In the early 1950s, Jane King Vander Heide ‘71 had planned to attend Michigan State University. When her plans changed, a friend recommended Calvin. She hadn’t previously considered it as an option, but “it was within walking distance of my house,” Vander Heide explained, “so I enrolled.”
Coming from a Baptist background, she says she hardly knew what to expect from the Christian Reformed school down the road, but the decision ultimately had a profound impact on her life. Her first year, Vander Heide met her future husband, John Vander Heide ’53, who was a third-generation Calvin student. After that year she left school to start working so the couple could get married and raise their family. But she was convinced Calvin had something she needed, and she wanted to go back. So, 14 years after she first began, with three small kids at home, she committed to finishing her degree. “I was so short on study time that I kept a book propped up in my car when I drove, so if I hit a red light, I could read another paragraph.”
Five years later, her conviction paid off and she left Calvin with an education degree. She taught and tutored for 10 years, and then she went into business with one of her sons. “Baking was my hobby,” Vander Heide said, “and fresh cookie companies were sweeping the country in malls,” so they started one of their own—Janie’s Cookie Co. With time and energy, their market grew, but when her son unexpectedly passed away, she chose to sell the business, noting, “Without him, it wasn’t fun anymore.”
A PATHWAY TO FOLLOW
Through each stage of her career, Vander Heide knew her Calvin education was affecting what she did and how she did it. “Calvin gave me a general perspective that guided a lot of my plans and decisions,” she said. “The values that [my family] learned at Calvin have given us all a pathway to follow.”
Because of its effect on their lives, she and her husband decided to establish a scholarship in their son’s honor. “We just continued to be so impressed with Calvin and had such good memories of our time there,” she added.
Even though her son eventually pursued business, he had considered being a minister, appreciated the leadership of his pastors, and was actively involved in the work of his church. That’s why the John S. Vander Heide III Memorial Scholarship was created to support students interested in going into full- time ministry. Each year, two students entering their senior year receive this award based on their potential for leadership in the ministry of the Christian Reformed Church. The couple later established a scholarship for Calvin Seminary, as well.
ITS OWN REWARD
In the years since the scholarships were created, Vander Heide has been able to meet and communicate with many of the recipients. “It’s very rewarding for me,” she said. “It’s satisfying to know that I helped a student and that they appreciate it.”
Vander Heide says she would encourage others to consider this kind of investment. “The world needs Calvin,” she said. “The university has kept up with changes in the world and changes in our denomination. There are a lot of options for higher education, but Calvin has it all together.”
With five successive generations of the Vander Heide family having now attended the university, they are expanding their impact with two additional scholarships. “I think it’s a gratifying experience for both the person who establishes the award and the person who receives it,” Vander Heide concluded.