During his career in Christian higher education, Gaylen Byker has seen one university after another move steadily away from its faithful roots.
Dr. Gaylen Byker: Calvin College is a “rare jewel and great gift.”
Photo: Karen Huttenga
Calvin College, Byker believes, won’t fall into that category anytime soon.
Byker recently retired as Calvin’s president after 17 years, during which time the college remained true to its history and mission despite an ever-changing landscape.
It’s a distinction, Byker says, that makes Calvin College a “rare jewel and great gift.”
Byker told Synod 2012 that Calvin continues to “lead the way” among higher education institutions that strive to remain distinctively Christian and also educationally excellent.
Byker pointed to public opinion that being true to both faith and scholarship is impossible. “I think we’ve proved them wrong,” Byker said.
Calvin remains a haven of diversity, with a student body that is 20 percent international and represents 48 countries. It’s a school where more than ten languages are taught and where there are more Korean students than Canadians. As Byker put it, the school’s student directory now includes “more Kims than DeVrieses.”
Calvin continues to be better supported by its founding church than any other denominationally backed school in the United States, Byker said.
That support, he said, will make Calvin sustainable over the long run—both educationally and financially.
During his 17 years as president, Byker said the school has added 1,000 scholarships from endowment funding and has completed 14 building and renovation projects on campus.
Calvin has also been successful because it has been able to find, recruit, and train a “great Christian faculty”—one that has aided in helping Calvin remain a distinctively Christian institution.
Byker leaves the school under the leadership of Dr. Michael Le Roy, whom synod overwhelmingly affirmed.
“I feel very blessed and I feel very optimistic about the future,” Byker said.