My first time visit to the Emeritorium
As students, we here at Calvin College get used to seeing people our own age almost all of the time. Sure, there are our professors, but they’re an expected part of the landscape. That’s why it’s unusual to see people who are, well, old. No offense intended.
This is to our loss, I think. We have plenty to learn from our elders. And the best example of the wisdom of previous generations that we have at Calvin is the Emeritorium.
You might not be familiar with the name, but you know what it is. At the end of the third floor of Hiemenga Hall, right next to the lobby with the fireplace in it, is a small room just a bit larger than a janitor’s closet. In the room there are some chairs, a sink and a coffee maker. And it’s also where you can find the people who devoted their lives to making Calvin College what it is today.
Most every day, during chapel break, you can find several men huddled into this small room, talking heatedly about Reformed doctrine or the last Knights game or almost anything you can think of. Sometimes even in Dutch.
Like any great institution, the Emeritorium has its regulars. There’s Conrad Bult, former director of the Hekman Library, who never met a book he didn’t like; George Harper, formerly a professor of English and currently a good-natured curmudgeon; and Jack Kuipers, a former mathematics professor with a dry sense of humor.
But at the center of the Emeritorium, though he often sits in the corner, is William Spoelhof, president of Calvin College from 1951 to 1976.
At the age of 95, it would be safe to say that President Spoelhof has just about seen it all. If he were to choose to stay at home and rest on his laurels, no one would hold it against him. So why does he hang around, and even still have an office on campus?
Here’s the answer: President Spoelhof loves this college. He’s seen it grow into a significant academic institution, and no much of Calvin’s success is owed to him.
But he doesn’t just love what Calvin has accomplished, first under his leadership and now after his example. He loves the people here — the professors, the provosts, the coaches, the maintenance workers and — in particular — the students.
When I went to visit the Emeritorium, I got there before most anyone had arrived. But President Spoelhof was there, talking to a student and asking how she was doing. And when the rest of the crew arrived, conversation immediately turned to what was going on around campus. Among other things, sadness was expressed over the basketball’s team loss, though Bult pointed out that “they had nothing to be ashamed of.”
When I think about the Calvin geography, Johnny’s and the Commons Lawn seem like the places where everything happens. If that’s true, then the Emeritorium is the place where the emeriti gather to talk about everything happens. If it’s worth knowing, then you can bet that someone in the Emeritorium knows it.
So take a look the next time you walk. Take a look, and hope that you too can be having that much fun when you retire.