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Presidential Update Summer 2012
To Hope College Alumni, Parents, and Friends:
The presidential search for my successor at Hope continues. As a consequence, the Trustees have asked that I extend my term as Hope president through the 2012-13 academic year. This, Martie and I readily agreed to do. While this extension is not what any of us had planned, we look forward, with eager anticipation, to the coming year with just as much enthusiasm as we’ve had for the past 13. Many have thanked us for “sacrificing” a year of retirement to do this, but we don’t feel that way. Rather, we look at this as another opportunity to serve the college we love with the people we most admire—all of you!
There will be one change in thinking for me: I thought by now I would be gone and hoped I wouldn’t be forgotten. Now, I worry about being forgotten but not yet gone! We remain confident that the person of God’s own choosing will be fully engaged at this time next year and ask that you keep the committee in your prayers as they continue the search process.
Martie and I want to thank so many of you for your many kindnesses to us during the last few weeks of the academic year as we anticipated retirement. Your kind expressions were really quite overwhelming. You made us feel very special. You should know, however, that we don’t view ourselves that way at all. We simply wanted to be on the same team with all of you doing our best each day to make the Hope experience exceptional for each of our students.
The Hope Experience
Next year should prove to be very exciting and challenging, especially with a record freshman class. We were hoping and planning for a freshman class of 825 students—slightly smaller than last year’s record number of 845. And, we were tracking with numbers almost exactly like last year until the last couple of days before the May 1 deposit deadline for accepted students. On that last day, we received an avalanche of deposits that made our class size soar to 958. While this certainly was affirming, it also poses challenges for us with classes, housing, and cafeteria space. We are confidently working to address these challenges and are determined to ensure that the entirety of the Hope experience is available for each student. This is their time to be college students, and we will not compromise on providing for each of them an exceptional education in a caring, Christian environment. Thanks to all of you who are encouraging capable students to consider Hope as their college choice. I would like to encourage you to continue to be ambassadors for Hope, especially with prospective students and their families. You are invited to share with our Admissions office the names of those students you feel would benefit from the Hope College experience. A postage-paid postcard is enclosed for your convenience.
Hope is definitely an outlier now among peer colleges. This is not necessarily bad, for we like to be distinctive. We’re an outlier with respect to our pricing and our financial aid discounting, both lower than average. Over the last several years, Hope has intentionally and strategically increased tuition, room, and board much less than almost every institution in the country. We have had inflationary increases only (something that virtually every national leader is calling for), while our peers have continued to increase two to four (even more) percent beyond that. The net result is that colleges that were already charging more than Hope are now charging much more, and those that were charging less than Hope are catching up with us. We’re pleased to be able to do this. It is possible because of wise stewardship of resources, outstanding enrollment, and generous gifting. But, there is a risk that people will correlate price with quality. We will instead trumpet the worth of Hope as affordable excellence. We’re very willing to be accountable—in fact, we like the competitive nature of it. Let’s look at some recent, tangible indicators of quality in the four important dimensions of student development: intellectual, spiritual, social, and physical.
A good measure of the spiritual vitality at Hope is the attendance at voluntary chapel. Dimnent Chapel is filled to overflowing (est. 1,400 students per service) at three chapel services per week and the Sunday evening Gathering.
For the 10th consecutive year, men’s basketball led the nation in attendance with an average of 3,259 fans per game, more than twice the average of the second-place team (Wooster). And, for the fourth consecutive year, women’s basketball led the nation in attendance with an average of 1,343 fans per game. In addition, both volleyball and men’s soccer were ranked second nationally.
I’ve mentioned before in this Update that we have hired a marketing firm to assist us in better telling others, with a unified voice, about the Hope experience. Their assistance will focus on our branding, our web presence, and print materials.
A Greater Hope
We are in the final phase of fundraising for our comprehensive campaign, A Greater Hope. To date we have received commitments of $150 million toward our goal of $175 million. The campaign components are about equally divided between endowment and capital projects. When we secure the commitments for a capital project plus 25 percent for its maintenance endowment, we begin construction. These commitments were secured for the new outdoor Vande Poel – Heeringa Stadium Courts this spring, and construction is now complete. The Etheridge Tennis Complex at Hope, which includes the DeWitt Tennis Center (6 indoor courts) and the new outdoor courts (12), is a fabulous complex for instructional, recreational, and intercollegiate play and complements Hope’s other outstanding athletic facilities.
Recently secured were the necessary commitments to begin construction of a new engineering wing that will be attached to the northwest side of VanderWerf Hall. Leadership support for this project has been committed from Haworth, Inc. and the Haworth family. Engineering is our most burgeoning department, and this new wing will provide much needed creative design space. Construction will begin soon, and the space will be ready for use in fall 2013.
This leaves three major new buildings yet to be totally funded and constructed during this campaign: 1) the Kruizenga Art Museum (visibly attached to the DePree Art Center), 2) the concert hall and music facility (on Columbia Avenue between 9th Street and 10th Street), and 3) the student center (where the current Nykerk Hall of Music is located). We will need widespread commitments during this next year to make these three major projects come to marvelous fruition.
Not part of the initial campaign but a necessary addition to Hope’s physical plant will be a new apartment-style housing complex located along Lincoln Avenue between 11th Street and 12th Street. Four separate units will house a total of 60 students and replace some cottages that are simply worn out. Construction has begun with the units ready for fall 2013. By official Board action, this complex will be named the Tom and Ryan Cook Village.
Also not part of the initial campaign is the attention to Holland Municipal Stadium. This facility is currently owned by the City of Holland and rented to Hope and Holland Public Schools for football. It is in deteriorating condition and in need of immediate attention. Hope has advanced the money for installing artificial turf with the understanding that there will be an expeditious sale of the stadium to Hope. It will continue to be used by all three parties in what is considered a wise and collaborative stewardship of our collective resources. The resurfaced field will be ready for fall play.
This year will mark my 28th consecutive year as a college president, about five times the average longevity. At a recent dinner meeting with a new, young college president, I was asked how I stayed renewed. “Do you suggest sabbaticals for presidents?” My response: “No, I don’t think that’s a very good idea.” “How about long vacations?” he asked. My response: “No, I don’t think that’s a very good idea, either. When you call in and your administrative assistant responds with ‘Jim who?’ you know you’ve been away too long.” He then asked, “So, if you haven’t taken sabbaticals or long vacations, what is your secret for staying refreshed?” “It’s very simple,” I explained. “Spend more time with students. It will renew your sense of purpose and renew you every time.” It works for me, and it’s fun!
I am reminded every day at Hope how fortunate and privileged Martie and I feel to be serving the college we love. We are surrounded by a visionary Board, an administrative team with extraordinary expertise, talented faculty, a dedicated staff, gifted students, and supportive alumni and friends. In addition and especially, we continuously feel God’s presence and blessings on the college campus. So, we look forward to this new year with confidence and faithfulness, believing that God will grant us wisdom to address each challenge and that His grace and goodness will be ours in great abundance each new day.
James E. Bultman, President