June 26, 2017 | Matt Kucinski


The LEAN team, a cross-divisional group of staff members, received the inaugural Team Spirit Award.

In his opening remarks at the Staff Appreciation Event held on Thursday, June 8, Calvin College president Michael Le Roy highlighted the great achievements of the college’s faculty and staff during the 2016-2017 academic year.

While Le Roy admitted that his 20 minutes at the podium couldn’t possibly cover everything, he thought it was important to highlight some of the ways in which the strategic plan has sparked significant institutional improvement in various areas of the college.

Le Roy highlighted cross-divisional collaborative projects such as the launch of the Calvin LifeWork program, the work done around student retention, the reimagining of the Passport Orientation program and the ongoing work of the Sustainability Task Force, to name just a few.

He also commended the successful launch of the graduate program in accounting, the renovation of the Commons Dining Hall and creation of new signage for wayfinding on campus, and the development of “Diversifying our Faculty,” a peer-to-peer coaching initiative for administrative leaders.

“As I look back at the many accomplishments from this past academic year, I am grateful for all of the excellent and innovative work being done by those who work here,” said Le Roy. “It is clear that from a shared sense of mission, our faculty and staff, friends and supporters are all working together to strengthen our place among exceptional colleges and universities.”

Following Le Roy’s remarks, the President’s Cabinet handed out individual honors—the William Spoelhof Mission Award, Diversity and Inclusion Award, Creativity and Innovation Award and the Unsung Hero Award. The Cabinet also introduced a new award in 2017, the Team Spirit Award. All award winners were nominated by their peers and chosen by the cabinet.

The Awards

William Spoelhof Mission Award

The William Spoelhof Mission Award recognizes a staff member who lives out the mission of the college in their work, following the example of former President William Spoelhof. 

Michael Van Denend has served his alma mater for 35 years, all but two of those years as the director of alumni relations. Van Denend has served as the chief liaison for many of the college’s nearly 65,000 alumni. Said one nominator: “Mike has consistently communicated the mission of Calvin to alumni all over the globe. For more than 30 years he has not only communicated this message through his own actions of thinking deeply, acting justly and living wholeheartedly, but he has celebrated it in the lives of alumni and students.”

Diversity and Inclusion Award

The Diversity and Inclusion Award recognizes a staff member who has demonstrated a personal commitment and exemplary effort toward helping the college achieve its diversity and inclusion goals. 

Jo Cooper, immigration coordinator in enrollment management, has served international student populations for more than two decades at Calvin College. One of Cooper’s colleagues described her as “the ‘Momma Bear’ to all of our international students.” Another colleague spoke highly of Cooper’s hospitality, writing: “she has welcomed students and families from around the world … passionately defended students … gone above and beyond to find them housing, organize documentation and step into confusing dynamics. A huge part of our enrollment success with international students belongs to Jo.”

Creativity and Innovation Award

The Creativity and Innovation Award recognizes a Calvin staff member who has demonstrated both creativity and innovation in their work at the college. 

Irene Kraegel, director of the Broene Counseling Center, has shown a deep commitment to the mental health of students. And, as a colleague noted in nominating her, this commitment drove her to lead the Broene Counseling team in a comprehensive restructure of both staff and services. The results? “The introduction of a new Stepped Care model in Broene has transformed the student experience, improved staff wellbeing and morale, and inspired departments across the college as they work to creatively and systemically support students,” wrote her nominator.

Unsung Hero Award

The Unsung Hero Award recognizes a staff member who has demonstrated extra effort in their work for the college. 

This year, three members of the Calvin community were so honored.

Jay Wise, director of college housing and operations, wears many hats on campus, but those hats are worn for one reason: to serve students well. Said one nominator: “It would be easier to tell you what Jay does not do. I can’t really think of anything he would not do for our students … [he] is on call 24/7 assisting with all types of emergencies such as ill students and water main breaks and flooding … Jay drives students to the airport, the hospital, picks them up from train and bus stations, organizes fan bus trips to national athletic events, and chaperones the trips. Jay mentors students and has rich relationships with them.”

Charles Huizinga, associate director of grounds, is one of the longest-serving employees of the college, completing 41 years of service this year. Wrote a colleague of his: “Charlie is the first person at physical plant in the morning and is often the last one to leave. His dedication to keeping the campus looking beautiful helps attract students to campus and impresses visitors … Charlie sleeps in his office many nights in the winter as he prepares for snow events.”

Justin TeBrake, facility manager in kinesiology, is approaching a decade of service at Calvin College. He’s described as someone who keeps 100 balls in the air at one time. “The Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex runs because of Justin,” wrote one colleague. “The myriad of events that happen in this building—not just classes and athletic events—happen because of Justin’s can-do attitude and his dedication to this college.”

Team Spirit Award

The Team Spirit Award recognizes staff teams who go above and beyond expectations in contributing to the college’s mission and strategic plan efforts. 

The LEAN team is a cross-divisional group of staff members. They include: Anna Ferrell (Center for Student Success), Matt Hoekzema (physical plant), Kelly Moore (health services) Jeff Templeton (financial services), Deirdre Honner (people, strategy and technology), Lucas Moore and Michael Haan (information technology). Said one nominator: “They have done a great job helping many departments across campus improve and rethink their work. This cross functional team exhibits true teamwork, collaboration and process improvement. Taking the time out of their normal workload (without extra pay) to help others is truly going above and beyond. Their workshops are always well-planned and extremely helpful.”

Michael Van Denend, William Spoelhof Mission Award recipient

Michael Van Denend, William Spoelhof Mission Award recipient

Jo Cooper, Diversity and Inclusion Award recipient

Jo Cooper, Diversity and Inclusion Award recipient

Jay Wise, Unsung Hero Award recipient

Jay Wise, Unsung Hero Award recipient

Charles Huizinga, Unsung Hero Award recipient

Charles Huizinga, Unsung Hero Award recipient

Justin TeBrake, Unsung Hero Award recipient

Justin TeBrake, Unsung Hero Award recipient

2016 Honorees

William Spoelhof Mission Award
Cindy Kok, Broene Counseling Center

Diversity and Inclusion Award
Paul Ryan, campus ministries

Creativity and Innovation Award
Amanda Greenhoe, communications and marketing

Unsung Hero Award
June DeBoer (awarded posthumously), academic services

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