Last year in connection with history and archives features on Thursdays we began quoting from John J. Timmerman’s book Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987), where he describes the early years of education at Calvin College.
We have been drawing especially of late from chapter five, “Golden Branches Among the Shadows,” where Timmerman describes in detail his own experience of life at Calvin as a student. Today we pick up where we left last time, as he gives us a glimpse of the college as a whole.
In 1927 seventeen professors taught 320 students in a college almost wholly supported by the Christian Reformed Church. Tuition was $100 a year for students from Grand Rapids, $75 for those from Paterson [New Jersey], and even less for those from more distant places. There were no scholarships, and student aid came in the form of pay for serving in the kitchen, sweeping floors, and shoveling coal. There were a few names like Yared, Washington, and Uhl, but the student body was overwhelmingly Dutch.
Professors taught fifteen hours a week. There were two professional offices, usually unoccupied, and counseling was nonexistent except when asked for. Professors prepared their studies at home, filled their briefcases with the results, emptied the contents out in class, and hurried back. The only professor’s home I was ever in was President R.B. Kuiper’s. He had a sense of humor; he invited some students who had pilfered applies in the dormitory over on a Sunday evening and gave them apples. Professors were much more distant than they are now, and the only really approachable professors I had were Dr. W.H. Jellema and Prof. H.J. VanAndel. The rest were not unfriendly; they were just aloof. On the whole, they practiced what Prof. Johannes Broene preached when he said, ‘The faculty is the heart of the college.’ It did indeed move the institution, but it did not move about with its students (pp.32-33).