Paul Stoddard was introduced to Calvin University at 10 years old when his family dropped off his older sister for her freshman year. “What sold me,” he recalls, “was that her dorm theme was pirates. I thought this is so cool. I want to go here.” 

As he grew, Stoddard didn’t deviate from his desire to attend Calvin, only checking out a couple of other schools.  And, as inspirational as the pirate-themed dorm had been, Stoddard’s reasons for pursuing Calvin gained dimension. “By then I wanted a blend of everything. I wanted a Christian school that was also serious about academics and had a well-developed campus culture—for all of that, Calvin was perfect, and I loved it.”

As Stoddard considered his major, he consulted his sister, who was building a successful post-Calvin engineering career. “My sister was doing really well in her job. I knew my parents were happy and wanted them to be happy with me, so after talking to her, I decided that following the engineering path she had taken made sense.”

Calvin’s Biggest Fan

Stoddard recalls his surprise at West Michigan cultural differences from his western New York upbringing. “Growing up where I did, faith wasn’t prevalent—you had to sink or swim about your faith. It was why I loved going to Christian summer camps—people shared my zeal. In my mind, I pictured that Calvin would be like camp. I envisioned everyone praying together and seeing spontaneous worship break out.

And coming in, I wanted to do everything. Every activity, every credit I maxed it all out—dance guild, theater, residence life. I made it a point to get to know everyone and push out of my comfort zone. What I started to see was that Christianity was not forced. We did all these things as faithful believers, and it was just interwoven.

I can now fully appreciate that Calvin teaches the marathon of being a Christian in the world, and that the emotive nature of summer camp is rarely how life is. I learned that where religion is ingrained, such as in West Michigan, faith can also grow lukewarm. Those factors brought perspective to my subsequent experience after graduation. I live in Utah now, also with a dominant religious culture of its own. As a Christian seeking to be a light, I need consistency and a perspective of renewal to spread gospel work here, and I understand it from my Calvin experience. This perspective is just one of the reasons I love Calvin so much. The experience in learning, knowledge, application and worldview is unlike any other.”

A Major Shift

When asked how his major shifted from engineering to a double major of Business and Philosophy, Stoddard says, “God’s providence is the only explanation.” His plan was to have a good career like his sister’s. He also wanted his parents to be happy, and they were happy about his sister—it seemed easy. “But one day in class, we were talking about materials. Specifically, interstitial atoms, and I thought, I don’t care. I’m out.”

Stoddard’s direction led him to the classroom of Professor Dirk Pruis, who worked for Goldman Sachs before transitioning to teaching. “Professor Pruis was inspiring. He presented finance as an amazing career and said it was a chance to work with the smartest people in the world.” Stoddard landed an internship at Goldman Sachs, and it was everything he’d hoped. “My eyes were opened to the millions of things I could do in finance. I made sure I met as many people as possible in every department and division to learn more.”

Graduating with God and Global Finance

Armed with a deep knowledge base and understanding, expanded by his philosophical world view, Stoddard graduated from Calvin with his business degree, concentrations in finance and marketing and a philosophy double major. And he accepted an offer for a position at Goldman Sachs in Utah. “I welcome anyone and everyone into my office. My favorite thing is creating relationships with people in Utah who are from out-of-state, and I spend a lot of time with non-believers. I show hospitality and warmth because of what Jesus has done for me and I want to share that. The small church that we are part of here is one I want to support. I want to be a part of renewal in Utah with a missional mindset. I can spread the Gospel in simple, consistent ways, through relationships which need to happen over time. Students are uniquely positioned because Calvin teaches you how to live out your faith consistently over time and plant seeds through your relationships inside and outside of the church.”

Considering his life path so far, Stoddard’s deep thinking comes with a smile, “As a kid, I never would have thought that I’d work at Goldman Sachs’, but here I am.” Working in global investment research, Stoddard helps investors understand what’s going on in the market and finance industry, and how the stocks of his team’s coverage move as a result.  “I’m loving my work and living with consistent faith God is continually moving whether I like it or not and has created a bedrock foundation. He is always there and unchanging.”

What would Stoddard tell his youthful self if he could? “Feel less pressure to change the world. Even when young, we are called to be agents of renewal, but it’s a lot of pressure. If I am not seeing redemption around me, am I being that agent? Just know that God is working in the background. Be ready when called, but don’t put pressure to do the greatest thing ever. Renewal can be simple; show warmth and hospitality. Be in small group. Give to your church. All of that can seem boring—you don’t see anything dramatic, but Calvin taught me to trust how God works through all of life, all the time. It’s just grinding through sometimes, but God will show what He was doing later.”