With 43 years of service completed in the Gary (Ind.) Community School Corp., George Comer ’68 has poured his heart and soul into the children of this steel mill city.

“I knew, growing up, that the mills were always there and available,” said Comer. “That’s not the case these days, but the tradition of staying home and working is strong.”

Comer has consistently encouraged higher education to the students of the district, and for many years now he has made sure a busload of Garyarea students visits Calvin during the college’s well-regarded “Fridays” visit program.

In the fall of 2009, Comer ensured the bus made its annual Gary-to-Grand Rapids round trip. One student from the district not on that bus was Michael Fabiyi [pronounced Fah-bee].

Fabiyi was not seriously looking at Calvin or any school at the time, even though he was a senior intent on attending an institution strong in academics and, if possible, one that would give him a chance to keep playing basketball.

“I visited Xavier University and was thinking about Purdue when Calvin came into the picture,” he said.

Calvin made an entrance into his college search process through Comer. The veteran educator brings up his alma mater when there’s a conversation that includes an interest in Christian faith and excellent academics together. That happened last spring with a colleague who was pondering college choices for her children.

“My mother’s best friend had talked with Mr. Comer,” said Fabiyi. “My mom is an evangelist so the faith aspect caught her attention. In addition, I found out Calvin had a good political science department and a great basketball tradition.”

Fabiyi talked with men’s basketball coach Kevin Vande Streek on the phone and did some further research. He enrolled, without ever having set foot on campus.

“The first time my mother and I saw Calvin in person was in the summer,” he said, when the two attended Passport, the orientation program for new students and their families.

He agrees that he would not have discovered Calvin were it not for the alumni connection to his school system.

Fabiyi finds his coursework challenging and interesting, is adjusting to the nonprivate life of the residence halls and won a spot on the basketball team, one of five first-year students on the Knights’ varsity roster.

“Michael is a gifted young man on the court, off the court and in the classroom. We are very excited to have him at Calvin and in our basketball program. We look forward to exciting things for him in the future,” said Vande Streek.

Undecided about his college direction in March, Fabiyi found himself on the Calvin campus just a few months later, thanks to the recommendation of a Calvin alumnus.

That’s an amazing impact on a young person’s life. What similar opportunities are available to teachers in schools all over the world?

“I think our district now has a special relationship with Calvin,” said Comer. “I encourage good schools for our graduates and Calvin’s one of those. I’m just carrying out my responsibility to my students.”