Calvin College president Gaylen Byker announced he plans to retire at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year. Calvin, a liberal arts school in Grand Rapids, Mich., is owned by the Christian Reformed Church.
Byker, 63, has led the college for 16 years.
“When exciting things are happening and when the mission of the college is being carried out, it makes it difficult to step down and pass the torch,” Byker wrote in an email to students.
Byker stayed at Calvin longer than he expected. “When I first took the job in 1995, I planned to stay 10 years. . . . Now, 16 years in, I look back and see the priorities we set when I came here—and most of them have been completed,” he said.
Byker worked internationally in law, business, and energy before coming to Calvin.
Byker’s tenure oversaw additions to Calvin’s campus, including the DeVos Communication Center, Prince Conference Center, and Bunker Interpretive Center. Recently, he oversaw construction of the Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex and the renovation of the Covenant Fine Arts Center.
“While his success at fundraising and building may be most noticeable, President Byker’s ability to understand and protect who we are will be his legacy,” said Scott Spoelhof, chair of Calvin’s board of trustees.
While developing a new core curriculum, Byker focused on integrating faith and academics. “I am continually impressed with the quality of work that our students are doing, work that is being recognized at the highest of levels,” he wrote to students.
Byker also welcomed President George W. Bush as a commencement speaker in 2005.
In addition, Byker’s tenure has been marked by friction with staff, faculty, students, and the CRC. The writings of two religion professors drew criticism from the church, while a memo regarding the college’s support of the church’s position on homosexuality angered some students and faculty.
This year, the cancellation of the New Pornographers concert drew worldwide attention. The college was also forced to cut staff due to low enrollment.
A search committee, with representatives of the church, administration, faculty, and students, will select a nominee for Calvin College’s ninth president. The nominee will be submitted to Calvin’s board of trustees for approval, and then to Synod 2012 (the CRC’s annual leadership meeting).