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Heritage Hall

Calvin University Collection

Calvin University yearbooks

Heritage Hall serves as the institutional repository for Calvin University. This includes documents about the university’s history, papers and correspondences of university presidents, departmental records, and more. Search the Calvin University collection through our online database of finding aids:

The reading room at Heritage Hall contains bound copies of every yearbook (Prism), student directory (Bod Book), and issue of the campus newspaper, Chimes

Read on below to learn more about the history of Calvin Theological Seminary and its presidents.

Calvin University 1876

University Chronology

Calvin University and Seminary Timeline

1876   August 4, school opened, located on Spring Street, Grand Rapids, MI 
1892   Move to campus at Madison Ave. and Franklin St. (Fifth Ave.). Grand Rapids, MI 
1894   September 8, literary course begun education preliminary to seminary instruction (comparable to present-day high school curriculum) 
1900   Literary course extended to five years and opened to non pre-seminary students 
1901   September 4, first women students admitted 
1906   John Calvin Junior College opens - 6 year program included 4 years academy training and 2 years of college; first public commencement at LaGrave Ave. Christian Reformed Church 
1907   Student journal/newspaper Chimes begins Alumni Association begins 
1914   Junior College expanded to three year course; Franklin Campus purchased 
1917   Move to Franklin Campus, Grand Rapids, MI 
1919   First college president 
1920   Curriculum expanded to four year college course 
1921   First graduate with bachelor's degrees 
1924   With opening of Grand Rapids Christian High School, last year for preparatory students; first dormitory opened 
1925   Teacher training becomes part of college curriculum, previously there had been several separate teacher training programs
1926   First dean of women, Johanna Timmer 
1928   March 8, Hekman Library dedicated 
1930   October 29, Franklin seminary building dedicated 
1946   Enrollment jumps from 503 to 1245 in one year 
1950   College enters M.I.A.A. 
1956   Knollcrest campus purchase approved by Synod of Christian Reformed Church 
1960   Theological Seminary begins classes on Knollcrest Campus 
1962   First college classes at held Knollcrest 
1973   Move to Knollcrest complete 
1991   Seminary and College have separate boards of trustees 
2019   Calvin College becomes Calvin University

The Presidents of Calvin University

When the Theological School of the Christian Reformed Church opened in 1876, it had one instructor, whose title was Docent and was in charge of the school's day-to-day affairs. As other instructors, also called docents, joined the staff, the title Rector was applied to the person in charge of daily affairs. When the literary curriculum was added in 1894, the head of the Literary section went by the title of Principal, while the head of the Religious section was called the Rector. The office of College President was created in 1918 to replace the office of Principal. The seminary head remained the Rector until 1931, when that title also was changed to Seminary President.  

Geert Egberts Boer
Albertus John Rooks
John J. Hiemenga
Johannes Broene
Rienk B. Kuiper
Ralph Stob
Henry Schultze
William Spoelhof
Anthony J. Diekema
Gaylen J. Byker
Michael K. Le Roy

The Presidents of Calvin University

G.E. Boer (1832-1904)

Docent, 1876-1902

Geert Egberts Boer was born in Roderwolde, Drenthe, the Netherlands. A graduate of the Theological School at Kampen, the Netherlands in 1864, he served churches in Sappemeer and Niezijl, and accepted a call from the (First) Grand Rapids (Michigan) Christian Reformed Church in 1873. The denomination's General Assembly (Synod) called him to assume the first full-time instruction of theological students in 1876.

Since the General Assembly (now Synod) had not made provisions for a place of instruction, the Grand Rapids congregation offered the use of the second floor of its school on Williams Street for a nominal $52 annually rent.

On March 15, 1876, with Boer's own books as the library, the Theological School (now Calvin Theological Seminary) opened. The curriculum, modeled after that at the Theological School in Kampen, was six years long, divided evenly between literary and theological courses.

The 1880s saw the denomination grow from 12,200 members to 37,834, and a corresponding need for pastors. About one-half of the 36 ministers new to the denomination during the 1880s were graduates of the new Theological School. In 1884, as enrollment grew, Gerrit K. Hemkes joined the faculty. At the same time, Boer became convinced that in the United States Christian primary instruction was only possible in independent Christian day schools. To provide teachers for such schools, Boer was in the forefront of efforts to open the literary portion of the Theological School's curriculum to non-seminary students. This came in 1894 when Albertus J. Rooks and Klaas Schoolland joined the faculty to teach the literary courses.

In 1902, the 70 year-old Boer retired, at the time the school's enrollment stood at 78. Two years later, in apparent good health, he died from a heart attack. His wife Jetske Holtrop (1839-1926) and six of their eight children, E.H. Boer, Jessie Boer, Roelfina Boer, Gerard A. Boer, William Boer, and Lena Bruinooge, survived.


