|From First Impressions
to Lasting Lessons
Hope College students reflecting on their college choice
often say it: one visit to campus is all it took.
It can be that way for prospective faculty as well. As a young candidate
for an athletic training position back in 1982, Richard Ray knew immediately.
"I remember just like it was yesterday walking out
of the Dow Center on a bright
sunny afternoon in May thinking, 'I've got to get this job,'" he said. He had
found a place that embodied exactly what he felt higher education should be.
Faculty and administrative colleagues cared about each other and supported one
another's work, and students were engaged by their learning and not merely putting
It's what drew him to Hope, it's what's kept him enthused about
the college across the 28 years since, and it's what has him excited
by the opportunity to serve as the college's chief academic officer.
"I've appreciated the relationships with the people with whom I
work, I've appreciated the intellectual engagement of students,
and I've appreciated the sense that I'm working in partnership with
the college and my colleagues for the benefit of the students," said
Dr. Ray. "It makes working at Hope a wonderful thing, and I just
wait to get to work and get started every day."
He sees in Hope the three attributes that author Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard University's Business School has called cornerstones of organizational success in her book Confidence:
How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End: accountability, with members of the community sharing information and working to high standards; collaboration, with members of the community respecting one another and enthused about working together; and initiative, with members of the community contributing because they feel that doing so makes a difference.
Dr. Ray has valued the way that those attributes have supported his own ability
to contribute to Hope and fostered his scholarly and professional development.
He has written numerous scholarly articles and three books on athletic
training and sports medicine. While serving as the college's head athletic
trainer for several years, he was given the freedom to develop Hope's program
in athletic training into a major-one of the first at undergraduate institutions
in Michigan to earn national accreditation. He was encouraged by his institutional
to become involved with his discipline at the state, regional and national
level-for which he has earned multiple awards for service, including election
to the Hall of Fame of the National Athletic Trainers' Association. He is
a past chair of the department of kinesiology, led the college's successful
2004 effort to seek institutional reaccreditation, and from 2008 until
his appointment as provost in 2010, served as dean for the social sciences.
It's experience that has helped prepare him to see the institution in a big-picture
way, a perspective that he enjoys and which is of course essential in his
position, but it has also taught him some lasting lessons that inform the way
that he sees individuals.
"Anything I've been able to accomplish at Hope has been because others have both encouraged me and made it possible for me to accomplish it, and in no case did I accomplish it myself," Dr. Ray said.
"It was people like Nancy Miller [former dean] and people like Jack Nyenhuis and Jim Boelkins who preceded me as provost-and frankly Jim Bultman, who when he was dean encouraged me to go back for my doctorate--who saw more in me than I saw in myself and allowed me to spread my wings a bit," he said.
"That's been a leadership lesson for me," he said. "I've tried and am still trying to be sure that I see all the potential in all the people around me so that I don't pigeonhole them."
Dr. Ray's vision for the coming years is grounded in the college's mission statement and how best to help his faculty colleagues work with each other and with the rest of the college community to realize it.
"We need to assure that our commitment to academic excellence is not only maintained but advanced, that our commitment to being a vibrantly Christian academic community continues to have a very strong presence on campus, and that our students are prepared for lives of leadership and service in a global society," he said.
He feels that students are particularly well served by the college's model of teaching through involvement in collaborative research with members of the faculty.
"I think that the true value of such scholarship at a place like Hope is what the students take away from it. It's the critical-thinking skills and the lateral-thinking skills, the problem solving and the ability to work in teamed environments," he said. "These are the skills that develop as the result of research with faculty members, and are why research at Hope is a form of teaching for our students and not just an end for itself."
Preparing students for the larger world in which they will live, serve and lead after graduation, he notes, includes encounters with diversity and presenting a model for such encounters.
"I am fully committed to helping foster an environment on our campus in which students and faculty are all welcomed and affirmed irrespective of the ways in which they might be different from the majority," he said.
"Even if they've grown up someplace relatively homogeneous, as our students graduate they are going to be making their lives in a world that is increasingly diverse, and their ability to achieve in the ways that they want will be highly dependent on the degree to which they can navigate successfully a multicultural society," he said. "We have a very big obligation to prepare students for that, both on campus and beyond."
Diversity takes many forms. Dr. Ray has appreciated it in his own faith journey, finding as a life-long Roman Catholic that he has been more than welcome at Hope, whose roots are in the Reformed tradition.
"To have been in this community with colleagues drawn from the whole patchwork quilt of the Christian tradition has been such an enriching thing for me," he said.
"It's helped develop who I am as a Christian, and the degree to which we not only tolerate but accept each other is a remarkable statement of affirmation," he said.
"In my time at Hope we've always had a 'big tent' approach to the Christian traditions, and I feel lucky to be able to be a member of this community of faith."
"I very much hope that we continue that approach in the future," Dr. Ray said. "I think it's good for our students, and I know that it's been good for me."
Hope recently invited an external team to come in and review the General Education curriculum, a report that the college will in turn use to refine the program for the better in the coming years. Dr. Ray is looking forward to the process, excited by the prospect of engaging with treasured colleagues in seeing Hope College advanced as a confident organization, and serving-as he knew in 1982--exactly where he wants to be.
"There are a lot of places I wouldn't want to be the provost," he said. "But because I believe so much in the mission of Hope, and because Hope is poised as a confident institution, well, it's just fun to be in a position like this."