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Hope as hope!
The Inaugural Address of
Even more humbling--during one of our fund raising trips together in Northern California (which is home for Martie), I stopped to purchase fuel for the car. When I returned from paying the bill, she was having a rather animated conversation with the gas attendant. Several miles down the road, this started to bother me. When I asked her about it, she said, "It was an old flame from her high school days." A few more miles down the road, I turned to Martie and said, "I bet you're glad you're married to a college president instead of a gas station attendant." To which she promptly responded, "If I'd married him instead of you, he would be a college president and you would be pumping gas." After that there was silence for quite a few miles.
Today, before I share with you my prepared remarks, I would like to acknowledge the very real presence of my family in my life. I gratefully acknowledge my mother. She introduced me to the person of Jesus Christ. She gave me a desire to excel, a strong work ethic, and self-confidence. She gave me love and taught me compassion. She showed me the value of both cooperation and competition. She taught me to respect and appreciate all people-especially those from different stations in life. Whatever is good about me today can be attributed primarily to my mother and father. I'll take the responsibility for my shortcomings. I trust that this special day will be an affirmation for her of the tremendous influence she has been in my life.
When I got married, I gained a second mother whose support has meant more to me than she will ever know. Although she is unable to be here today, I gratefully acknowledge her acceptance of me and the wonderful influence she has been in the life of my wife.
I regret that both of our fathers are not here today. Their deaths in the early 80s came much too early. I have yet to meet a man that I admired more than my father. He taught me to wear the Bultman name with pride. He was a man of few, but carefully chosen words. When he spoke, I listened.
For his encouragement and for his influence in the life of my wife, I will be forever grateful to Dan Tucker. I am especially grateful that he allowed his eldest daughter to fly across the country to a yet unseen Hope College campus where Martie and I met 40 years ago.
Also present today are my sister Judy and her husband Jim Czanko and my brother Baars who is here with his wife Margo. Judy got the brains in the family and Baars became the scholar. Unfortunately, you are settling for me.
Finally, I want to recognize our son Matthew and his wife Wanda and our daughter Heather and her husband Kevin Bluemel. I am a very proud father whose children have been both a joy and inspiration to their mother and me.
And finally to my wife Martie. My greatest affection and love for who you are as a person and for your achievements as wife, mother and professional educator. Long before I knew I could be a college president, I knew you could be a college president's wife. To set aside your own teaching career to assist me in this special assignment is most appreciated.
I would like my family and their family members to stand so we may recognize you.
I would also like to thank Chairman Gonzales and the Inauguration Committee as listed in your program. For your exceptional efforts to make this a special day of celebration in our lives and in the life of the College, we are deeply grateful.
Today I assume responsibilities as the eleventh president of Hope College. I do so with joy, humility, and confidence. As a college president, I realize I occupy a very privileged position. I do not take this responsibility lightly, but rather pledge myself anew to the kind of performance that will help assure a bright future for Hope College. You should also know that I am very humbled by the trust which you have placed in me-trust that cannot and will not be betrayed. Finally, I embark on this assignment with confidence-a confidence that is buoyed by the presence of all of you-my talented and committed colleagues-and a confidence born from the conviction that God's grace and favor are very real in my life. It is my expectation that the years ahead will be filled with much joy and achievement as together we seek God's will for this special place we call Hope.
BUILT TO LAST
A few years ago, a member of the Northwestern College Board of Trustees gave me the book entitled Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. Little did I know at the time, that this book would so captivate my thinking. It is a book to which I have returned often for insight and inspiration.
Built to Last, authored by two young Stanford professors-Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, is a corporate case study comparing the most exceptional corporations in a given sector of our economy with those corporations which are good but not exceptional. In educational jargon, they compared the A's with the Bs-wondering all the while what made the A's exceptional and the Bs just good. After analyzing data from numerous companies worldwide, the authors agreed that the exceptional companies had a set of enduring or core values which sustained their winsome corporate climate even during periods of product recall, market downturns, and leadership changes.