A.J. Rooks (1869-1958)

Principal, 1900-1918

Born on the family farm near Niekerk, Michigan, west of present-day Holland, Albertus John Rooks attended country schools and the academy at Hope College from age 13 to 19. He left Hope to teach in country schools near his birthplace for three years, returning and graduating in 1893. He received a master's degree from the University of Michigan in 1894 and began teaching in Muskegon, Michigan.

The synod of the Christian Reformed Church called Rooks and Klaas Schoolland to become professors in the literary curriculum of the Theological School, to which non-seminarians were admitted for the first time. Initially instruction was in Dutch, but in 1896 the first literary classes began to be taught in English.Two years later the process began to convert the literary curriculum into a conventional 2-year junior college program.

Rooks, continuing to teach classes, was named principal of this expanding curriculum, while the rector saw to the seminary curriculum. In 1904 the school was named in honor of John Calvin, and four years later the junior college curriculum was expanded into a three-year program. During Rooks's tenure the school acquired the land for the Franklin campus (1909) on which the main building was constructed 1916-17. In 1914, Rooks oversaw the beginning of the conversion of the three-year program into a full, four-year college curriculum.

In 1918 the Board of Trustees created the office of president. When Rev. John J. Hiemenga received that appointment, Rooks was named Dean of the College, but the student body continued to call him "Prexy." He retired from teaching in 1939 and as dean in 1942. Rooks studied for his doctorate in Europe but did not complete the requirements due to the deaths of his mentors.

He married Kate Corbijn (1871-1915) and they had two sons, Henry Corbijn Rooks and another who died in infancy. In 1916, he married Grace Oostining (1887-1967), they also had two children Rhinedale Rooks and Marius Rooks.

John J. Hiemenga (1877-1974) 

President, 1919-1925

Born in Arum, Friesland, the Netherlands, Heimenga emigrated with his family to Borculo, Michigan in 1889. Hiemenga graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1905 and served as the pastor of six Christian Reformed congregations in Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Indiana during his 42 years in the active ministry. Active in establishing Christian schools in Passaic, NJ and Grand Rapids, MI, he was appointed the first president of Calvin College.

In the fall of 1920 Grand Rapids Christian High School, which Hiemenga had help organize, assumed responsibility for teaching the high school began a full, four-year program. As a result, enrollment in the college preparatory department dropped from 340 to 11 during Hiemenga's tenure. To offset some of this decline, enrollment in the college curriculum increased from 94 to 273. At the same time, Hiemenga oversaw development of a teacher training (normal) program in compliance with newly enacted state law.

In addition, he solicited funds for debt reduction and construction of a dormitory in 1924. Hiemenga returned to the parish ministry in 1925. He retired from active ministry in 1947. In addition to his Calvin diplomas, Hiemenga earned A.B. and A.M. degrees from Columbia University; and a B.D. degree from the Baptist Seminary in Rochester, NY. He was appointed an Officer of the House of Orange Nassau for his work on behalf of relief to the Dutch people during WWI.

Hiemenga married Dena Fles (d.1914), they had one daughter Hermine Venema. In 1916 he married Wilhelmina Hoodeman (1898-1987), they had two daughters Ruth Himes, and Mae Westra.

Johannes Broene (1875-1967)

President, 1925-1930, 1939-1940

The son of Geert Broene and Andina Harmsen, Johannes Broene was born in Muskegon, Michigan. His father was ordained in 1877 and the young Broene grew up in various Christian Reformed parsonages. After attending the University of Michigan, he graduated from Valparaiso University in 1906, he received an M.A. in 1908 from Clark University. He continued to pursue his Ph.D. at Clark, while working as a teacher and later principal of Christian schools in Paterson, NJ and Chicago, IL.

He joined the Calvin College staff in 1908 teaching primarily in Philosophy and Education but also classes in History, Civics, Government, Chemistry, and Psychology. In 1925 he was asked to serve one year as the interim president. He did not feel called to the office, but reluctantly accepted the appointment. He was re-appointed the next year and in 1928 was appointed as acting president.

During his term, the school saw a modest increase in enrollment and received accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. He was particularly adept at finding a middle ground when the Board and faculty disagreed over administrative issues. A dedicated and effective scholar and teacher, Broene never felt comfortable with the administrative and fund-raising duties attached to the office of president and repeatedly asked to be released from the appointment. The Board of Trustees complied at the end of 1929 but in 1940 again asked him to serve as an interim president. Broene accepted only after it was clearly understood that the appointment would be limited to one year.

He officially retired from Calvin College in 1945, but continued teaching until 1951. He was married to Josie Kleinhuizen (1893-1963); they had no children.

