April 30, 2012 | Myrna Anderson

Scott Stehouwer, a 34-year veteran of the psychology department, is the students' choice.

Watch a powerful speech given by Scott Stehouwer at the Senior Brunch on May 19, 2012.

Calvin psychology professor Scott Stehouwer has a proven method for engaging the students in his a.m. classes, said Chase Hoekwater: “Every morning, he blasts music out loud: oldies music. You can hear it throughout the psych department. It’s a great way to start the day.” On Monday morning, May 1st, Stehouwer’s students and family, along with staff from the alumni department, were blasting music (“You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate) as they burst into Stehouwer’s classroom to proclaim him Calvin’s 2011-2012 Professor of the Year.

The honoree confessed himself surprised by the honor: “Let’s do something you’ve been looking forward to for quite some time,” Stehouwer suggested. “Let’s cancel class.” As students helped themselves to Krispy Kreme donuts (the traditional food of the Professor-of-the-Year event), Stehouwer thanked them for the honor and introduced his family.

A Calvin history

A 1974 Calvin grad with a bachelor’s of psychology, Stehouwer earned his master’s (1977) and PhD (1978) in clinical psychology at Wayne State University. He began teaching at Calvin in the summer of 1978. “I came to Calvin and thought I’d teach for two years and move on, and that was 34 years ago,” he said. Stehouwer then told the story of how he arrived early for his first Calvin class, pretended to be a student and warned the arriving students that their new professor was supposed to be a real taskmaster. “You can only get away with that once,” he said.

Stehouwer’s wife Nancy was on hand for the celebration. “His heart and soul is the students at Calvin,” she said. “He loves the teaching and the counseling.” She confirmed her husband’s love for loud music: “He’s extremely knowledgeable about oldies,” she said. “I rarely ever trip him up.” Three of  Stehouwer’s children, Rebecca, Ben and Anna, and four of his eight grandchildren—Josh, Ellie, Hannah and Charlie—also joined the Professor of the Year celebration.

The students who gathered to celebrate Stehouwer’s honor were unanimous that his selection was overdue:

“Not only is he passionate in what he does, but he loves students too,” said senior psychology major Kelly Johnson. “

"The interest he takes in his students is unbelievable,” senior psychology major Mark Oldenburg agreed.

Each year, the Professor of the Year award is chosen by Calvin’s graduating seniors. They first choose nominees for the honor via a survey. And after the nominees are vetted through the provost’s office, the seniors vote for the winner.

Nominating and crashing

“This is so student-run. You hear the students’ voice,” said Emily Dock, who, with the Calvin alumni organization Knights for Life, handled the logistics for Professor of the Year. “You hear the students’ voice in the nomination process; you hear the students’ voice in the voting process; and you hear the students’ voice in ‘the crash,’” (the semi-official name for disrupting a professor’s class). Calvin’s other signal faculty honor, the Presidential Award for Exemplary Teaching, is chosen by a committee and, ultimately, the college president.

Fourteen professors have worn the title Professor of the Year since the award’s inception in 1998. Four of them have been from the English department and three from biology, with one each from chemistry, classics, business, nursing, sociology and religion. Stehouwer is the first psychology professor chosen for the honor.

“So, that means next year, I’m out of the running, right?” he yelled at some point in Monday’s celebration.

Students and Stehouwer:

“He’s the most entertaining professor I’ve ever had.” Senior Mark Oldenburg

“He gives a lot of real-life examples, which I love. It’s very helpful.” Senior Chase Hoekwater

“He knows when it’s okay to joke and when it’s okay to be serious.” Senior Arielle Baker

“It’s about time he won it.” Senior Kelly Johnson

Previous Professors of the Year

Renae Boss Potts, nursing

Pete Tigchelaar, biology

Cal Jen, business

Todd Vanden Berg, sociology

Joy Bonnema, biology

Dave Warners, biology

Steve Matheson, biology

William Vande Kopple, English

Dale Brown, English

Jennifer Holberg, English

James Vanden Bosch, English

Richard Whitekettle, religion

Ken Bratt, classics

Larry Louters, chemistry

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