For probably the first time ever, Calvin College’s student-chosen Professor of the Year award is going to a professor named after the institution.
Business professor Cal Jen, the son of Chinese immigrants, was born the year his father graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary.
“So that is how I got named Cal. I got named after this place,” said Jen. “My three siblings all have biblical names, so I am the only one with a non-biblical name. But in Reformed circles, it’s almost better.”
The Professor of the Year is selected by a vote of the graduating class. Jen is the 12th winner.
Jen taught architecture for eight years before switching to business at the invitation of his friend Dave Cook, chair of the business department. Cook asked Jen to teach an introduction to business class to help students better correlate theory with practice.
“God has always given me a heart for college students,” said Jen. “I am not entirely sure why, except that I recognize it.”
Jen grew up in Taiwan, where his parents were missionaries. He spent two years at Calvin College as a student before earning his bachelor’s degree in science and his master’s degree in architecture from the University of Michigan.
After finishing his education, Jen held several positions in the business world. He worked as an architect for Domino’s Pizza, rising to the rank of senior vice president of real estate and human resources. He also taught part-time at the University of Michigan.
He started his own architecture firm in Ann Arbor in 1992. When he relocated to Grand Rapids in 1994, he began teaching at Calvin College.
Jen, who sold his interest in his firm in 2007, said the award is a confirmation that he is where God wants him to be for now.
“The award will encourage me to figure out how to reach students even more, deeper, to teach them adequately, to make it fun, to make it enjoyable,” said Jen. “I’m always thinking about how I can make every class period memorable. How can I draw each student closer to God?”