R.B. Kuiper (1886-1966)

College President, 1930-1933

Seminary President, 1952-1956

Rienk Bouke Kuiper was the sixth of eight children born to Dominie Klaas Kuiper of Garrelsweer, the Netherlands. The family moved to Grand Haven, Michigan in 1891 when the Dominie accepted the call to the Christian Reformed congregation there. R.B. Kuiper graduated from the University of Chicago (A.B., 1907); Indiana University (A.M., 1908); Calvin Seminary (diploma, 1911); and Princeton Seminary (B.D., 1912). He served as the pastor of several Christian Reformed and one Reformed congregation in West Michigan.

In 1928 he accepted a one-year appointment to Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. The Synod of the Christian Reformed Church persuaded Kuiper to accept the school's presidency in 1930.During his tenure the economic impacts of the Great Depression began to be keenly felt. Enrollment did not decline. There were no jobs for young people, so they pursued education. However, the economic downturn forced the college to cut costs and expenses. Faculty voluntarily took pay cuts, as high as 40 percent. Kuiper also found it difficult to mediate the growing differences of opinion among faculty and between faculty and the Board of Trustees over the school's direction. Since he felt called to be a minister, in 1933 he accepted a teaching and preaching appointment at Westminster Seminary. Retiring in 1952, he returned to Grand Rapids and then accepted the presidency of Calvin Seminary for four years.

Kuiper married Marie Janssen in 1911; they had three children Marietta Rolena Heerema, Dr. Klaudius Kuiper and Kathryn Junia Kuiper, who died at age two. A prolific writer, Kuiper's books include: As to Being Reformed, Not of the World, and The Glorious Body of Christ.

Ralph Stob (1894-1965)

President, 1933-1939

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Ralph Stob felt called to the ministry and enrolled in the preparatory curriculum of Calvin College in 1909. He graduated in 1915 and enrolled in the Seminary. When Professor Muyskens left Calvin College in 1917, Stob accepted an appointment to teach classical languages at his alma mater. Teaching delayed his seminary graduation until1920. He continued to teach at Calvin while working during the summers on his A.M. (1928) and Ph.D. (1930) degrees at the University of Chicago.

A gifted and amiable teacher, Stob was appointed president in 1933 with a mandate to take charge of the school with a firm hand. He oversaw improvements to the curriculum and the beginning of a pension program for the staff. While enrollment increased 27 percent during his six years as president, the economic difficulties resulting from the Great Depression only allowed the number of faculty to increase from 21 to 22. Faculty criticism about his administrative style, well publicized student pranks, student criticism in the Chimes, and student flaunting of school rules made for a difficult presidency. In 1939, Stob asked not to be re-appointed, returning to teaching Greek as effectively as before.

In 1953 Synod asked Stob to assume the Chair of New Testament in the seminary and he was admitted to the ministry via a colloquium doctum in 1954. He retired from the seminary in 1964 and died the following year.

 Stob and Evelyn L. Mokma (1893-1990) married in1918; they had three daughters: Lois Boertje, Dorothy Dykstra, and Helen Miller.

Henry Schultze (1893-1959)

President, 1940-1951

A 1915 graduate of Calvin College, Schultze was born in Sully, Iowa. He attended Calvin Seminary for three years and continued his theological studies at Yale University from which he received a B.D. in 1920. He taught Greek and Education at Grundy College (Grundy Center, Iowa) for four years and in 1924 was ordained as a minister in the Christian Reformed Church, serving the Sherman Street congregation in Grand Rapids. In 1926 he was appointed Professor of New Testament at Calvin Seminary.

Because of his skill as a teacher and his long-standing support for Christian education, Schultze was appointed Calvin College president in 1940.

He saw the college through the challenges of the enrollment declines during W.W.II (from 499 in1940 to 385 in 1943) and the subsequent large increases after the war (from 503 in 1945 to 1,466 in 1948). Finding housing, instructional space, faculty and financing for such a dramatic growth were the most difficult tasks. In 1949, due to the growth of the number of faculty, Schultze oversaw the restructuring of the academic governance process. In 1950, Schutlze saw the dedication of a new $1 million science building on the Franklin campus, the first major on-campus construction since the 1930 seminary building. Ever the teacher, Schultze continued to speak and write extensively in support of Christian education during these years.

After resigning the college presidency due to ill health in 1951, he was appointed Professor Extraordinary at Calvin Theological Seminary. He served ten years as president of the National Union of Christian Schools, beginning in 1930. Schultze married Jeannette Ophof (1892-1984) in 1920. They had three children; Leverne William Schultze, Elaine Donna Weemhoff, and Carole Jean DeStigter.

