Annual Named Scholarship Dinner Replaced by Virtual Program due to COVID


Calvin has hosted this dinner for over 30 years.

After over three decades of tradition, the annual Named Scholarship Dinner was canceled and replaced by a virtual program due to COVID-19 restrictions.

For over 30 years Calvin University has been hosting an annual Named Scholarship Dinner to bring donors and scholarship recipients together. Jodi Cole, director of development, shared that on average, 1,300 guests attend the dinner every year: 550 students and 750 donors. 

“When you entered the DeVos Place Ballroom you were amazed by tables full of students and donors engaging in great conversation”, Cole recalls. “It is such a remarkable sight to see how many people have invested in Calvin students and how many families and stories are represented in this group.”

This year, however, the dinner was canceled due to pandemic safety measures. “We typically host our annual dinner at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids, which is the largest venue in Grand Rapids. Due to the growth of the scholarship program in recent years, we were almost reaching capacity at this venue,” Cole explains. “Given the restrictions with safe social distancing protocols, we were not able to find a venue that could safely accommodate a group of our size for the 2020 Scholarship Dinner. We were committed to keeping the safety and comfort of our students and guests as our top priority and felt that an in-person experience was not the best option for us this year.”

Despite this year’s changes, Calvin still made sure to express gratitude to its donors through a virtual event live streamed last Thursday, October 22.

The event lasted for about one hour and was hosted by Professor and Director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship John D. Witvliet. The Women’s Chorale initiated the event with the song “Lift Thine Eyes” and Cappella concluded it with a choral benediction, “Do Not Be Afraid.” Both choirs performed under the direction of Dr. Pearl Shangkuan, Professor and Director of Choral Activities at Calvin. President Le Roy also spoke, praising the “root-work” done by  donors who are investing in the next generation of Christian leaders. He stated that “the next generation is springing up like grass in a meadow.”

The 22 new scholarships for 2020-2021 were introduced with pictures and videos of donors sharing their stories and heart behind each donation. Scholarship recipients participated in the program by sending pictures and videos that expressed their gratitude to donors and were displayed in the livestream.

Professor Witvliet closed the event stating that “one of our prayers is that the gift that we’ve shared in again tonight will continue to overflow even as it has from year to year.” 

He also expressed gratitude to the organizers of the event, faculty, staff and donors. According to Cole, there was a team of five staff members from Development and Event Services that organized this year’s virtual event, but they also counted on the help of other departments at Calvin to promote this program. These include Financial Aid, Communications and Marketing, IT, Video Productions, the Music Department, the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, the President’s Office, and key participants John Witvliet, Pearl Shangkuan and Nate Porter.

Students are still encouraged to connect with their donors through virtual meetings and by keeping in touch with them throughout the year. Calvin’s Safe Return Team is also looking for other possibilities of donors and students meeting in person, depending on COVID restrictions.  “Donors are eager to hear how students are navigating this year in particular, and want to offer support, prayer and encouragement,” Cole said.