Todd Pheifer ’94 and Laura Klaasen Pheifer ’94 had a great experience as students at Calvin more than two decades ago. But that’s not the only message they’re passing on to high school graduates in the 21st century.
“We encourage kids to visit Calvin because we believe in what Calvin is today,” said Todd, “not just what it was for us. The differences are exciting.”
Todd and Laura chose Calvin for very different reasons. “God uses interesting circumstances on our journey,” said Todd. But both came away with some of the same discoveries. “We both look back on it as a formative experience and as a launching point for where we are today.”
Upon graduating from Calvin with a business degree, Todd realized how much he loved the college atmosphere and decided that was where he wanted to focus his career. Now, with a master’s and doctoral degree in education, Todd serves as instructor at the Art Institute of California-Orange County and professor at Azusa Pacific University.
Laura always knew she wanted to be a teacher, and, with a math and Spanish degree in hand, secured a job at Valley Christian High School in Cerritos, California, where she has been teaching for more than 20 years.
Their combined experience in education led them to believe that Calvin might be the right place for some of the young people they encounter, so over the past 15 years, the Pheifers have shepherded more than a dozen trips to Calvin with California-residing prospective students.
“The Pheifers have consistently modeled what supportive and engaged alumni look like,” said Ben Arendt, Calvin’s director of admissions. “Over the years they have introduced Calvin to hundreds of prospective students, brought groups of students to campus, have hosted and helped facilitate regional events, and have advocated for the transformative education Calvin offers. They do all of this with a particular posture of service towards families. They have found a way to intentionally promote Calvin in ways that are invitational yet ultimately interested in the well-being of each student they serve. Working with them has been a blessing.”
The Calvin Alumni Association board voted to thank the Pheifers for their support of Calvin by giving them the 2017 Outstanding Service Award.
While the Pheifers are grateful for the recognition, they are humbled by it, too. “What we do feels so unextraordinary,” said Laura. “There are so many people championing Calvin; it almost doesn’t feel right to be singled out for something we enjoy doing so much.”
Most Februarys, the Pheifers travel to cold, snowy Michigan with a group of high schoolers for a Fridays at Calvin visit. “We like to come during the Cold Knight Club plunge,” said Laura. “It’s a novelty for them, and we like them to see what a winter in Michigan could be like.
“We don’t want students to rule Calvin out simply because it is too far away,” said Laura.
“We’re careful not to pressure them,” said Todd. “We feel like it is our role to provide students with a chance to look and explore; we want Calvin to sell itself.”
Due to the Pheifers’ efforts, a contingent of Southern California students do choose Calvin every year; sometimes it’s four or one or nine.
“It’s fun for us to come back every year and reconnect with them and see how they are flourishing,” said Laura.
The Pheifers have one resounding message for all prospective students they meet. “Calvin is just a really cool place,” said Todd. “It’s a great school and a wonderful opportunity to explore God’s kingdom and be trained in their vocation. We believe in the long-lasting impact of a Calvin education. That’s why we encourage students to make this investment in their future.”
Added Laura: “And we have a chance to invest in the next generation. That’s a pretty great opportunity, too.”