William Spoelhof (1909-2008)

President, 1951-1976

A native of Paterson, New Jersey, Spoelhof graduated from Calvin College in 1931 and began teaching history and civics at the secondary level. He received his M.A. from the University of Michigan in 1937 and began his doctoral studies there. During WWII he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served in the Office of Strategic Services. After the war he completed his doctoral work and came to Calvin to teach history and political science in 1946.

The post WWII enrollment increases continued during Spoelhof's presidency, from 1,170 in 1951 to 3,970 in 1976. To deal with the steady growth, in 1953 a commons building was dedicated on the Franklin campus. Within a few years the continuing growth required further expansion, which was difficult at the Franklin site since urban development surrounded the campus. In 1956 the Knollcrest farm was purchased for $400,000, and Spoelhof oversaw the gradual process of moving the school to the new site. The construction required extensive fund raising. The seminary move to Knollcrest began in 1960 and the college completed this transfer in 1973. Toward the end of the 1960s Spoelhof also had to deal with the impact of nation-wide student protest movements on the Calvin campus.

As the school prepared to celebrate its centennial in 1976, Spoelhof announced his retirement as the longest serving president to date. After retiring, he worked briefly for the United States Information Agency. In 1935 Spoelhof and Angeline Nydam (1909-1994) married. They had three children, Robert Spoelhof, Elsa Scherphorn, and Peter Spoelhof.

Anthony J. Diekema (1933- )

President, 1976-1995

Born in Zeeland, Michigan, Diekema graduated from Calvin College in 1956. He received his M.A. in sociology and anthropology and in 1965 and a Ph.D. in sociology all from Michigan State University (MSU). During graduate school he taught at MSU and worked in housing and later the registrar's office. Next, he went to the Medical Center of University of Illinois teaching and moving into administration.

When Diekema came to Calvin College in 1976, he assumed the task of completing development of the campus master plan and construction to meet new needs. The Commons was expanded, North Hall was added to the Science Building, and the Spoelhof Center was built. Anticipating future growth, additional land also was purchased east of the East Beltline. He also oversaw the expansion of the curriculum, from 50 to 75 program majors, including a number of professional programs, the recruitment of faculty, and the improvement of existing programs. All of this occurred during a period of rapidly rising costs, which required extensive fund raising for debt redemption and the establishment of endowments to help offset rising tuition costs. During his tenure, enrollments rose above 4,000 for the first time and had leveled off at just under 4,000 when he retired in 1995.

He is married to Doris Jeane Waanders and they have seven children Douglas, David, Dan, Paul, Mark, Maria Diekema-Zuidema, and Tanya.

Gaylen J. Byker (1948- )

President, 1995-2012

Born In Iowa, Gaylen James Byker was raised in Hudsonville, Michigan, and served in the U.S. Army, 1967-70, seeing action in Vietnam. Following military service, he attended Calvin College graduating in 1973. His graduate education includes a M.A. and J.D. in World Politics from University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. from University of Pennsylvania. Prior to accepting the appointment as president, he worked in the fields of international banking and energy.

During Byker's tenure as president new construction on the campus continued. During the summer of 1998, work began on the Life Science Building, to house the departments of chemistry and biology, and the West Michigan Regional Laboratory (ajoint venture with Spectrum Health of Grand Rapids). In addition, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation made a significant contribution toward the construction of a DeVos Communication Center, as did the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation to the Prince Conference Center. Also completed was the Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex, which includes the Huizenga Tennis and Track Center, the Venema Aquatic Center, the Van Noord Arena and Fitness Center, and the Hoogenboom Health and Recreation Center, as well as the renovation and expansion of the Covenant Fine Arts Center.

Susan Lemmen and Byker married in 1970. They have two daughters Tanya and Gayle. For more information see A Brief Biography.

Michael K. Le Roy (1967- )

President, 2012-2022

Michael K. Le Roy was born in La Mesa, California, and grew up near Seattle, Washington. He graduated Whitworth University in 1989 and earned a PhD in political science from Vanderbilt University in in 1994. He also studied on a Fulbright Scholarship at Göteborgs universitet in Göteborg, Sweden.

He taught for a year as a visiting professor at the College of William and Mary. Then he joined the faculty of Wheaton College, 1994-2002, serving as chair of the department of politics and international relations during the last four years. After Wheaton he returned to Whitworth University ultimately serving as executive vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty. In 2012 he became the tenth president of Calvin College.

“Higher education is at a very challenging era of its history right now in the United States, and it’s not clear what paths forward are the best,” Le Roy said. “I’m convinced that with the kinds of minds and capable people we have at Calvin that, together, we will discover some powerful ways forward.”

Michael and Andrea Nelson, a graduate of Taylor University, met at Whitworth and were married in 1988. She completed a master’s degree in psychology at Vanderbilt’s Peabody School of Education in 1992. They have three children: son Dana, and daughters Hannah and Astrid. For more biographical information see