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Presidential Update Summer 2002
To Hope College Alumni and Friends:
Realizing our hopes for Hope
Each August, during my State of the College Address to the faculty and staff, I identify a theme for the coming year. My theme for academic year 2001-02 was "Realizing our hopes for Hope." In many respects we did this beyond my expectations, but it was a challenging year.
What are our hopes for Hope? A Hope ad of several years ago says it best for me. The ad, which appeared in several publications, was titled "The Dimensions of Hope-intellectual, spiritual, social, and physical." I view this as the complete package, the whole loaf. It parallels the development of the One we try to emulate as recorded in Luke 2:52, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."
I wish all of you could attend the April Honors Convocation held in Dimnent Chapel. The chapel is packed with students, faculty, and proud parents and grandparents. The academic achievements of Hope students are really quite remarkable. They distinguish themselves both on and off the college campus, in the classroom as well as the laboratory, in the humanities, the sciences, and the arts. The resumes of students elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Mortar Board are indicative of gifts given and developed through considerable effort. But, I am just as thrilled with all students who achieve up to their potential and even exceed it.
Hope faculty were also active-26 published books and 256 articles (several jointly with Hope students) in refereed journals as well as receiving 41 grants to support their research and scholarship.
I also wish that you could attend a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday college chapel service, or the Gathering on Sunday evening. I have yet to attend a service that has not been standing room only. Although the worship style is definitely that of a younger generation, the attentiveness to the Word read and preached is heartwarming. In addition, the application of faith via service projects throughout the world reveals a generation of students who are willing to serve in Christ's name. Dr. Dave De Visser '64, who was one of our adult sponsors on the very physically challenging medical mission trip to Nicaragua during spring break, said, "Only those who are willing to risk going too far can know how far they could have gone." And, from Spartenburg, S.C., where our women's cross country team went on a mission trip over spring break, Dennis Jones, director of the downtown rescue mission, said, "Knowing the future of our country is in the hands of young adults like this group increases my hope for our country's future."
There are so many opportunities at Hope for students to be involved in leadership and social activities-from the Dance Marathon under the outstanding leadership of Student Activities Director Diana Breclaw and senior Beth Otto (which this year raised $50,000 for the DeVos Children's Hospital through the Children's Miracle Network), to the enjoyable experiences of fraternities and sororities, to the camaraderie of teams and performance groups. I am very proud of so many Hope students who unselfishly give of their time and talents in making ours a better and more enjoyable world.
Medical science has taught us so much about the proper care of our bodies. In our health dynamic course students learn the value of exercise, nutrition, and rest. Through free play, athletic teams, and intramurals, students make application. It is encouraging to see students disciplined enough to put theory into practice!
Susan DeKam '02 distinguished herself in the spring organ competition by finishing second nationally among students from all colleges and universities. This is a significant achievement and recognizes her talent and the teaching of Professor Huw Lewis from our department of music. Susan and Huw have both blessed the campus community with many performances during the past several years.
For the 18th time in the last 24 years, Hope College has won the All-Sports trophy of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association-now called the Commissioner's Cup. Hope remains distinctive for the comprehensive quality of its intercollegiate athletics program for women and men.
I love sport and, being somewhat competitive, I love to win. But, I value even more how we play the game. Thus, this unsolicited note by Mr. JR Fabry, from Green Bay, Wis. (who described himself as a "newly found Hope fan"), was of great encouragement to me. He was present at the Hope vs. St. Norbert College men's basketball game in Wisconsin during the NCAA Division III tournament. He wrote, "I would like to take a brief moment to congratulate your fine school on a wonderful basketball victory against St. Norbert College last evening. I had the opportunity to attend the event and witnessed truly what collegiate athletics are supposed to be. Your school set the stage with their incredible attendance ... Your fans were positive, upbeat and friendly. Your student section was loud, encouraging, and well behaved. Your team played hard, clean, and fair. Your coaches conducted themselves like true professionals. You should be very proud to be associated with such a program." I am!!
Under the able leadership of Scott Wolterink, Susan Feldkamp, and Dianne De Young, the Hope Fund (formerly the Annual Fund) is poised to set a new record, possibly even exceeding $3 million. This is a major achievement in light of the current economic times. Thanks to all of you who have contributed during this fiscal year which ends June 30.
