History can be chronicled in numerous ways: through rich narratives derived from stories passed down from ancestors, through photographs exhibiting the failures and triumphs of generations, through journals disclosing personal details about conditions and circumstances, through music that echoes the challenges and achievements of the times, and in numerous other ways, including through things, memorabilia, artifacts.
What follows are images of objects that were found around campus, each telling a unique story about some moment in time from the college’s past. Perhaps one or more of the items evoke a memory from your time at Calvin. While these 12 artifacts can only commemorate a small fraction of the rich 140-year history of Calvin College, we hope that collectively they reveal a glimpse of the institution’s character: its Reformed heritage, its academic rigor, its commitment to diversity, its athletic prowess and its quirky traditions.
01 | Chris Overvoorde painting
Chris Stoffel Overvoorde served as a professor at Calvin for 31 years; during that time he taught thousands of students. As one of the college’s first artists, Overvoorde challenged Christians to view the arts in a new way. His work, much of which depicts nature, specifically landscapes with clouds, graces the halls of the college. View East of Pincher Creek, Alberta, is an example of Overvoorde’s prairie paintings, which display what he felt while studying the prairie during a sabbatical: “the almightiness of God in a very big space.” He said: “You feel like you’re about two inches high.”
02 | Gameday Jerseys
Ranked the best small college rivalry in the country by ESPN and recognized by The New York Times in a series chronicling “good basketball around the country,” the Calvin-Hope competition extends well beyond the hardwood. But it’s hoops that has the history to back it up. Going strong at 96 years and 193 games for the men and 49 years and 115 games for the women, the annual rivalry pits two of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletics Association’s (MIAA) best against each other. Combined, the Knights and the Flying Dutchmen have won or shared in 89 of the MIAA’s 101 conference titles. The jerseys above were worn in the mid-1970s.
03 | The golden towel
One of the most serene and picturesque places on campus is the Seminary Pond. That is, unless you happen to be there on the day of the annual Sem Pond Jump, a chance each February for students to leap into the pond amid freezing temperatures. Since 1999, approximately 3,000 brave Knights have taken the plunge and joined the Cold Knight Club, while only about 300 of those members have taken home the coveted golden towel—a reward for four years of jumping.
04 | LeS jacques de chimes football
It’s an annual late fall tradition that was first recorded in 1965—a gridiron classic between Les Jacques de Chimes (the editorial staff of Calvin’s student newspaper Chimes) and the Faculty Fumblers (a group of faculty and staff members). Like all traditions, it has its recurrent themes: The Fumblers win; the Jacques claim they did. In the rivalry’s 50-year history, Les Jacques de Chimes have claimed just five wins and have lost 27 straight, but the headlines during that streak tell a different story: “Jacques stumble Fumblers in thrilling 65-2 victory” and “Les Jacques de Chimes smash Michigan in fall premiere” and, in an effort at journalist integrity, “Jacques win moral victory.” While they have been given little consolation from the headlines, the rightful winners have been presented with the Les Jacques de Chimes football at the conclusion of every contest.
05 | The bananer
In the late 1960s, there was growing tension between conservatives and progressives in the Christian Reformed Church. In 1970, Calvin students published a parody of the church’s magazine, The Banner, as their annual Chimes spoof edition. The Bananer, now infamous for the stir it caused, included a mock meditation on a passage from the fictional book of Hezekiah, the confession of a young woman who had kissed her boyfriend at a drive-in movie and obituaries for alter egos of The Banner editors. Referred to as “religious pornography,” the publication incited The Banner editor, who in a four-page editorial called for expulsion for the responsible students, removal of faculty involved and curtailment of financial support. Calvin President William Spoelhof adeptly navigated the situation, speaking to Synod and answering hundreds of letters from enraged and supportive constituents.
