June 30, 2016 | Jacquelyn Hubbard

After taking two years of German in high school, Brad Boelkins ’84 had no intention of continuing his German studies past fulfilling the core requirement at Calvin. Now, he is the director of business development for a German company, Tesa, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of self-adhesive product and system solutions. He has been working with the company for 28 years.

Boelkins gave German studies a second thought after going on the interim trip to Germany his sophomore year. He said, “when we came back [from Germany], there was one more class I could take that would qualify for a minor, so I thought, why not.” A professor then helped him manage his schedule to be able to earn both his bachelor’s degree in German and political science in four years.

Tesa in North Carolina

After graduating from Calvin, Boelkins studied for a year at the University of Salzburg, Austria. He later got his master’s degree in business administration at Pfeiffer University. He had always held a certain level of interest in business, which he decided to pursue at Pfeiffer and invest in Tesa.

Boelkins’ journey with Tesa started in Sparta, Michigan, in the associate product manager position of their marketing department.  Between then and now, he has moved with the company to New York, North Carolina, Germany and back to North Carolina, where he has been for nine years.

As he directs a sales and marketing group and looks to acquire different companies in the business field, Boelkins enjoys dealing with customers and working with great people. “[Work is] very challenging, which is good. The U.S. is a pretty competitive market, so that makes it interesting,” he said. “We’ve also been looking to grow, so that makes it exciting as well.”

In terms of growth, there was a groundbreaking ceremony June 2016 at Tesa’s manufacturing facility in Sparta, Michigan, with plans for the plant to expand.

Formative experiences at Calvin

Boelkins is thankful for his Calvin education and how it prepared him for his future at Tesa. “The academics were very strong,” he recalled. “We were taught quite well. By the time I went on to grad school and beyond, it was pretty evident Calvin had done a good job.”

He also enjoyed being involved in intramural sports and working with Calvin’s volunteer moving service at the time. He was a part of a moving crew for a year and then managed a crew his senior year. The moving crews would help people who had to change their living situation and couldn’t afford the cost of a move.

“That was a great program,” he said. “We would get calls from various agencies in Grand Rapids and schedule the moves. It was something that took a fair amount of time.”

Boelkins looks forward to the expansion of Tesa, spending time with his wife Jolinda and three kids, and investing in his church. “Between family, church and work, there’s enough to keep me out of trouble these days,” he laughed.

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