Calvin U receives $11M gift to deepen commitment to Reformed perspective

The chapel at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan
The chapel at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan | Wikimedia Commons/Ejd24

Calvin University, a Christian liberal arts school and seminary based in Michigan, has received an $11 million gift that will be used to help strengthen faculty members' understanding and integration of Reformed Christianity.

The donation comes from the estates of Rimmer and Ruth de Vries, who funded the creation of Calvin’s Global Faculty Development Institute in 2018. Rimmer de Vries was a chief economist with what is now J.P. Morgan & Co. from 1961 to 1995.

According to a statement released by the university, the gift will enable Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary staff to “have release time from teaching responsibility” so they can take courses and develop curriculum to enable Christian thought leadership and mentoring. 

In a statement, Calvin President Michael Le Roy announced that the “significant gift” will enable all Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary faculty members to be “trained to think deeply about the integration of faith and learning from a Reformed perspective.”

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Le Roy said the gift will “help our faculty implement the best practices in doing this important work.”

In short, the university says the grant will give faculty an opportunity to “strengthen their understanding of Reformed thinking.” The university adds that faculty members are “worthy of renewal in the name of Jesus Christ.”

“No other Christian college or university in the world has a resource like this institute,” Le Roy contended. “We are so grateful for the generosity of Ruth and Rimmer. Their gift will assure that Calvin remains a leader in providing the finest Reformed Christian education, and their legacy will extend far beyond the Calvin community.”

Founded in 1876, Calvin University is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church in North America and the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities. The university has about 3,700 students enrolled. 

The institute, which was initially named after Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper, will be renamed The de Vries Institute for Global Faculty Development. The institute offers seminars, conferences, independent projects and shared access to digital teaching and scholarly resources.

“Abraham Kuyper’s world-and-life view has profoundly shaped the intellectual and theological work of both Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary,” Calvin Theological Seminary President Jul Medenblik said in a statement. “The university and seminary’s ability to share a Reformed vision depends on the extent to which our faculty embrace a deeply Reformed Christian mission and vision, are themselves shaped and formed by it, and are able to translate this vision into every part of their teaching, scholarship, service, and global outreach.”

Ruth de Vries graduated from the evangelical institution Wheaton College in Illinois summa cum laude in 1951 with a major in business and economics.

According to her obituary, she went on to earn a master’s degree from New York University in retailing before going on to become a systems engineer for AT&T. 

She met Rimmer, an immigrant from the Netherlands, through an Intervarsity Christian Fellowship event in 1958. The two had three children and lived in New Jersey.

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