posted April 27, 2009

Tony Van Houten Receives Vanderbush-Weller Award

Tony Van Houten, physical plant event manager at Hope College, has been named recipient of the college's 10th annual "Vanderbush-Weller Development Fund" award for strong, positive impact on students.

The award recognizes and supports the efforts of Hope faculty and staff who make extraordinary contributions to the lives of students. Van Houten will be honored during a dinner on Thursday, April 30, held in conjunction with the spring meeting of the college's Board of Trustees.

"Tony gives selflessly in all of his work, brings joy, offers encouragement, provides fellowship to everyone he encounters, has a positive impact on everyone he meets, and goes beyond what is expected," said Dr. Richard Frost, vice president and dean of students at Hope, whose office coordinates the award, which is presented based on nominations from the campus community.  "Hope is a better place because of his many contributions.  He sets a standard for all of us to emulate."

Van Houten's responsibilities include helping to coordinate events on campus, developing computer-aided design drawings for events, and setting up events in the DeWitt Center, Maas Center and Phelps Hall.  He notes that he finds connecting with students especially rewarding.

"I love being part of the HopeCollege family, having a part in the lives of students whether it be planning an event or having student employees," he said.  "There are things that can be taught in a work environment that they take with them into their own career after college.  I feel it very important to put others' needs before your own, and make sure everyone that I come into contact with has the best experience they can have with Hope College, and that we should try to do it all with a smile and servant attitude."

Van Houten has spent most of his life connected to Hope.  His father, Adrian Van Houten, was a member of the physical plant staff from 1974 to 1994, and in June of 1976, Tony at age 15 took a summer job with the college's grounds department, continuing with the department into the summer of 1978.

He notes that he particularly enjoyed rainy days, when he couldn't work outside and would instead be reassigned to work with his father, whose responsibilities included maintaining the bowling alleys that the college had in the DeWitt Center at the time.

"Of course after cleaning and oiling they had to be tested," he said.

More seriously, he credits his father for his work ethic.  "He is the one that taught me the importance of going over and above in your job, and putting others' needs first before your own," he said.

After graduating from Holland High School in 1979, Tony started working full-time with the college's grounds department.  After five years away, he returned in 1993 to become a custodian in the DeWitt Center, with subsequent promotions to coordinating set-ups in the east-central portion of campus, to building services manager and to a combination of building services manager and set-up coordinator before taking his present position.

Beyond his involvement with Hope, he was in music ministry for 20 years with his parents, Sharon and Adrian Van Houten, and is on the Board of Directors of Van Houten Ministries.  He is a member of Parkside Bible Church, where he is a former elder and deacon, and is on the Parkside Bible technical team.  His activities also include the West Michigan Airsoft team and acting with Avalon School of the Arts.

The "Vanderbush-Weller Development Fund" was established in honor of longtime Hope professor and football coach Alvin Vanderbush, who retired in 1972 and died on Feb. 20, 2005. It was created by Ken and Shirely Weller of Pella, Iowa. Ken Weller is one of Vanderbush's former players and also a former Hope faculty colleague.