One of the paradoxical issues for me is the contrast between the unwavering affection for a Hope College education expressed so often by virtually everyone with whom I interact and the very modest 35 to 40 percent of alumni giving. This does not speak well for us. The very best institutions in the country have alumni giving percentages in the 50 to 60 percent ranges. Your contributions help to keep a Hope College education affordable for the current generation of talented and deserving students, even as a previous generation did the same for each of us. Can we count on those of you who have not yet contributed this fiscal year to do so before June 30? So many national institutional rankings, as well as foundation grants, depend on the percent of alumni giving. The overall worth of our degrees, as perceived by the outside world depends on your participation. Thank you for your help in keeping a Hope College education affordable for students.
Dean of the Chapel
It is with pleasure that I share with you the good news that The Reverend Dr. Timothy Brown will be continuing as the Hinga-Boersma Dean of the Chapel again next academic year. I am deeply grateful to Western Theological Seminary President Dennis Voskuil and Academic Dean Jim Brownson for allowing us the privilege of sharing Tim for this additional season at Hope.
In late May we finalized the purchase of a major piece of property from Fifth Third Bank. The acquisition includes the building immediately east of the former Women's Literary Club building (on the corner of Central Avenue and 10th Street). The building will be used by the department of psychology during the transitional time of construction at the Peale Science Center, where the program has been housed for the past 25 years. The purchase of this parcel includes 83 additional parking spaces and will alleviate both immediate and long-term parking challenges on the west side of campus.
In addition, SEMCO Energy Gas Company has gifted to the college a piece of property immediately to the east of the railroad tracks along 13th Street near the Dow Center. We plan to pave this parcel during the summer and realize approximately 45 improved parking spaces for the fall semester.
Parking is a primary complaint on most college campuses, and Hope is no different. Because of our downtown location, parking is even more acute for Hope. I am rather convinced that unless we provide an attached garage to every dormitory room or faculty/staff office, we will continue to receive complaints. Better, however, they complain about parking than the president!
Finally, we have made a bid on the purchase of Lincoln Elementary School located on Columbia Avenue between 10th and 11th Streets. This is our preferred site for the location of the Martha Miller Center for housing the departments of communication and modern and classical languages. We have made a very generous offer that exceeds two independent appraisals, and we are very hopeful that the Holland Public Schools system will see our offer as mutually beneficial. Once we have determined the exact site, we will begin planning in earnest for this facility. We would like to begin its construction next spring.
At the May Board of Trustees meeting, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new science facility now under construction immediately west of the Peale Science Center. As I observed the construction equipment, materials, and workers this past week, I thought to myself, "I imagine all these people expect to be paid!" In order to do this, the college has borrowed money at historically low rates so that we could immediately address the considerable infrastructure challenges of the current Peale Science Center. Barry Werkman, our vice president for finance, has expended considerable effort on our behalf in working with the various bonding authorities. In essence, borrowing allows us to begin this project earlier but is not a substitute for the necessity of fully funding our projects during this capital campaign. To this we remain fully committed.
We are also moving ahead this summer with a modest renovation of the Dow Center in order to better accommodate a burgeoning academic program in dance and with the expectation that we will achieve full funding for the DeVos Fieldhouse project for the relocation of the department of kinesiology.
Capital Campaign-Legacies: A Vision of Hope
We are approaching the $87 million commitment level toward a campaign goal of $105 million. This has been a superb effort by our development staff and represents by far the most money that Hope has ever raised in a capital campaign. We give thanks for a very supportive and affirming constituency. As Bill Anderson, our senior vice president for finance and development, indicated in last year's Annual Report, "Now, probably more than ever before, Hope College needs a substantial financial investment by its constituency if we are to both meet our basic needs and further the mission that has been so important for many years." I also like what my wife, Martie, said during one of our fund-raising events. "When you love Hope, it's easy to give!"
Although it is difficult to admit, this has been a very challenging year in admissions. From the beginning of the academic year lagged behind in applications relative to last year's record-breaking numbers. Not long ago we were engaged in the process of formulating policies that would address the enrollment cap of 3,000 students. Since then, primarily because of the declining economy and the emergence of other appealing educational options in our own backyard, we have struggled to achieve the number of applications that would generate our goal of 750 new first-time students. To address an anticipated reduction in the number of freshmen, we engaged in contingency planning, including careful review of hiring decisions. We have anticipated since November that our freshman enrollment would be down by approximately 50 to 75 students. That remains our best estimate. Because of exceptional retention of students during the past three semesters, our overall fall enrollment will likely be near 3,000 students. For this we are very grateful.
