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A College History (updated November, 2012)
Out of faith and charity, Hope College was born.
Although officially chartered in 1866, Hope College generally traces its history to the October, 1851, creation of the Holland colony's "Pioneer School." The Pioneer School eventually evolved into "The Holland Academy" and then the college as the community's educational needs progressed from elementary to secondary to higher.
The Pioneer School was founded, with support from the Reformed Church in America, because the Rev. A.C. Van Raalte wanted Holland's children to receive education with a Christian character--an option not guaranteed through state-supported schooling.
In his history A Century of Hope, published to commemorate the 1966 centennial of the college's chartering, former Hope president Dr. Wynand Wichers '09 noted, "Not only did Van Raalte feel the need for elementary education for all children, but he also was much in earnest about the need of a church-controlled secondary school."
"He was mindful of the need for educated ministers and teachers," Dr. Wichers wrote. "It was his conviction that higher education was a prime essential in the process of Americanization and for the preservation and extension of the Dutch church in the West."
Hope's name and seal both originate from an observation the Rev. Van Raalte made regarding the Pioneer School: "This is my anchor of hope for this people in the future." The symbolism follows the Epistle to the Hebrews 6:19, "We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul... "
Hope's motto, taken from Psalm 42:5, echoes the sentiment: "Spera in Deo" ("Hope in God").
The Pioneer School, though, needed a home, and it found one in quarters that predated it, in a way that speaks volumes about the character of Holland's colonists.
Life in the West Michigan wilderness was hard, and took its toll on the settlers--with the result that children were left parentless. To house them, the Rev. Van Raalte donated land for an orphanage, which was built in 1849-50 on 12th Street where Western Theological Seminary now stands.
In the end, the "Orphan House" wasn't needed. The surviving colonists took the children into their own families.
And so, the school established to educate the community's children in the context of the Christian faith found its first home through the charity of Holland's settlers. Rendered purposeless by their generosity, the "Orphan House" became the first building used by the Pioneer School, and served in a variety of capacities until destroyed by fire in 1889.
Although early wooden structures like the Orphan House no longer survive, and even other, more substantial buildings have come and gone, the Hope architecture of today tells the story of the college's growth.
Van Vleck Hall, built in 1857, stood--and still stands--at the center of campus. At the time of its construction, it nearly was the campus. It housed students and Hope's first president, the Rev. Philip Phelps Jr., as well as the library and classrooms.
Van Vleck was an impressive building for its day. Built of stone and brick, it towered a tall three stories from one of the area's few hills.
Van Vleck is Hope's oldest building, today serving as a women's residence hall. Only one other building in the city of Holland is older--Pillar Church, located at Ninth Street and College Avenue. (Old Wing Mission, which was here before the settlers arrived and also still stands, is just outside the city limits.)
The solid nature of Van Vleck's construction is one reason that the building endures as one of the community's oldest, but the great Holland fire of 1871 is another. Much of the community was wiped out in the blaze, which spared the college and Pillar Church. In fact, in the aftermath of the conflagration, Hope became a haven for those displaced by the fire (which killed only one resident).
Sturdy Van Vleck Hall suggested an institution designed to stick around for a while, and it wasn't long before the school developed into the college. Hope enrolled its first freshman class--10 men--in the fall of 1862. The college received its charter from the State of Michigan in May of 1866, and graduated its first eight seniors two months later.
Although Hope did survive the fire, the 1870s weren't easy for the young school.
For example, in the 1870s the college had aspired to become a graduate-level institution with the name "Hope Haven University," and even bought 830 acres at Point Superior on the north side of Lake Macatawa for the expansion, but the plan fell through.
Hope had also trained ministers in its early years, but the precarious financial situation of the day prompted the RCA to suspend the expensive advanced program in 1877. Advanced theological training returned to Holland in 1884, however, when Western Theological Seminary was organized as a separate institution adjacent to the main Hope campus.
Hope weathered the lean years, though, and through the next decades the school grew steadily. The growth generally radiated outward from Van Vleck at the center, like ripples in a pond.
The President's Home was completed in 1892. Graves Hall, dedicated in 1894, was built to house a library and chapel because the college had outgrown the old ones (the students and President Phelps had built the previous chapel, in 1862).
Van Raalte Memorial Hall, dedicated in 1903, provided essential classroom space and later housed Hope's administration. Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie made his mark on the area by donating a gymnasium, dedicated in June of 1906 (the building, obsolete and rendered unnecessary by the Dow Center, was razed in 1982).
Hope went co-ed in 1878, graduating the first female students in 1882. Voorhees Hall was built as a women's residence hall in 1907 to help boost female enrollment by providing housing for women (Voorhees is now co-ed by floor and wing).
