Each year the Calvin Alumni Association honors a former Calvin faculty member with the Faith and Learning Award. The criteria for selection includes excellence in teaching, spiritual inspiration, concern for students and lasting influence.

Even though he had never played the sport, Ralph Honderd could have gone to a state university on a football scholarship.

“I was on the basketball, baseball and track teams at my high school in Iowa,” remembered Honderd, “and back then one field event at the Iowa state track meet was the football throw. I was the state champ my senior year and after that had offers from two schools.”

Instead, Honderd enrolled at Calvin College—a school without football. He started out in engineering, then criminology, but soon found that biology and studying the way God created the human body fascinated him.

He majored in the subject and after his Calvin graduation in 1962 taught biology, general science, math and physical education and coached at Western Michigan Christian in Muskegon.

After gaining a master’s in kinesiology from Michigan State University, Honderd hoped to teach at the collegiate level and applied at Calvin. He taught full-time at Calvin from 1965 to 2002, focusing on anatomical and structural kinesiology.

Honderd also coached basketball, track and field, wrestling and soccer during his tenure. He loved coaching basketball, but felt he had to eventually give up his role because he was too hard on himself.

“I made up some of my best plays in church,” he said. “I deeply appreciated my players and we never lost to Hope.”

Honderd is particularly pleased with the interim course he started that was linked to the college’s famous January Series. “An Inside Look at the January Series” gave every student enrolled a front seat at each lecture and time for a class exchange with each speaker.

“Talk about a complete liberal arts education in just one month,” he said. The class continues to this day.

Ralph Honderd as coach
Ralph Honderd as coach

Walking alongside students in his classes as a Christian role model was also important to Honderd, and he was involved in the beginning of another influential endeavor at the college that still remains: the mentoring program.

Many people also know Ralph and Carol Honderd as relentless advocates for those with cognitive disabilities as coast-to-coast ambassadors for Friendship Ministries, which seeks to fully include these brothers and sisters as full members of God’s church.

“I have to say that one of my motivations to get a PhD in my field is that a calling card with Dr. Honderd on it opens more seminary doors than simply ‘volunteer,’” he said.

Ralph and Carol bought a motor home and barnstormed the United States for 15 years, letting ministers and theological leaders know of the resources available to allow all members of their churches to worship and grow spiritually.