December 12, 2023 | Matt Kucinski

A man with white hair in a blue suit coat smiles (left) with Sid Jansma Jr. and Calvin logo (right)

Sid Jansma Jr. will be the recipient of the 2024 Kuyper Prize, which is awarded annually by Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary. The award, established in 1998 by Rimmer and Ruth de Vries, is named after Dutch theologian and politician Abraham Kuyper. It is awarded to a scholar or community leader whose outstanding contribution to their chosen sphere reflects the ideas and values characteristic of Kuyper’s Neo-Calvinist vision of religious engagement in matters of social, political, and cultural significance in one or more of the ‘spheres’ of society.

“I’m truly surprised and honored to be selected,” said Jansma Jr., a 1965 alumnus of Calvin. “I have always tried to live a life that testified to my belief in the Lordship of Jesus, and that I am simply a steward of what has been given to me and our family.

Leading in many spheres

Jansma Jr. is an influential leader in industry and in business, serving for more than 40 years as leader and CEO of Wolverine Gas and Oil Corporation, and currently as its chairman of the board. Over the years he's been chairman of the Michigan Oil and Gas Association and founding chairman of its Political Action Committee; chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America’s Tax Committee; chairman of the Environment and Safety Committee; on the board of directors of the American Petroleum Institute; and a lobbyist in Washington D.C. on numerous occasions. Jansma Jr. remains vitally interested in politics. He is also heavily engaged with the local Church and various philanthropic activities locally and internationally. The words of Deuteronomy 8:18 have been foundational to Jansma Jr., “But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth …”

“Sid takes seriously what it means to be a Christian business owner and the stewardship responsibility of a person of means,” said Wiebe Boer, president of Calvin University. “He is a pillar of the community and stands in a long line of Kuyperian reformed philanthropists and patrons of God’s Kingdom.”

One of the spaces Jansma Jr. has invested his time in most heavily is higher education, both locally and nationally, and even behind bars. He spent time serving on the boards of Calvin Theological Seminary and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He was instrumental in the vision of the School of Business at Calvin University and played a key role in the creation of the Calvin Prison Initiative (CPI)—a leading exemplar for prison education nationwide.

“Sid is a person of faith who seeks to better the spheres of business, education, politics, and the Church,” said Jul Medenblik, president of Calvin Theological Seminary. “Over the last 20 years there is not a square inch of Calvin University, Calvin Theological Seminary, the Calvin Prison Initiative, and Alpha Ministry that has not had some contact or impact from the ministry, vision, and encouragement of Sid Jansma Jr.”

Focusing on faith and learning

Christian higher education and most significantly Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary have been key areas of focus for Sid because he sees the importance of their missions. “As I grew older, I realized that the importance of higher education is not to remember all your courses, but it’s to build your character and your faith,” said Jansma Jr.

“With my first wife Joanne (deceased) and now my second wife Cate, we have felt called to support Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary because both institutions are in the business of training women and men to go into the world, and do exactly what Kuyper called for us to do in the Stone Lectures—to realize that every square inch belongs to Jesus. What a big bang for the buck, to support places that impact so many lives that are going out and living for the next 50 years or more, putting their training to good use in whatever job they decide to do, and playing their part in transforming society for God.”

The Jansmas also recognize God’s grace expressed in James 1:5: “If any one of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

“It’s amazing going through life knowing you are a partner with God, who made the universe, and that God wants to be your partner,” said Jansma Jr. “That’s not my idea, I don’t think I would have come to that one, but God had the idea of wanting to partner with me, and I saluted that flag.”

In esteemed company

Sid joins an esteemed group of past Kuyper Prize award winners, which includes a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, Templeton Prize-winning philosopher, a prime minister, and a pair of U.S. ambassadors.

A $10,000 monetary prize accompanies the award. Jansma Jr. will be awarded the prize during the Kuyper Conference which runs April 2-4, 2024 on the campus of Calvin University. The theme of the conference is “Stewardship in the Kingdom” and will include plenary sessions featuring Anthony Bradley (Kuyper College), Sarah Hamersma (Syracuse University), Jason Stansbury (Calvin University), and Cory Willson (Calvin Theological Seminary). The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty is a sponsor of the conference.

Proposals for presentations and roundtable sessions at the 2024 Conference can be submitted to Jordan Ballor at jballo79@calvin.edu by January 15, 2024. More information about the Kuyper Conference is available at the Kuyper Conference homepage.


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