posted October 7, 2009

Tree Planting to Honor Former Chaplain William Hillegonds

Hope College will honor the memory of former chaplain William C. Hillegonds with a tree planting on Saturday, Oct. 10.

The event will take place during a ceremony in the college's Pine Grove in the central campus at 9 a.m.  It has been scheduled in conjunction with Homecoming Weekend at Hope.

Participants in the ceremony will include Hope College President Dr. James Bultman; Eric Foster, a 1995 Hope graduate and member of the staff who as a student held the William Hillegonds Scholarship established at the college in the 1980s; the Rev. Peter Semeyn, a 1973 Hope graduate and friend and colleague of Hillegonds; and members of the Hillegonds family, who will unveil a plaque that will accompany the white pine being planted.

Hillegonds was chaplain at Hope from 1965 to 1978 and was a 1949 Hope graduate.  He died on Sunday, Dec. 23, 2007, at age 85.

He was born in Chicago, Ill., on Feb. 11, 1922, the son of William J. and Anna Hillegonds. He served in the European Theatre of Operations during World War II, earning five battle stars and the Bronze Star.

He majored in history at Hope, from which he graduated magna cum laude. While a student he was sophomore class president, received Faculty Honors, was a member of the Blue Key Honor Fraternity and the Fraternal Society, earned three letters for varsity baseball, and had participated in the Pull tug-of-war.

He graduated from Western Theological Seminary in 1951, and received the S.T.M. summa cum laude from the University of Dubuque in 1972.

While at Western Theological Seminary he was minister at the Hudsonville Congregational Church. Following seminary he was pastor of First Reformed Church of Chatham, N.Y., from 1951 to 1955, of Brighton Reformed Church of Rochester, N.Y., from 1955 to 1960 and of Hope Church of Holland from 1960 to 1965. After leaving the college chaplaincy he served Second Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa, and First Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, Mich. In retirement he was parish associate at the Brighton Presbyterian Church in Michigan and later held two interim appointments in Terre Haute, Ind., and Alma, Mich.

Hillegonds stayed involved with Hope after his service as chaplain ended. He delivered the college's Commencement Address in 1979, the Baccalaureate Sermon in 1983 and the Opening Convocation address in 1991. He also served for a time as the 1949 Alumni Class Representative.

The William Hillegonds '49 Endowed Scholarship Fund was established in his honor to provide a scholarship for a worthy student demonstrating financial need. In 1983, the college presented him with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) degree.