Do academic institutions have a set of enduring values that drive them
during the good times and sustain them at other times? Yes, I believe
they do. When I arrived at Hope College on July 1, I was well aware that
I could be consumed by the immediacy and importance of the tasks before
me. But, I was determined to meet individually on their own turf with
all of our full-time employees including custodians, secretaries, faculty,
and staff. This effort will continue in the months ahead. I wanted to
listen, really hear, what our employees were saying about Hope. What
were their cares and concerns, their aspirations and dreams for both
themselves and the institution? Their views on the enduring values at
Hope were very revealing and very consistent. Since they paralleled my
own thinking, I was particularly pleased with them. Five were mentioned
with great frequency-three with much intensity. The Hope College community
EXCEPTIONALITY IN THE ACADEMIC PROGRAM
Forty years ago, I set foot on the Hope College campus for the first time. My initial impression was that Hope was very serious about academics. Hope was concerned about the development of the intellect, indeed, the development of the Christian mind. Nothing in the intervening years, in my experience as a student, faculty member and now president, has dissuaded me from that initial impression. From faculty, and administrators, both then and now, has come the message that Hope is first and foremost an educational institution where teaching, learning and scholarship are of primary importance. Throughout the years, in the midst of change, I am very proud that my alma mater has required students to earn an education not merely be given a diploma. May it ever be so!
In my experience, Hope has never wavered from a challenging, liberal arts education. This education develops the truly educated person by teaching students to think clearly and creatively, judge wisely and communicate effectively. More than just a breadth of study, however, this liberal arts emphasis has allowed students and faculty alike to fully pursue truth in every part of God's creation. This is not threatening or intimidating for us as Christians because we believe that all truth is God's truth to be pursued by those he has created-the better to glorify Him and serve humankind.
For this rigorous and challenging intellectual emphasis, Hope has received considerable national recognition.
But what of the future? We can and must do better. There will be no dearth of competition from institutions both similar and dissimilar, many of which are represented in this gathering today. Our goal is to be so outstanding that we are irresistible! And, how will we do this?
a. By continuing to emphasize the importance of teaching at the undergraduate level. This emphasis has been extraordinary in the past and will continue to be the trademark for learning on our campus.
b. By creating the kind of campus environment where teaching, learning and scholarship are prized above all other activities.
c. By attracting faculty, staff, and students who have the capability and the motivation to excel and providing them with the resources to do so.
d. By replicating more widely our science model of having students and faculty work hand-in-hand on collaborative research projects. Such nationally acclaimed activity should become the norm on our campus in all disciplines rather than the exceptionality of a few.
e. By responding to the complexity of our world with interdisciplinary learning.
f. By internationalizing the curriculum in all areas as many have done so well already. This will include expanded opportunities for off-campus study and exchanges of different kinds whereby we seek to understand and appreciate the peoples and cultures of the world.
g. By accepting the challenge of Professor Green's convocation address in which he emphasized the necessity of just plain hard work. This was consistent with the inaugural address by Hope's first president Philip Phelps when he said, "Our reputation is to be carved by unremitting toil."
h. By helping the entire campus community to see the inherent worth of education not just as the prerequisite for the first job, but as a foundation for meaningful life itself.
THE CHRISTIAN DIMENSION
Always generating discussion at colleges like ours is the extent and method of bringing a Christian perspective to our education. This is probably especially true when two colleges of similar mission are in such close proximity to each other. In this area, that would be Calvin and Hope. Permit me to share a story with you.
Some time ago, I was on Calvin's campus talking to President Byker in his office. I noticed a gold telephone on his desk which piqued my curiosity. When I inquired about it, Gaylen indicated that it was a direct line to God. He offered to let me use it. Being Dutch, I asked him how much it would cost. He indicated $100 for a three-minute conversation. I thought it was a bit steep, but it presented too good an opportunity to pass up. I paid my $100 to Calvin and had a wonderful conversation. I didn't think much about this until I interviewed at Hope. There in the president's office was another gold telephone. I thought this must be some kind of fraternity. I asked my Hope predecessor about it, and his explanation was virtually the same as Gaylen's. I then asked how much it would cost for a three-minute conversation. President Jacobson indicated it would cost just 25 cents. To which I responded "Wow, I got ripped off for $100 at Calvin." To which John quickly explained, "It's just a local call here."
At various times in its history, the Board of Trustees has indicated their desire for the College to be a leading Christian college. This is a lofty expectation. Furthermore, the Bylaws of the College indicate that the Trustees desire a Christian college consistent with the values of the Reformed Church in America-the institution's founding denomination and one with which the College still maintains a covenantal relationship. Additionally, the vision statement of the College which was developed recently with input from the entire College constituency indicates the desire for this Christian dimension to be ecumenical in nature while rooted in the Reformed Christian faith.
The mission of the college is most often stated "…to offer with recognized excellence, academic programs in liberal arts, in the setting of a residential, undergraduate, coeducational college, and in the context of the historic Christian faith."
