Interview by Todd C. Ream
Signs of God's Faithfulness
Richard Mouw, Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and George Marsden are just four scholars among many who spent their most formative years teaching at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Mouw would eventually leave for Fuller, Plantinga for Notre Dame, Wolterstorff for Yale, and Marsden for Duke (and then Notre Dame). If asked, however, my guess is they would all say Calvin is home.
Calvin has forged a reputation within higher education as a place with a deep commitment to the life of the mind and to how the Christian narrative animates such a life. Its beginnings were humble. In 1876, members of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) came together to establish a college and seminary. Before its centennial, Calvin outgrew what was known as the Franklin campus, moving in 1957 to the sprawling 400-acre Knollcrest campus on what was then Grand Rapids' suburban edge.
As Calvin approached the turn of the millennium and with an enrollment of approximately 4,000 students, additional facilities became an administrative priority. However, the financial resources needed to fund those efforts never materialized. MLive reported on March 5, 2013, that "Long-term debt at Calvin grew to $115 million between 1997 and 2012, as investments meant to pay down the sum generated smaller than expected returns, and the college spent more money than it had on construction projects and real estate."
Shortly after beginning his tenure as Calvin's eleventh president, Michael K. Le Roy and his colleagues uncovered these financial circumstances and brought forward the details that would garner national attention. Town hall meetings, reductions to the operating budget, and even layoffs would follow. A rightfully proud community now entered a season of questions challenging the fabric of its identity. Before the start of his second year as president, I sat down with Michael Le Roy in his office in Calvin College's Spoelhof Center.