posted November 9, 2006

Gordon Van Wylen to Receive Leadership Award

Dr. Gordon Van Wylen, president emeritus of Hope College, will receive the "West Michigan Dutch-American Leadership Award" during the West Michigan Dutch Heritage Community Celebration on Thursday, Nov. 16.

Van Wylen is being honored for his contributions to Dutch-American heritage and the West Michigan community. The event will be held at The Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville.

He is one of two members of the extended Hope family being recognized during events scheduled locally in conjunction with national Dutch-American Heritage Day. Dr. Robert H. Schuller of Orange, Calif., a 1947 Hope graduate who is founding pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, the largest church in the Reformed Church in America, will receive the "West Michigan Dutch-American Legacy Award" for his leadership and contributions to extend and deepen the bonds that link West Michigan, the U.S. and the Netherlands. Schuller will be honored during a banquet being held at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids following the community celebration.

Van Wylen, who lives in Holland, was Hope's ninth president from 1972 until retiring in 1987. Since his retirement, he has remained active in West Michigan, his community involvement including the renewal of downtown Holland, the establishment of the Van Andel Institute and serving on the Van Andel Education Institute board since 1996. A native of Grant, he did undergraduate work at both Calvin College and the University of Michigan, returning to U of M after serving as a submarine officer in the Pacific during World War II for his master's and completing his doctorate at MIT. He was dean of the College of Engineering at U of M immediately prior to coming to Hope.

Schuller came to Garden Grove, Calif., in 1955 to found the RCA's congregation there. From its beginnings with services conducted from the roof of the snack bar at the Orange Drive-In Theater, the congregation grew steadily through the years. The church's global television broadcast, "The Hour of Power," began in 1970. The internationally acclaimed Crystal Cathedral, the first-ever all-glass church, was dedicated on Sept. 18, 1980. Schuller served as senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral until being succeeded by his son, Dr. Robert A. Schuller, in January of this year.

Dutch-American Heritage Day began in 1991 through a proclamation by President George H.W. Bush. The date marks the first recognition of the flag of the United States by a foreign power, when the Dutch governor of the island of St. Eustatius in the West Indies ordered his fort's cannons fired in a friendly salute of the American warship "Andrew Doria" on Nov. 16, 1776, only four months after the U.S. had declared its independence from Great Britain. Dutch connections to the Americas began more than a century and a half earlier, in 1609, when Captain Henry Hudson of the Dutch East India Company sailed up the present-day Hudson River seeking a shorter route to Asia, with Dutch settlement of the region following just a few years later. Today, some eight million Americans are of Dutch descent, including a sizeable percentage of West Michigan residents whose ancestors immigrated to the area during and since the mid-19th century.