The reduction in the number of applications does, however, cause us to reflect on our planning and practices. We believe that we operate most effectively and efficiently with a student body of approximately 3,000. This number is small enough to enable personal attention yet large enough to allow for academic strength in each department. We will continue to review and evaluate all that we do to achieve our goals, welcoming competition as a motivator in helping us to do better what we already know we do well.
Enclosed with this update is a card to enable you to help us by identifying prospective students who would benefit from a Hope College education. We look forward to engaging the students you identify.
In last fall's Presidential Update, I indicated that I had formed a Task Force of college personnel representing the academic, student development, chaplain, trustee, and counseling areas of the college to 1) review the recent college attempts at educating about human sexuality including, but not limited to, homosexuality; 2) research the educational activities of other Christian liberal arts colleges; 3) evaluate the treatment of homosexual students at Hope College; 4) explore how the college can best exhibit care and compassion for those with a homosexual orientation; and 5) examine what periodic educational experiences would be beneficial for the campus community, including especially those entering the helping professions.
The mandate was to address the above in the context of biblical authority, Reformed Church in America and Hope College positions, constituency and community expectations, and educational research literature.
The Task Force report received in April was divided into three major sections: 1) Framing and Conducting our Campus Discussion on Issues of Sexuality, including the role of scripture in the life of the college and the virtues of advocacy and public discourse for guiding discussions; 2) Sexual Health and the Hope College Student, including a Task Force survey of Hope College students; and 3) Models for Education, Support, and Discussion.
The Task Force engaged in a very diligent effort to address a topic of concern to most college students. I doubt they would claim theirs is a perfect document. Nor would they suggest that it is written exactly like anyone else would have crafted it. It is, however, a good-faith effort by a diverse and talented group of people to offer wise counsel on a very sensitive topic that has affected the campus community for more than two decades. There is much to commend in their work. The plan the Task Force recommends has been carefully designed to provide a safe place for education, dialogue, and support while maintaining the integrity of the college's official position on matters of sexuality-which essentially parallels that of the Reformed Church in America. Dr. James Herrick, the Guy Vander Jagt Professor of Communication, very ably chaired the Task Force and has graciously consented now to chair the implementation phase of the group's recommendations.
Commencement, Baccalaureate, and Alumni Day
In the midst of so many cold and wet spring days in Holland, there was one gorgeous day that was sunny and warm. Fortunately for Hope, this fell on graduation day. We always hope for fair weather so that this event can be held outside at Holland Municipal Stadium, allowing all who wish to attend the opportunity to do so. Dr. Leanne Van Dyk, professor of Reformed theology at Western Theological Seminary, and Dr. Ronald Wolthuis, retiring professor of education, both gave superb addresses at the Baccalaureate and Commencement exercises respectively.
Commencement weekend also allowed an opportunity for reunion classes to gather on Hope's campus. This is always a wonderful occasion when classmates renew friendships and reminisce about their days together on campus. I hope that all of you will join in the joy of attending Alumni Day when your class reunions are held.
An Uplifting Time
Near the end of the academic year, Hope sophomores Erica Heeg and Jen Troke, from the Anchor staff, interviewed me for an article highlighting the events of the past academic year. They did a superb job of asking the right questions and subsequently writing the article. Near the end of our time together, they asked if they could pray for the college and for me. This was, at first, a bit disarming-wondering whether they were thinking, "This guy needs help!" It was, nonetheless, very welcomed. Both Erica and Jen offered beautiful prayers for which I thanked them. As they left my office, I thought to myself, "I certainly would not have had the courage to do that when I was a sophomore in college."
This also reminded me of the time when a college sophomore gave an inspiring Sunday morning sermon on the occasion of Parents' Weekend. As Martie and I were leaving the service, I said to her, "I don't think I could have done that when I was a sophomore in college." to which Martie quickly responded, "Get real, Jim, you couldn't do that today!" It's always good to have a spouse who keeps you humble!
Martie and I thank God for the wonderful privilege of serving Hope at this time in the college's history. There are sufficient successes to encourage us and, yes, enough challenges to keep us very humble. We are grateful for both, and for the Hope family that inspires us with its generosity and faithfulness. May God bless each one of you in marvelous ways beyond your expectations.