A DAY OF CELEBRATION
Music and celebration filled the Van Noord Arena on Wednesday, October 26, 2022, where more than 2,000 people gathered for the inauguration of Calvin’s 12th president, Dr. Wiebe Boer. The event included a Scripture reading in 11 different languages, a commissioned poem, prayers, charges of encouragement, and multiple songs sung and performed, including two submitted by students in the Calvin Prison Initiative program.
The ceremony provided an opportunity for the broader community to get to know the university’s 12th president and his family. It represented Boer’s vision for Calvin University as a place of renewal, partnership, diversity, and growth, while reaffirming a continued commitment to Calvin’s legacy of Christian higher education within the Reformed tradition.
A handful of special guests took the podium during the live- streamed ceremony, including Boer’s childhood friend Danladi Verheijen ’97, who attended Calvin with Boer. His introduction highlighted Boer’s wide-ranging personal interests and accomplishments, in addition to Boer’s impressive career in the business, non-profit, and energy sectors. “In every challenge [Wiebe] sees the opportunity to build or transform. He is a tsunami of ideas and a very creative problem solver.”
Boer’s eldest son, Jehan, addressed the crowd with moving words, sharing a story of his father rescuing him from a carjacking when he was just a baby. “[My father] is a brave, loving, caring, risk-taker who will put himself on the line for the people he cares for,” said Jehan.
Other notable speakers included Shirley Hoogstra ’78, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and university pastor Dr. Mary Hulst, who reminded guests of the university’s legacy, built from the ground up. “We are grateful for those who have gone before us, those who took the risk to start this school. Those who prayed this place into existence. Those who took on second jobs so that their children could come here. Those who gave in church offerings for years so that this place would flourish. We walk through buildings we did not build. We sit under trees we did not plant.”
Highlighting Boer’s commitment to Calvin’s continued flourishing, student body president Nain Miranda Duarte ’23 spoke directly to the president from the podium. “You have taken a student-first approach. Since the day we met, you have always sought student opinion and have focused on ways to improve the student experience. And not only have you sought for the opinion, but you have consciously taken action by providing solutions.”
Boer’s own address invited Calvin to renew its call to global good, by learning from and esteeming the many cultures represented at Calvin. He encouraged the community to commit to deeper engagement with Calvin’s local and global community for mutual flourishing. He also challenged the community to re- new its commitment to engaging with the church, “showing that our mission is not just abstract, but put into action for the welfare of the Christian Reformed Church, the city of Grand Rapids, and communities around the globe.”
Finally, Boer called the Calvin community to be innovative in its approach to the future of higher education, flexible in meeting challenges, unwavering in its Christian and academic commitments, and to do better at telling the Calvin story, “sharing what unites us all.”
Jane Bruin, director of Calvin Center for Intercultural Student Development and longtime friend of Wiebe Boer shared a West African (Mandinka) proverb near the ceremony’s close: “Faroolu meŋ be naaneeriŋ, woolu le jiyoo ka bori ñoo kaŋ: Adjacent fields get the same water running over their crops. Meaning, we all share in the same community.”
“Welcome home, sir,” she said, “and as you begin your work, please know that we are in it together.”
In keeping with the globally minded, community-centered ceremony, four prayers of blessing and dedication marked the end of the event, each one reflecting on a different Boer family value—faith, diversity, dedication, and impact.
Community events also bookended the inauguration ceremony. These included a morning chapel on the theme of “God’s invitation to renewal” and a community screening of the new documentary film Luminous, about Calvin astronomy professor Larry Molnar’s scientific research made with a team of student researchers. Community members and guests of the inauguration also enjoyed a post-inauguration reception and an evening celebration dance in the Hoogenboom Gymnasium.
THE GREATEST GENERATION IS NOW
PRESIDENT WIEBE BOER REFLECTS ON THE PAST AND PRESENT OF CALVIN’S MISSION IN THIS EXCERPT OF HIS INAUGURAL SPEECH
“Calvin is in a strong place right now with an amazing foundation to build on. ... If our mission is taken seriously, and our responses are agile to the needs of our students and the world, we will continue to attract new generations of Calvin students. And, in turn, we will continue to be known for our remarkable alumni.
Our mission produces alumni who are taught how to think rather than what to think. How to reach hearts rather than break them. How to seek and elevate goodness rather than counterfeit or bury it. How to lift each other up rather than hold each other down.
Calvin has always played a role in society in what we have called the messy middle, but that I would instead like us to call “the missing middle.” This is a place that is getting harder and harder to hold in our current local and global political context. On the Nigerian mission field [where I grew up], Christian Reformed missionaries were considered one of the more “liberal” missions; in other contexts, such as when I was a graduate student at Yale, we are viewed on the more “conservative” side. But these are just monolithic labels that society tries to put on us. Calvin must define our own place in the world, and not let the world define us with their labels.
What Calvin needs to focus on is what author Jim Collins calls, “the genius of and,” instead of the “tyranny of or.” Here are just some of the things Calvin can find the genius of.
As a committed Christian university and community, why can’t we be: Dutch and diverse, excellent and exciting, conservative and controversial, progressive and pious, gritty and grace-filled, orthodox and original, renewed and renewable?
We should leverage these living tensions as bridges to one another—to be the institution that influences the world by calling us back from division and calling us together through dialogue.
So today we need to revisit what it means to be a neighbor, as Calvin has done generation after generation. With a vision of hope, and a tenacious pursuit of that vision, our future will be promising—and our impact will be lasting. ...
Talk to a Calvin student today and you’ll see they are eager to make this world a better place, and to do that now—as radical agents of renewal.
Today’s Calvin students are a part of the greatest generation and they will go on to do even more world-shattering things than their predecessors. So it is our role here to make them ready. ...
We’re going to need all of you. And with God helping me, I’m going to bring all of myself to this mission.
For the chance to serve this university, I am overwhelmed and humbled. Let me close by saying thank you for the opportunity to be the 12th president of Calvin University.
Now, let’s get started.”