Akalu Tefera spends a sabbatical year at MIT

Carl Arendesen

When Carl Arendsen arrived at Grand Valley in July 1973, he was the math department. In College IV, a novel organization within the Grand Valley State Colleges that focused on mastery-based learning and individualized instruction, Carl was the only professor whose expertise was in mathematics. In this unique position, his main job was delivering individualized "modules" of 1/2 to 1 credits to students. He didn't lecture or hold classes in any traditional sense; rather, he held 20-25 office hours a week and met regularly with students to facilitate their learning.


Having taught high school for a year, he completed his masters in mathematics from Western Michigan and then finished his PhD in collegiate mathematics education at Michigan State. Carl was teaching at Ferris State in 1972 when the opportunity to come to College IV at Grand Valley arose. Because the new position aligned so well with his research interests, Carl thought the fit was too good to pass up; he has been a fixture at Grand Valley ever since.

In his original job, "delivering" individualized instruction was sometimes taken literally. The Grand Valley "Module-Mobile" was a portable classroom that was driven to sites such as Steelcase where students could study and work in a location most convenient for them. Carl was a regular driver of the Module-Mobile, taking advantage of another area of his interests and expertise: driving long-distance 18-wheel semi trucks.


Times have certainly changed. 35 years later, College IV exists no longer (having closed in the late 1970s and been absorbed into the then College of Arts & Sciences). Moreover, since arriving on campus Carl has had 9 different offices in four different buildings and been a member of three different departments (math & computer science, math & statistics, and math; his current department has over 30 members). In addition, Carl has taught thousands of students in mathematics courses from Math 110 through calculus 2, advanced calculus and statistics in the master's degree program, Stat 215, and four different computer science classes.

While he has served in administrative positions of assistant department chair, assistant dean and acting dean for short periods as well as serving on many significant departmental, divisional and university committees, his passion is teaching. Carl still clearly loves Grand Valley and made a deep impact on students here. "It's the right time to leave" he says "but I wanted to be sure to retire while I will still miss the job." With certainty, he called the most rewarding part of his time at GVSU "the students" and shared some of his most enjoyable times with them. For instance, years ago he and his wife Dee were Faculty Fellows for several years, which put them in regular social contact with students in Hoobler and Ott residence halls. Following weekly meals with students in the Commons, the Arendsens accompanied the students back to their dorm and joined them for board and card games. And once a month, Carl and Dee would open their Allendale home to 5-15 students for an evening of home-cooking, games, and relaxing in their hot tub. Carl shares that over the years some of these students continued to stay in touch, and that one of his great pleasures is hearing from these alumni about their current lives.

The author or co-author of nine books and a regular speaker at national, state, and local conferences, Carl has few unfulfilled professional ambitions. Retirement aspirations, however, are another story. "I want to start taking piano lessons and to continue learning Spanish," he reports. His goal is to become fluent in Spanish; this talent will facilitate his ongoing work in South and Central America, as he will continue to travel to Bolivia on mission trips to work on orphanages there, and hopes to begin regular visits to Guatemala for medically oriented trips. In addition to these endeavors, he will continue to enjoy his longtime passions of reading, sailing, fishing, and golfing, some of which will occur while spending part of each winter in Arizona.

All of Carl's colleagues at Grand Valley and his many former students express their gratitude for his service to the university; we wish you the very best in your retirement.

Page last modified June 15, 2017