July 10 was a turning of the page for Calvin and the start of a new chapter. The change to Calvin University embraces what Calvin has become and where we are going. Our increasing international student body and alumni population are providing new and exciting opportunities for connection.
Since the earliest days of our association, alumni have been gathering. On June 2, 1924, Henry Beets gave an address at the Calvin Alumni Association banquet, “Why a Strong Alumni Association?” In his talk he outlined several reasons why we need a strong group of alumni supporting Calvin. One of those reasons speaks to the importance of connecting. “We need a stronger alumni association with branches everywhere that we may organize school days in various places. We ought to host meetings for inspirational, educational, and intercessory purposes.”
For more than 100 years, alumni have been gathering, and our international alumni population is creating new opportunities for connection all over the globe. In countries such as South Korea, Ghana, and Nigeria, to name a few, alumni are gathering to encourage and learn from one another.
Alumni board member James Lee ’12 has been connected with the growing alumni group in Korea. Lee recounts that “after graduation from Calvin, MinWoo Heo ’09 went back to South Korea to fulfill his military service. All able-bodied men before the age of 30 are required to serve 21 months. Heo served as a First Lieutenant for the Republic of Korea Air Force.” Heo helped other Korean Calvin alumni secure positions as military officers. “Now, the Republic of Korea Air Force knows what Calvin is!” he said.
Seven years ago Heo started the Korean Calvin alumni gathering with the hope of mobilizing alumni in South Korea. One of the first events was a summer welcoming party for incoming first-year students. One of those students was Sungho (Joshua) Ahn ’17. Ahn hasn’t forgotten what that event meant to him, and he is now organizing parties for students headed to Calvin University as well as hosting other alumni events there.
Incoming alumni board member and former student body president Jonathan Eigege ’15 is now working for the Albright Stonebridge Group and traveling between Washington, D.C., and his native country of Nigeria, where he has been connected with Calvin alumni. “Africa has undergone significant economic growth over the past 20 years, and as economies across the continent continue to transform, many in the African diaspora have been drawn back to the continent by the potential to be a part of national socio-economic development. This is especially true in Ghana and Nigeria, two West African countries that have historically sent the most African students to Calvin,” he said.
As West African students graduate from Calvin, they see opportunity in Africa and are returning home. This growth in alumni in Ghana and Nigeria and the desire to be connected was the reason formed a WhatsApp group to reconnect with friends who he knew had also returned to West Africa. Word about the “Calvin West Africa” WhatsApp group has been spreading, and the group continues to grow.
Eigege notes, “What has become clear is that these grads are doing a lot of redemptive work. This includes disrupting broken early childhood education models; bringing energy to underserved communities; running democracy promotion programs; increasing access to public health; pushing local film, music, and media to global audiences; democratizing financial access and literacy; and empowering smallholder farmers through agribusiness—among other things. With many Calvin grads looking to return to the region and several Ghanaian and Nigerian students currently enrolled at Calvin University, it feels like this is the beginning of a robust Calvin West Africa network.”
Almost 100 years after Beets presented his case for a strong alumni association, graduates of Calvin are finding new ways and new locations for connecting and carrying out their work to be Christ’s agents of renewal all over the world.