Carol Vanden Bosch Rottman ex’59 has been a teacher her entire adult life, just not in the elementary school classroom kind of way.
Having pursued an education major at Calvin, Rottman has since used her gifts teaching others about her passions, one of which is writing.
Writing “is who I am,” said Rottman. “It’s something I’ve been given—a gift of writing and sharing it with others fills a need to be with people who care about the same things that I do.”
Since retirement, Rottman has been a constant in the Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL), teaching Creating Memoir: Telling Your Story. “It’s one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my life,” said Rottman, “certainly, one of the most joy-filled.
“The class gives everyone an opening to write their own stories, with a lot of group encouragement,” she said. “People who take the class often say they’d like to leave something of lasting value to their children. I try to help them tell their stories so that someone will actually read them.”
“Carol has devoted 17 years to the CALL program, assisting our members in capturing and writing their memoirs,” said Sonja DeJong, director of CALL. “Her time, poured into each of the students, enables these fledgling writers to shape into meaning their many memories on earth. We are so very grateful for her dedication.”
Finding the beauty in each person’s story is one of Rottman’s passions; finding the beauty in the earth is another.
Nearly 20 years ago, she became a “reluctant prairie partner.” Her late husband, Fritz, had the dream of restoring a piece of land to a native grass and wildflower prairie, so they purchased 72 acres north of Grand Rapids and began their renewal project.
“It was a big undertaking,” said Rottman. “But it soon became our little oasis, but too beautiful to have just to ourselves.” So they began giving the prairie to Calvin in increments. Calvin professors began studying the Flat Iron Lake property. They took students there to study the flora and fauna, and now each summer two Calvin students have the opportunity to live on the property while doing research. A team of “stewards” also works to remove invasive species.
“I have some company in the summer with people who care about the same things I do,” said Rottman. “Sometimes I get to tell them things that I know about the prairie, like names of flowers, but more often they teach me things that they have learned from their research.”
Rottman has written a book on the beauty she finds in the restored prairie: All Nature Sings: A Spiritual Journey of Place.
In addition to sharing her passions with college learners young and older, Rottman has served the college as a board of trustees member and most recently as an alumni board member.
“I attended four colleges and universities, but I’m only loyal to one,” said Rottman, who finished her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan and has advanced degrees from Michigan State and Case Western Reserve. “Calvin’s emphasis on faith and learning working together is what attracted me.”
Rottman has inspired others to be “a little more light for other people and to do whatever you can to bring joy,” she said. “Once you realize what God has blessed you with, you want to give it away. Whether it’s a talent, or time, or a resource, what is most satisfying is giving it as a gift to others.”