Although he was (and is) a die-hard University of Michigan Wolverines football fan, Perrin Rynders ’83 didn’t anticipate storming the gridiron wearing shoulder pads.
“I was dreaming about making the Michigan marching band and playing at the Rose Bowl,” said Rynders.
He’s a versatile percussionist, playing many of the instruments, particularly the tympani.
“When it came down to choosing a college, however, I was much more comfortable going to Calvin,” he said. “I felt like I was connecting to my roots.”
That decision also led to a lifelong dedication to alma mater, using not only his musical gifts, but his leadership abilities and expertise as an attorney to encourage other alumni and current students.
The Calvin Alumni Association board voted to thank Rynders for his many contributions to the college by giving him the 2016 Outstanding Service Award.
“I definitely wanted to go into law,” he said, “I wanted to be involved in justice, policy, government—to understand how the world works.”
Rynders credits Calvin’s history and philosophy professors for making him think deeply about issues, and the music faculty for giving him the chance to grow as a percussion instrumentalist.
When he did go to the University of Michigan—for law school—he was ready.
“I was surrounded by students from Harvard, Stanford and Yale, and yet Calvin prepared me so well, I felt I was ahead of students from these schools,” he said. “At Calvin I learned to write, think and express myself under pressure.”
After graduation and settling into a law career at Varnum, LLC in Grand Rapids (where he’s now a partner), initially his musical talent drew him back to Calvin.
He was asked to accompany the Calvin Alumni Choir on the tympani, and that led to other requests from the choir and from the then-active Calvin Alumni Players who needed musicians for its annual productions.
Those initial interactions with the college led to an invitation to serve on the Grand Rapids alumni network board. Following that service, Rynders helped start the successful “Calvin Around Town” series of events, which connected local alumni to key city locations and civic leaders.
His leadership résumé facilitated election to the national Calvin Alumni Board, where he eventually served as president of the association.
“When you’re on the alumni board, you find out how deep the talent pool is at Calvin,” he said. “Interviewing faculty members for research grants, seeing how their work advances knowledge—it is really cool. What’s happening at the college is truly amazing.”
Rynders did not want his efforts on behalf of the college to end with his alumni board term, so he stayed engaged by assisting Calvin in its pre-law program.
“I talked with Joel Westra and Randy Vogelzang about creative ways to help. Out of those discussions came the idea of an interim class so that students had a clearer idea about the profession,” he said.
That now-popular class brought scores of alumni attorneys to the college classroom to share their expertise in the various areas of law.
The class also had Rynders pondering about other avenues of alumni support in pre-law.
“We wondered what else we could do and decided on developing an alumni law affinity group so we could network, learn from each other and raise money for the pre-law program,” he said.
Launched last year with three other alumni attorneys, the Calvin Law Professionals of Michigan group started doing those very things.
“Calvin made a difference in my life,” he said. “I transitioned from following to leading—that process happened at Calvin. I’m super grateful—for that and for understanding the importance of Christian community.”