When the Class of 2003 marks the end of its Hope College tenure in May with graduation, three members of the faculty will be marking the end of theirs with retirement.
Retiring at the end of the school year are Dr. Anne Irwin, professor of kinesiology, athletic director for women and director of intramural sports; Del Michel, professor of art; and David Zwart, associate professor of education. Together, they have served the college for a total of 80 years.
Irwin brought solid credentials as both a competitor and a teacher-coach when she came to Hope in 1976 after two years on the faculty at Queen's College in New York. The softball team she had coached while doing graduate work at Michigan State went on to win the College World Series. She had competed regionally in volleyball and field hockey, and nationally in fast-pitch softball and basketball.
The experiences served her well. During her time at Hope, she has coached women's basketball, softball and field hockey, and assisted in volleyball and women's soccer.
She eventually stopped working with other sports to run intramurals as her coaching focus. Under her guidance, the program has grown from about 300 participants a year in the late 1980s to nearly 1,500 today. The program includes men's, women's and co-educational competition, with sports ranging from co-ed basketball to inner tube water polo to bowling.
Irwin holds a doctorate in biomechanics and engineering mechanics, a focus that runs in tandem with an interest in computers. Not finding commercial software that suited the intramural program's needs, she wrote Hope's herself.
She joined Hope at a time of watershed change in women's athletics, as Title IX mandated equity with men's sports. While she notes that the process hasn't always been easy and remains on-going, she believes that Hope has gone about it in the right way.
"The emphasis and the effort has always been to make it equal and make it fair, equitable, for both," she said.
Further, she noted, Hope has enhanced the women's program while keeping its men's sports strong. The result has been national-calibre performances by men and women both--including the 1990 national championship for the women's basketball team.
Irwin will remain at Hope through December of 2004. She is relinquishing her role in athletic administration to concentrate on teaching and running intramurals, for which she is looking forward to having time to develop more software.
When she does finish, she plans to run a Web-based antiquing business. She also anticipates travel between her Fennville-area, lakeside home and Florida.
Michel had just completed his master of fine arts degree at the University of Iowa in 1964, and Hope's two-man department of art was a place to start his artistic and academic career. He stayed.
"From the very beginning, it's been a very nurturing environment for me creatively," he said. "The administration from the very beginning has been encouraging me to be an artist--through summer grants, exhibitions, contacts through the college..."
Michel has become internationally known as an artist in the decades since 1964. In recent years he has had three exhibits in Queretaro, Mexico, a result of the college's exchange relationship with the Autonomous University of Queretaro, and two exhibits in the Netherlands. His work has been exhibited in galleries and shows worldwide, and included in many private, corporate, university and art museum collections.
The department of art--which now has seven full- time faculty--has had five homes since Michel arrived. From the fourth floor of Lubbers Hall, the program moved to the basement of Phelps Hall, a house at Ninth and College and the old Rusk Building on 8th Street before settling in the De Pree Art Center in 1982.
De Pree is a former furniture facility. Featuring big spaces and high ceilings, it has been, he feels, ideal.
"The college allowed us to dream and helped us to fulfill the dream," he said. "This place is probably one of the best facilities of any liberal arts college I know of."
Michel's studio space connects directly to the painting studio in De Pree, proximity that he has valued as a teacher. "I've been able to incorporate my own work into my teaching in a way that I wouldn't have been able to have done," he said.
It is a crucial connection, he believes, and a critical way that his creative work has informed his work with students. "An important part of teaching in the art field is that art teachers are artists," he said.
Even as his teaching career ends, Michel will continue to work as an artist. He and his wife Sally are building a new home south of Sutton's Bay on the Leelanau Peninsula. There he plans to open a studio, perhaps in Traverse City, and paint full-time.
Zwart first experienced Hope as a student. His parents had never been to college, but they valued the experience for him. They hoped he would attend a Christian school, and a campus visit convinced him that Hope was the right place.
He spent three of his four undergraduate years at Hope, with one in the middle at Grand Rapids Community College. His student experience included a distinction in Hope athletic history: he was a member of the 1962 men's tennis team, the first--and still only--MIAA team to defeat Kalamazoo College in the sport since 1935.
After graduation, he became an educator himself. He spent the next several years teaching and coaching in the Grandville and East Grand Rapids schools.
He also completed a master's in school administration, and in 1976 he joined the faculty of Northwestern College for six years. In 1982 he returned to Holland as principal and teacher of Rose Park Elementary in the Holland Christian Schools.
The move ultimately brought him back to Hope in 1989. He had been one of several area educators working with the college to develop a proposal for a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek to help link the college and local schools in enhancing elementary science education. He liked the program so much that he sought the directorship.
He remained after the program concluded its four- year run, becoming director of student teaching and certification. His contributions have also included co- establishing, with colleague Susan Cherup, a long-running May Term at the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He feels that such cross-cultural experiences are crucial.
"I think in today's world it's important that we have a bigger perspective as we work with children," he said. "It's excellent for our students."
Zwart won't be retiring completely in May. He will be back next year doing some teaching, and also hopes to work with the May Term through 2004.
His priorities also include volunteering. In 1999, he and his wife Karen received the Vera Mulder Award, given annually to the Holland area's outstanding volunteer, for service to organizations ranging from the Villa Aurora emergency shelter, to the Holland CROP Walk for hunger relief and Kids Hope USA. In retirement he will continue his emphasis on service.