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Published in June, 2003 issue of news from Hope College
Four years at the helm
It's not easy to be in two places at once, but the ability can prove useful.
Given his priorities, it's almost a job requirement for Dr. James Bultman '63, who is completing a fourth year as president of Hope College.
"It's important for Martie [Tucker '63 Bultman] and me to attend most of the college events," he said. "We are genuinely interested in Hope students and faculty."
At Hope College, that emphasis requires no small amount of organization or energy. The campus calendar is so full that there are often multiple major events in the same day, sometimes scheduled simultaneously.
For example, the same Saturday that featured the department of dance's major annual concert, Dance 29, also boasted the student-organized 24-hour Dance Marathon fundraiser for DeVos Children's Hospital, a student recital, and NCAA tournament play for both the men's and women's basketball teams--including a home game for the men in the Dow Center.
It's volume that President Bultman finds compelling not only literally but figuratively. The activity level, and the concurrent quality, reflects an institution for which uncommonly high achievement is a common virtue.
"The college's outstanding quality in the areas of music, dance, theatre, art and intercollegiate sport is very gratifying," he said. "Events like Musical Showcase, Vespers and Dance 29, among others, are all examples of excellence."
He is correspondingly equally pleased by the college's overall academic strength.
"The volume and quality of faculty scholarship and of faculty-student collaboration is also very evident, and I think that this model permeates departments across campus in a very real and exciting way," he said.
Others see it, too. This past fall, the America's Best Colleges 2003 guide published by U.S. News & World Report not only included Hope in the top half of the nation's best national liberal arts colleges, but ranked the college in the top five among all institutions for its research-based approach to undergraduate education.
"Because it's in many ways the cornerstone of our academic program, the recognition in the last U.S. News & World Report College guide, where Hope was tied for fourth in the country in undergraduate research and creative activity, was very satisfying," President Bultman said.
His priorities include helping to assure that Hope continues to offer students the best--an experience that is "simultaneously exceptional educationally and vibrantly Christian."
He is enthusiastic concerning the positive difference being made by the Legacies: A Vision of Hope comprehensive campaign. Even while fund-raising continues, substantial progress has already been made in each of the $105 million drive's four primary efforts.
The new science center is nearing completion and will open this fall, with renovation of the Peale Science Center to follow. Strong support of the endowment initiative has enabled Hope to establish numerous new scholarships. Planning and property acquisition are well along for both the Martha Miller Center and the DeVos Fieldhouse.
Even though the campaign at $100 million is relatively close to the overall goal, the need is higher since some individual projects are relatively under-funded. Construction of the Martha Miller Center and DeVos Fieldhouse, for example, is waiting until Hope obtains enough commitments to fully fund each. Fundraising efforts are intense and on-going.
President Bultman recognizes that the timing could have been better. Developed in the halcyon boom of the late '90s, the campaign was launched only shortly before the economy went bust--leading to conditions that some have called the worst since the Great Depression.
The circumstances make him appreciate all the more the dedication and support that have prompted the successes, particularly when the individual members of the Hope family are experiencing stresses of their own. "I'm very proud of our fundraising team, and of the generosity of our donors in funding these projects in a very difficult time," he said.
It is also the case that the institutional needs exist whether or not the economy is doing well. In fact, the times also present other financial challenges. Particularly given world events, health care, liability insurance and energy costs have all skyrocketed. Endowment income has plummeted as the stock market has languished.
Even as Hope enjoys its strongest freshman applicant pool ever--some 2,500 seeking the 800 or so spaces in the incoming Class of 2007--student financial need is higher than ever, another effect of the tough economy.
For the time being, the college has made the situation work. Indeed, President Bultman feels that the students deserve no less.
"I'm pleased that so far at least we've been able to weather the economic storm without major disruption to the quality of the Hope experience," he said.
"To be sure we could operate with fewer resources, but with a commensurate loss of quality. We have chosen to maintain, even enhance, quality with fewer resources," President Bultman said. "This has occurred, I think, largely because of the commitment of our people to being both effective and efficient in the delivery of the Hope experience."
Central in President Bultman's motivation, even more so than his strong belief in the Hope experience, is his affection for and pride in Hope students.
"Of all the things that bring joy in this job, it's finally the achievements of our students," he said. "In so many ways, both inside and outside the classroom, our students make us proud for who they are as persons, for their commitment to things just and right and good, and for the energy that they bring to campus life."
President Bultman has written in his regular Presidential Update letter to the Hope family of the "intergenerational thing"--the way that those who were students in the past have in turn made a difference for the students of the present and future, in a cycle that has been running since Hope's founding in the 1800s.
He recognizes and appreciates the difference that others have made in his own life, a life itself shaped by the Hope experience some 40 years before. Through his service to Hope, he hopes to do the same for the students of today.
He hopes the rest of the Hope family will join him.
"All of us have been the recipients of the generosity of others, and it only makes sense that now it is our turn to be the providers for a current generation of students," he said.