundred people gathered at dozens of tables enjoy a Thanksgiving luncheon.

On Tuesday, November 14, President Wiebe Boer and Joanna Boer hosted a Thanksgiving meal for faculty and staff of Calvin University. More than 325 people joined in the Great Hall of the Prince Conference Center to fellowship with colleagues, to enjoy a full Thanksgiving meal served by members of the president’s cabinet, and to express gratitude to God for the past year. The following expressions of gratitude were shared after the meal:

Irene Kraegel, Center for Counseling & Wellness:“I’m feeling gratitude for our leadership here on campus. So just looking around and seeing the Boers and the cabinet serving us today, taking time out for all of us to gather together, knowing all the long hours, hard work, lots of stress that’s put into managing a campus. It can be hard and lonely at the top at times, and I just want to say thank you to all of you for the hard work you do on our behalf.”

Lauren Jensen, Enrollment Strategy:“There are so many things I am grateful for, but I’m going to start with the amazing enrollment team. We had quite the year from last year to this year and I’m so proud in the way that as a team we rallied together. But that team is bigger than enrollment, that is each and every person in this room. We couldn’t have done this without you, so praise God for your commitment to this place and to the recruitment process and to all the small ways you’ve invested. Every time we are in an event, we hear of a faculty or staff member who changed a life in an alum or a current student.”

Marcus Holmes, Center for Intercultural Student Development:“What I am thankful for are the student stories that we get to here … If you see any students, ask about their stories. You’ll be amazed at how resilient those young people are and how they can add to your story.”

Each weekday, students, faculty, and staff join together for worship in the university chapel.
Each weekday, students, faculty, and staff join together for worship in the university chapel.

Meredith Lawson, Admissions:“I am thankful that we were led here to a university that truly cares about its faculty, staff, and students.”

Estella Njoyim Tamungang, Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens:“My husband and our two kids, we are most grateful to God for using Calvin University as an angel to lift us out of the pit of death. We came here on a rescue operation and Calvin welcomed us … We are grateful to all the authorities of Calvin University. Above all, we want to sincerely thank God for the personalities of this campus, where the love of God is put in the first position. We are grateful to God; we are grateful to all of you.”

Esther Afolabi, Nursing: “Thank you to everyone at Calvin and to the nursing department for making my transition from Nigeria to Calvin as a new faculty/staff so splendid … Thank you Jesus for leading me to Calvin. I see that the future is bright for me at Calvin.”

Kyle Heys, Center for Student Success: “I was at an event for first-gen students a few days ago and one of the topics of conversation was “How do you make it through a Michigan winter?” And one of the pieces of advice that faculty, staff, and students offered is ‘you really need something to look forward to in mid-January.’ One of the things I’m really looking forward to mid-January is the January Series, so the thing I’m thankful for is the January Series, it is something to look forward to and a delightful project of Calvin.”

A photo taken from the crowd during a January Series lecture on Calvin's campus.
Each January, Calvin hosts an award-winning lecture series on campus.

Marjorie Gunnoe, Psychology: “I’m grateful for administrative assistants. And I’m also very thankful for our cleaning staff.”

Annie Mas-Smith, Service-Learning Center: “I came back to work at Calvin after being gone for a couple of years and I am just so excited for Calvin continuously living into the both/and tension, both all the new creative things we’re doing and new faces, but also the tried and true of who we are and holding onto our mission, and I’m just really happy to be back and thankful for all of you.”

Adam Plowman, Admissions: “As a visit coordinator I’m sure you have been pestered by me at one point or another for a meeting and yet you all still take those appointments, still put up with us, and every day I’m so thankful that all of you do.”

Tom Hartzell, Ecosystem Preserve: “A lot of my work happens at the Ecosystem Preserve, and I’m just so grateful for that land and the people decades ago who made the decision to set aside like a quarter of our campus as an Ecosystem Preserve as a way of living out our stewardship mandate. It’s a gift to all of us and our community.”

The Calvin Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens cover 100 acres of the Calvin University campus.
The Calvin Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens cover 100 acres of the Calvin University campus.

Kent Ratajeski, Dice Mineralogical Museum: “I just got here in August after 16 years at a larger state university … I thought I would miss my grad student workers more than I do, but my undergrad workers here do as much work as the grad students did back at the other place. I am thankful for those students.”

Mark Muyskens, Chemistry: “I’m very grateful to hear from many people who are relatively new to our community that they are feeling a warm welcome. I represent the older guard here. I’ve been here for a third of a century. I’m grateful for this event, to sit at a table and be able to visit with other colleagues.”

Emily Reisler, Education: “I am just grateful to have a job that I can genuinely say that I love. I look forward to coming to work every day and the people I work with are supportive and encouraging. And it’s just amazing to be in a place where you feel valued and appreciated.”

Robin Zylstra, Student Life: “I’m on recovery from a pretty big back surgery. So, I’m grateful for healing. But I’m also grateful for my colleagues, who didn’t pressure me or make me feel guilty for having to be away from work. I have never missed move-in day for first-year students. There were people here who stepped up, sat in my chair, and I just appreciate that.”

Students in yellow and gray shirts posing during Move-In Day in front of a residence hall.
Calvin University moved in hundreds of students in late August 2023. Total enrollment increased for the first time in about a decade.

Jim Ludema, Business: “I’m sitting here at a table with a bunch of development people. Let’s give them a big round of applause. They moved in next to us in the DeVos Communications Center this year, so we get to interact with them all the time. I see all the great work they are doing. And they make possible what the rest of us do at Calvin University in many ways, so just a big shout out to them. And then also to Lauren, to you and your team in enrollment. I think you said we are about 23% or so up in terms of first-year enrollments this year, great work, thank you, because you also make possible what we do here.”

Frans van Liere, History: “I’ve been teaching here for 25 years, and teaching is a little bit like casting your bread on the water, you don’t know where it goes, you don’t know how it is used, but sometimes it is coming back. I am sitting here next to an alum who is now working at Calvin who said ‘Professor, I had you for History 151.’ So, I am just grateful for alumni who come back, especially sometimes they become president of this institution. So, thank you for alumni who come back and for Wiebe and Joanna.”

Ryan King, Admissions:“I have been here about a year, and I am really thankful for a place that not only provides an excellent place to do a job, but also an excellent group of people to do that job with. I know for myself I’ve had a lot of change, transition, and difficulty this year and I think having a team and a group of people and a culture where I can find healing as to who I am as a holistic person and where I can find purpose in what I do is really powerful. That is because all the people in this room and those who have come before, and I think that is beautiful. I am grateful for a really good God who calls us to this practice of stepping out in gratitude and thinking about the things that are big and small. Gratitude is the thing I’m grateful for and it’s all in this place. So, thank you so much.”

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