Asteroids discovered by students and professors at Calvin College now bear the names of two beloved Calvin retirees: former president Dr. William Spoelhof and former dean and physics department chair Roger Griffioen.
Asteroid Spoelhof (previously known as 2004 XU3) was discovered in December 2004 by Larry Molnar, a Calvin professor of physics and astronomy. Asteroid Griffioen (previously known as 2003 RA11) was discovered in September 2003 by Calvin student Andrew Vanden Heuvel. Each asteroid is about the size of Calvin’s Knollcrest campus.
Molnar notes that when a new asteroid is discovered it is given a provisional name, but that it must be tracked for a number of years to fully establish its orbit before the discoverer is awarded the privilege of naming it.
Spoelhof served as president of Calvin from 1951 to 1976. Among his many contributions was the establishment of Calvin’s astronomy program, including the construction of an observatory in 1970. Griffioen served Calvin for 37 years, including seven as an academic dean and 17 as physics department chair.
The Calvin astronomy program continues to grow. In 2003, new computer-controlled telescopes were purchased with National Science Foundation grant money. One replaced the 1970 instrument in the dome on campus; a second one was placed at a dark-sky site in Rehoboth, N.M., and can be operated over the Internet by Calvin faculty and students.
—Calvin College media relations staff