January Series kicks off 26th year


A speaker from last year’s series addresses a crowd in the CFAC. Photo courtesy Calvin College.

Jeremy Courtney began Calvin’s 26th annual January Series this morning, starting off the set of free lectures on various topics that Calvin provides for students and the community.

Courtney’s message drew from his experience as the executive director of the Preemptive Love Coalition, a nonprofit that focuses on providing heart surgeries for Iraqi children.

The Preemptive Love Coalition started out as an intermediary that sent sick Iraqi children to Israeli hospitals for surgery; but more recently, the Coalition has focused on bringing in doctors and equipping local hospitals to perform surgeries in Iraq. The organization has provided life-saving surgery to more than 300 children to date.

The Preemptive Love Coalition has faced negative responses from some Muslim leaders, and have recently had a religious ruling placed against them.

Rather than react with fear, however, the organization continued to act and has since grown in support and acceptance. Courtney concluded his message with a call for listeners to serve in any way they could, following Jesus’ call to be peacemakers.

“[Jeremy Courtney] was marvelous,” said Clarence Wisse, a 90-year-old community member who has faithfully attended January Series lectures since the very first one 26 years ago. “[It was] one of the best ones I’ve heard.”

Jeremy Courtney was only the first of 15 guest lecturers who will come to Calvin this interim.

Each year, Calvin invites speakers for the January Series to deliver lectures on everything from education to microbiology to farming, providing an opportunity that President Michael Le Roy refers to as “15 days of a free liberal arts education.”

Most lecturers are prominent in their fields, and many lead organizations or have published books.

Both students and community members enjoy the lectures.

Sophomore Laura Sheppard said, “It’s a great way to branch out of the ‘Calvin bubble’ and hear about current events and global problems that I wouldn’t normally hear about, that might not even be in the papers. They’re always really challenging.”

The January Series provides an opportunity for students, graduates, and community members of all backgrounds to further their education.

“I’m no real scholar,” said one community member, who asked that her name not be used. “I only went to school through 10th grade. But here you can always learn something.”

She looks at the guest speakers every year and plans her month around them.

“Sometimes I’d like to come to all of them,” she said, “I usually pick three of four that are most interesting to me. Some I’ll watch on video, but there’s something about being there in the audience.”

The January Series takes place in the Covenant Fine Arts Center every weekday during interim from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. But it can also be watched through a live broadcast in 38 sites throughout Michigan, across the United States from California to Massachusetts, and internationally in Canada and Lithuania.

The broadcasts are also archived online. Students on Calvin’s campus can pick up “passports” at the box office which can be stamped and turned in for opportunities to win prizes.

Wherever people are in their education or however they choose to engage this year’s lectures, Kristi Potter, director of the January Series, encourages people to experience as much as they can.

“You don’t get these kinds of experiences for free very often,” she said. “It’s really unique to our campus.”

“Students often find if they just come once they’ll fall in love with it and come back again and again,” she continued. “There’s really nothing like it.”

The full list of speakers can be found here.