Calvin College celebrates 50 years on its Knollcrest campus this summer with a variety of events, including a picnic during the annual meeting of the Christian Reformed Church’s synod.
Calvin’s purchase of the Knollcrest campus was authorized by Synod 1956 on June 22 of that year. A week later, Calvin signed a formal sale agreement with Knollcrest property owner J.C. Miller.
The $400,000 price included 166 acres of land, what then was called the Manor House (Miller’s personal home, since renamed DeWit Manor), two smaller furnished homes, and several outbuildings.
The only provisions that Miller wrote into the agreement were that the Knollcrest name he had given to the estate be retained in some manner and that the Manor House and the surrounding area be left as it was. Calvin representatives agreed, and on Aug. 1, 1956, the college took physical possession of the property.
Current president Gaylen Byker says Miller would have gotten a chuckle out of the picnic for synodical delegates, noting that the millionaire businessman was associated with some of the grandest parties in Grand Rapids. An annual day-long event was said to have cost Miller some $30,000 each year.
Byker says that in 1956 some people thought the college and synod were foolish to spend so much money on such a large piece of land. Today Calvin has over 4,000 students and has more than doubled the acreage of its Knollcrest campus—including an ecosystem preserve of almost 100 acres.
“It’s hard to imagine how Calvin would have grown as it has without this campus,” says Byker. “We are thankful to God and thankful to those who had a vision for Calvin that we have been able to prosper on the Knollcrest campus these last 50 years. And we hope to be here for many years to come.”