Calvin community members react to alumni letter, support DeVos

In the wake of the alumni letter opposing Betsy DeVos’s confirmation, many other Calvin alumni have voiced their support of the secretary of education appointee.

A Facebook page called Knights for Betsy DeVos was created on Tuesday, Jan. 24. As of 11 a.m. Sunday morning, it had 110 likes and was steadily growing.

Allan Hoekstra, a 1987 Calvin graduate who has worked for the DeVos family and is also a member of the Calvin board of trustees, wrote a letter praising Dick and Betsy DeVos as “generous, gracious, compassionate and genuinely interested in the betterment of our communities and our nation.”

Hoekstra emphasized DeVos’s devotion to school choice and allowing families to determine the education that is best for their children.

He also criticized the argument that a secretary of education needs to have an advanced degree, citing “many examples of individuals who have achieved success without the need to have a significant number of letters (BA, BS, PhD) following their name (Bill Gates and Rich DeVos to name a couple).”

Bill Boer, ’77, has known DeVos since college. In an interview with WOODTV, he said that those who oppose her confirmation are “missing Betsy as a smart person and a dedicated person.”

“She cares about all kids — all families — and wants the best opportunities for those families, and should that be in public schools or alternative schools, that’s her mission,” Boer said.

Other community members have voiced confidence in DeVos due to her liberal arts education at Calvin:

“Liberal arts by its very definition is breadth vs. depth,” wrote one Facebook commenter. “People who graduated from Calvin with a business degree end up in social work, and people with education degrees end up selling real estate, and honestly people without an education degree of any kind teach at Calvin.”

Still others have stressed the traditional Reformed commitment to Christian education and have argued that DeVos’s confirmation would be good for Christian schools:

“You should all be proud of your Christian education systems that you were privileged to be [a part] of,” wrote alumnus Ken Bekendam, addressing Calvin alumni who oppose DeVos. “The world needs more of this, not less.”

Calvin College has strong ties to area Christian schools. A large portion of the student body comes from Christian high schools in West Michigan, and faculty members are required to provide their children with Christian education. This has led many to argue that DeVos’s values align with those of Calvin College.

The DeVoses have also donated heavily to Potter’s House, a Christian school founded by 1974 Calvin graduate John Booy.

While some argue that DeVos’s enthusiasm for Christian education is in conflict with the role of secretary of education, others cite it as a reason the Calvin community should support her.

“Since when did Christian education become a bad thing in the Calvin community, instead of something to be celebrated and encouraged?” wrote an ‘87 alumnus in the Chimes comment section.

As a non-profit organization, Calvin College has neither endorsed DeVos nor those who oppose her.

“Mrs. DeVos and her fellow 60,000 alumni are discerning the best ways to engage politics and culture at this moment,” said the college in a statement. “And, in doing so, they are living out what we hope our students are learning during their time on campus: to think deeply, to act justly and to live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.”