The Memorial Chapel--now Dimnent Memorial Chapel--was dedicated in June of 1929. As was Van Vleck Hall more than 70 years before, the Memorial Chapel was a bit of a stretch for the school. The chapel seats about 1,100, and the college only had 434 students in 1928-29. Today Dimnent Memorial Chapel is a community landmark featuring beautiful stained glass windows.
It wasn't long before the extra space in the chapel was needed. Following World War II, ex-servicemen flooded America's colleges and universities on the GI Bill, and Hope experienced an enrollment boom. From about 550 just before the war--and only 312 in the fall of 1944--enrollment jumped to 1,374 by 1947.
"The pressure for more space and better facilities--faculty offices, science equipment, library holdings and reading rooms, and student housing--increased dramatically," wrote Dr. John Hollenbach, professor emeritus of English, in "Coping with the Post-War Bulge: Hope College 1945-1950," published by the Hope Academy of Senior Professionals (HASP) in the fall of 1993. "Along with the problem of physical facilities for the tripled enrollment was the equally pressing need for more staff, at a time when all colleges and universities faced similar problems of educating the post-war student bulge."
The bulge had a lasting impact on the college. The measures Hope took to meet the increased demand benefited future generations as well.
"The greatly expanded curricular offerings, newly inaugurated discipline areas and larger staff added pressure for new and better facilities and equipment, all of which led to two decades of significant construction," Dr. Hollenbach wrote.
Hope was set in the sciences in the post-war period--the Science Building, today's Lubbers Hall (and no longer a science building at all)--had opened in 1942. Many of today's buildings, however, did spring from the era.
Durfee Hall, a women's residence hall, opened in 1950 (it's now a men's hall); Nykerk Hall of Music was completed in 1956; Kollen Hall, a residence hall, opened in 1957; Phelps Hall, a residence and dining hall, opened in 1960.
Other familiar campus landmarks followed in turn--Van Zoeren Library (1961); the "Fraternity Dormitory Complex" (1963); Gilmore Hall (1963); Physics Mathematics Hall (today's VanderWerf Hall (1964); Dykstra Hall (1967); the DeWitt Student and Cultural Center (1967); the Peale Science Center (1973); the Dow Health and Physical Education Center (1978); the De Pree Art Center and gallery (1982); the Maas Student and Conference Center (1986); and the Van Wylen Library (1988).
The development continues. Hope has operated the Knickerbocker Theatre downtown since 1988, and now also owns the properties on either side, acquired in 1996. The Haworth Inn and Conference Center opened in January of 1997, and the Cook residence hall opened in the summer of 1997.
An organ studio was added to Nykerk Hall to house a major new practice organ, dedicated in October of 2000.
During the summer of 2002, renovations at the Dow Center added dance studio space and enhanced weight and fitness rooms. The college built A. Paul Schaap Science Center in 2003, and extensively remodeled the adjoining Peale Science Center in 2004. Also in 2004, the college dedicated the Henri and Eleonore Theil Research Center, which houses both the Joint Archives of Holland and the A.C. Van Raalte Institute.Two major buildings opened during the 2005-06 school year. The beginning of the fall semester saw the premiere of the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication, which houses the departments of communication and modern and classical languages and the offices of international education and multicultural life. The basketball arena of the Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse debuted with the beginning of the basketball season in November. The rest of the building, including office space for the department of kinesiology, classrooms and the athletic training program, opened for the start of the spring semester, with volleyball moving to the building as home court in the fall of 2006.
Campus development continued with the expansion of Cook Hall to house 66 more students and the renovation of Lubbers Hall, both for the start of classes in the fall of 2006. In the spring of 2008, the college dedicated the new Boeve and Walters baseball and softball stadiums. Projects completed in fall 2009 included the new Van Andel Soccer Stadium and the adaptive restoration of Graves Hall, updating the historic structure for use during the 21st century while preserving the beauty and character that made it a showpiece during the 19th. In the summer of 2011, the college renovated VanderWerf and Van Zoeren Halls to provide additional and upgraded research space in engineering and physics.
In the summer of 2011, the college renovated VanderWerf and Van Zoeren Halls to provide additional and upgraded research space in engineering and physics, with the work also setting the stage for a major expansion of VanderWerf in the fall of 2012 with the beginning of construction on the Haworth Engineering Center, scheduled for completion for the fall 2013 semester. Calendar year 2012 has been a particularly active period for campus development, including not only the start of the engineering center but also completion of the VandePoel-Heeringa Stadium Courts at the Etheridge Tennis Complex, the installation of artificial turf and other renovations at Holland Municipal Stadium (which the college also purchased from the City of Holland), and the start of construction on the Tom and Ryan Cook Village, also scheduled to be ready for use in the fall of 2013.
Major additions to the campus are also in store for the future, with planning under way for the new Kruizenga Art Museum, a concert hall/music department facility, and the Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center. All three projects, like the stadium courts and the engineering center, are initiatives of the $175 million “A Greater Hope” comprehensive campaign.