06 | Music box
On a shelf in DeWit Manor, home to Calvin president Michael Le Roy and his family, you’ll find a wooden maroon lacquer box with a gold C on the top. Open it up and the alma mater begins to play. The box, while only 7 ½ inches wide and 5 inches tall, represents a rich heritage, and how fitting that the first president who received the box was William Spoelhof, who was a faithful member of the Calvin community for eight decades, dating back to his time as a student in the late 1920s. Spoelhof would later serve the college for 30 years, the first five years as a professor of history and political science and then from 1951–1976 as the college’s longest tenured president. His tenure was marked by the college’s move from its location on Franklin Street in Grand Rapids to the current Knollcrest campus, including the expansion of the college’s curriculum, faculty and student body. The tune inside this box serves as a reminder of Spoelhof’s legacy of faithfulness to his alma mater and to his God.
07 | College emblem
The heart-in-hand became the official emblem of the college in 1933, but it emerged as early as 1910 in the college yearbook. However, the words “prompte et sincere” along with the image of an outstretched hand offering a heart surfaced four centuries earlier in the writings of the Reformer John Calvin. Calvin used the image to seal his letters in the 1540s. The motto “prompte et sincere” appears on his portrait dated 1566. The adoption of the words and image together stand as the insignia of the college today, inspiring the Calvin community to practice the college’s mission of living wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.
08 | Bow and arrows
Probably the least-known Calvin sport is archery, though it was a women’s athletic team for three decades. Begun in 1953, the archery team earned four championships in its 30 - year run. Since previous archery experience was uncommon among Calvin students, Coach Doris Zuidema was often forced to recruit her archery squad from the basketball team. Archery was discontinued at Calvin and other MIAA colleges in 1982.
09 | Kente Cloth Stole
For over a decade Calvin’s Commencement ceremony has featured the vibrant hues of Kente cloth stoles. Kente cloth, originating from Ghana, is crafted through a delicate weaving process that creates a strong finished product, often featuring threads of many colors. Jacque Rhodes, former assistant dean for multicultural student development at Calvin, says the Kente cloth serves as a metaphor for the college’s Multicultural Student Advisory Board (MSAB)—students of various backgrounds coming together for anti-racism work on campus, including planning the annual UnLearn Week. In 2005, Rhodes began distributing the stoles to all MSAB members upon graduation. Today, the tradition has expanded, and the stoles are given to all graduating seniors who have served as student leaders through the multicultural student development office.
10 | Library Rules
These rules for library use were written circa 1895. Penned in Dutch, the regulations called for returning books to their proper place, no intentional damaging of books and no rowdy or unseemly conduct in the room. Those who refused to submit to the rules would be excluded from the room. The document was posted on the wall of the college’s library room in the Theological School building located at the corner of Madison and Franklin streets in Grand Rapids. Signed by students Henry Beets, John W. Brink, Peter Jonker, Rector G.K Hemkes and K. Kuiper, a member of the Curatorium, the directives likely would have been earnestly adhered to.
11 | John Calvin's Works
In 1532, the college’s namesake, John Calvin, published his first book: a commentary on an essay on clemency by the Roman author Seneca. Calvin is best known for his Institutes of the Christian Religion, published in successive Latin and French editions from 1536 through 1561. Among his final works printed in his lifetime was Sermons on Job in 1563, pictured here. These rare books and many other works by Calvin and his contemporaries are housed in the college’s H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies. Visitors and scholars from around the world travel to Grand Rapids to make use of the collection to deepen their knowledge about Calvin, Calvinism and the Reformation.
12 | Scholarship Violin
Llewellyn “Leo” Cayvan was a legendary supporter of music at Calvin. Born in 1879, Cayvan, a talented musician, never attended or taught at Calvin, but he developed a bond with Calvin students after playing for the Messiah. During his later years and upon his death in 1966, Cayvan donated his monumental collection of recordings, sheet music and musical instruments to the college. The bequeathed string instruments make up the Cayvan Collection, which are awarded as scholarships to students for use during their time at Calvin. This Peresson, valued at $45,000, is one of the 10 stringed instruments in the scholarship collection.
(13) | Moses
Of course, the iconic statue that was fought over by generations of Calvin students would have made the list. However, as is tradition, Moses is missing.