Linda Siler ’67 tried to avoid going to Grace Christian University. Twice.
She grew up in Grand Rapids and graduated from Grandville High School in 1964. As a student in the youth group at Berean Bible Church (now Rush Creek), where the youth leaders were students at the new Bible college campus on Aldon Street, she was familiar with Grace. But when it came time for the college decision,
“I did not want to come to Grace.”
Too familiar, maybe. And Linda knew she wanted a teaching degree—which she couldn’t get at Grace. So she went to Grand Rapids Community College for one year.
“And then I said, ‘No, I need to be at Grace.’”
That was the first time she didn’t want to go to Grace.
Headed For Elementary School
“My parents said I lined up all my dolls and all the stuffed animals in the house and taught to them.”
For Linda, there seemed to be no other option than teaching. Her parents were involved in various ministries at Berean Bible Church. Her dad was Sunday School Superintendent, and her mom was in charge of the nursery and two-year-olds; Linda was always involved with the kids. And she was happy with that plan.
“I want to be with preschoolers and elementary kids,” Linda said. “That’s where I feel I fit best.”
Linda earned an Associate of Religious Education at Grace and then pursued a teaching certificate at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. The personal experience would prove extremely helpful for her future role at Grace—though she did not see herself returning to Grace or working with college students.
The Winding Road to Grace
During the summers, Linda worked at Grace Youth Camp (now Grace Adventures) and there, she connected with a church singing group from Chrisman, Illinois. They invited her to Illinois to sing with them, so she did, turning down a contract with Grand Rapids Public Schools. She moved to Chrisman, Illinois, and got a job teaching first grade at a growing school where for one year, her first grade classroom was in the high school wing.
“I’d come in some mornings and high school students would be sitting in my desks, holding a child on their lap,” Linda said. “So maybe that prepared me a little bit for working with college students.”
Five years later, it was time to return to Grand Rapids. But not to Grace—Linda still had no plans to work at Grace.
Instead, she took a one-year position as the director of Kentwood Christian Child Care Center, while earning a master’s degree in early childhood at Western Michigan University. One year stretched to a dozen, making Linda the longest-serving director at KCCCC. Her team cared for about 200 kids a day, from 2 to 12 years old, serving six different school districts and providing before- and after-school programs and even summer activities for local families. Linda loved it.
Until the church that ran the daycare hired a new associate pastor with daycare experience. They asked Linda if she’d “consider finding another job.”
All this time, Evlyne Beyer, Grace registrar, Linda’s previous professor and now good friend, was planning to retire soon, and had Linda picked out as her replacement.
“She just kept saying, ‘Linda, I really want you to take my place.’”
But Linda said no. She didn’t want to work with college students. She didn’t like being up in front of adults. She just wanted to be with children.
Instead, Linda got a job as Associate Sales Manager at Jonathan & David, Inc. She loved it—her organizational skills fit the bill perfectly. Until two years later, when the company closed. And again, she was looking for a job.
So finally, after years of Evlyne’s prodding, Linda took the bait.
“I thought, Okay, is the Lord telling me, this is the direction you ought to move?” Linda says. “So that’s how I got here.”
She had a lot to learn from Evlyne, who stayed long enough to help get Linda acclimated to the new position, one that worked with students in a different way than Linda ever had before: grades, transcripts. academic honors, disqualifications, academic probation, commencement ceremonies, faculty meetings, reporting data, and of course, working with students. As Grace grew and added dual degree programs with Davenport University in 1992 and Cornerstone University in 1996, Linda began advising dual degree students and connecting with prospective students and families. Somewhere along the line, Linda decided college students weren’t so bad after all.
“I felt my position was now a lot like being with preschoolers,” Linda says. “I might not sit on the floor with them, but we were putting together the puzzle to finish their college degree.”
Following God, Piecing the Puzzle
In the 2010s, Linda Holton ’84 joined Linda Siler in the role, and the pair was unofficially—and affectionately—known as The Lindas. They shared an office, and happily, a sense of humor. They helped students put the puzzle together, doing their part to graduate godly individuals prepared to serve Christ in church and society.
In her 33 years at Grace Christian University, Linda served under presidents Sam Vinton, Bruce Kemper, and Ken Kemper, and worked with four academic deans.
“Seeing the college change over the years wasn’t always easy—setbacks that every place has,” Linda says. But the best part? Seeing “the consistency of the Lord’s calling on this university.”
Linda describes a supportive culture and a faithfulness that walks in the Grace Christian University halls, embodied in students, faculty, staff, and administration. Especially supportive, she said, as she cared for her aging parents, who passed in 2011 and 2014.
“[Grace] has just always been there,” Linda says. “Lifelong friendships—whether it was as a student with other students, whether it was faculty, and now as colleagues.”
In June, Linda said goodbye to her Monday-through-Friday (and sometimes Saturdays and Sundays) home, retiring after more than three decades of helping people put puzzles together. And after almost making the same mistake twice, she left one crucial piece of advice:
“Follow where you think the Lord is leading you, and be open to where it could lead.”
Photography by Darrell Goemaat