The nature of the college's commitment to the Christian faith is one which generates considerable institutional dialogue. It is a dynamic dimension at Hope that is not prescriptive, not parochial, not homogeneous, not suffocating, not indoctrinating but meaningfully and appropriately vibrant. It is dependent on a continuous dialogue together with the trust and good will of the human spirit present on Hope's campus. Such is the nature of a dynamic, ever-reforming faith dimension. As an institution affiliated with the Reformed Church in America and together with the Bylaws, the mission statement, and goal statements of the entire constituency, Hope intends to follow a centrist position of the Reformed Church in America. It is our intent, that while many will be exactly in line with this position, others may dangle from their toes or fingers either to the left or right of this line and still remain an integral, valued, and respected part of the community we call Hope.
A CARING COMMUNITY
The intensity with which people identified the caring relational nature of Hope was a surprise even to me. It has always been this kind of place, of course, but the personnel present here now advocate strongly for a relationship of trust, respect, acceptance-even while not necessarily approving or celebrating all behaviors and positions. There is no doubt in my mind that this is exactly the kind of institution Hope can and should be. Even as the world becomes smaller and less homogeneous, Hope must create an environment which reflects and understands the world's cultures. In His marvelous creation, God made each one of us special and unique, gifted in ways quite unlike any other human being. To recognize, appreciate, and enjoy this great diversity of talent is a noble endeavor worthy of our very best efforts.
College presidents receive many letters from constituents. A few are testy, but most are gratefully acknowledged. My favorite through the years was also the shortest. It was from the parent of a sophomore co-ed. It read simply "You promised us you would take care of our daughter and you did. Thanks." My interpretation of that caring was for the whole person-mind and body and spirit. This then is the fourth enduring value identified by the College community.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE WHOLE PERSON
I have always been impressed that Hope was the kind of institution that could combine exceptionality in academics with a vibrant commitment to the Christian faith while also embracing a balanced emphasis on both physical and social development. When we are serious about these four developmental dimensions, it should never be necessary to mask the mediocrity of one by purporting the virtues of others. Rather, our commitment should be strong in each of these important areas.
The fifth and final desired core value at Hope is stewardship. Stewardship includes the raising of funds to achieve our mission and the responsible use of these monies. It also includes the human and physical resources necessary to achieve our mission with distinction.
If the College is to compete favorably in the future, we must inspire a living legacy from our most cherished donors through estate gifts; and we must more fully engage our entire constituency in the annual support of the College. Special projects to increase our endowment and develop the physical plant in ways which allow for the best performance of the campus community will require capital fund gifts from many and varied sources.
I have always believed that the greatest resource is the human resource. At Hope, we have a treasure of outstanding faculty and staff who are able to admirably fulfill their roles. It is important that we view this resource as one which needs to be nurtured and supported. I want our employees to be able to say, "There is no place I'd rather be than Hope College."
Many colleges are essentially self-contained communities. Hope is among those few institutions which are an integral physical part of the larger city population. This carries with it opportunities, and, yes, challenges. We very much desire to be a good neighbor-believing strongly that the vitality of the community in which we reside and the College are mutually dependent on each other. Our intention is to work cooperatively to create the kind of environment where both the College and the city can flourish.
In the inaugural issue of The Presidency, Frank Rhodes, President Emeritus of Cornell University, makes the point that a college president should build a team to achieve the mission of the institution. It is my contention that the team consists of all the people gathered here today-trustees, faculty, staff, administration, students and friends of the College. Every person has a role to play. I believe my responsibility as president is to envision with all of you what, by God's grace, Hope can yet become,-to inspire you in achieving this along with your own personal goals, and to affirm you when you do it with distinction. I have no desire for Hope to be mediocre. Exceptionality excites me; and it is my goal, along with the Hope constituency, to fully achieve Hope's mission.
Hope is a magnificent name for a college. I suspect that ever since
Albertus Van Raalte stated publicly that this institution was his anchor
of hope for the future, it has inspired those affiliated with it. The
word "hope" engenders expectation, promise, and the prospect
of a bright future. But, Stanley Hauerwas reminds us that hope is more
than optimism. Optimism can exist without truth. To be hopeful is to
be simultaneously optimistic and truthful. We can bring hope for a better
world and the life hereafter. Isn't that really what all of us ultimately
want-to leave the places we touch a little better than we found them?
At its very best, I see Hope College as the embodiment of our hope for
the future. Hope as hope -- a place where the dreams of so many become
reality for many more.