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Presidential Update Fall 1999

Dear Hope College Alumni and Friends:

It is a pleasure to communicate with you through the Presidential Update. The purpose of this medium is to allow you to participate more fully in the life of the institution by sharing pertinent thoughts with you. I hope it will be both enjoyable and informative.

As I begin my tenure as the 11th president of Hope College, I do so with considerable enthusiasm, humility, and confidence. I am very excited about the future of Hope and expect that you, too, have a vision for Hope's significant role in Christian higher education. With humility I recognize the trust that has been placed in me as president of Hope. I assume this assignment with confidence that by God's grace and the diligent efforts of all of us, the college will achieve new levels of distinction in the years ahead.

Martie and I want to thank so many of you for the kindnesses you have extended to us during this time of transition. The notes and calls of affirmation and encouragement have buoyed our spirits immeasurably. I fully realize that I occupy a privileged position as a college president. This was not always my thinking. During my second of 14 years as president of Northwestern, I was attending an Iowa college president's meeting where we were all complaining about being overworked and underappreciated. It was my good friend, David Marker, who served as my immediate superior as provost at Hope when I was a dean, who took me aside and said, "You occupy a privileged position, and don't you ever forget it." I never have! It was a lesson very well learned. In the subsequent years, what had been for me a burdensome assignment, became one of joyful expectation. Martie and I have experienced a great sense of joy upon our return to Hope College. To serve one's alma mater in this leadership role is a special privilege that we do not take lightly.

A Rich Heritage

Martie and I began a love affair with Hope College 40 years ago when we enrolled as freshmen. During the intervening years, I have had the privilege of serving Hope as professor, coach, department chair, and academic dean. I've had the wonderful opportunity to be on Hope's campus during the presidency of the immediate four past presidents. Irwin Lubbers was president during our time as students. We recall his wonderfully positive spirit and his exhortation to us during that last day of chapel before the Christmas break. Invariably, he said that we should, "Leave the campus immediately and head for home before the ensuing winter snow storm makes travel difficult." Of course, we left with great exuberance! President Cal Vander Werf hired me when I returned to the campus as professor in the Education Department, assistant football coach, and head baseball coach. His commitment to academic excellence and the often-replicated model of collaborative student-faculty research was instrumental in Hope's rising stature as a nationally reputable liberal arts institution. Gordon Van Wylen strengthened the Christian dimension of the college, while presiding over a magnificent period of growth in the physical plant. Gordon and Ken Weller, who served as president of sister-college, Central, were both significant professional mentors in my life. For this, I will be forever indebted to both of them. Finally, my immediate predecessor, John Jacobson, has left a rich legacy of improving the cultural and racial diversity on campus for both students and faculty. His wonderfully positive spirit has been a blessing for all of us. I am deeply grateful for the rich legacy I have inherited from my predecessors. It will serve as a significant source of inspiration in the years ahead.


It is my practice to interact regularly and individually with students, staff, and faculty. This is both enjoyable and informative. I genuinely desire to know the joys and concerns of the entire campus community. In the few weeks that I have been on campus, I have been overwhelmed by the amazing consistency with which the campus community views the mission of the college. Virtually everyone desires an exceptional academic experience, a vibrant Christian faith commitment, and a supportive, caring environment. Because these dimensions parallel my own desires for Hope, I am most enthused about them.

From my initial experience at Hope as a student, I knew that academics were taken very seriously here. Nothing in the interim has dissuaded the institution from requiring students to earn an education as opposed to simply being given a diploma. I'm proud of my alma mater for that. The campus community also identifies a vibrant Christian faith dimension for Hope College. This really is no different from the emphasis that has been an integral part of Hope from its inception. People desire a faith dimension, consistent with the ideals of its founding and supporting denomination, the Reformed Church in America. The campus does not want a suffocating, indoctrinating narrow environment that stifles the human spirit. I am overjoyed that the campus community continues to desire a caring, supportive environment. This relational dimension is so much a part of the Hope College experience which all of us have grown to love and expect. What could be more like Hope and more satisfying, too, than for the Hope community to desire an exceptional liberal arts education delivered in a caring, Christian environment? May it ever be so!

Area Center

Many of you may have heard that the college invested $1 million in the proposed Area Center project for the greater Holland area. This facility will replace the aging Holland Civic Center as a venue for men's basketball. As attendance warrants, it could also become the home for women's basketball and volleyball. The Trustees viewed this as a wise expenditure, commensurate with our intended use of the facility and our corporate responsibility to the community. It is also our best option for the immediate future. Assuming the appropriate passage of millages in area governmental units, the new facility will replace the Holland Civic Center which will be used for recreational purposes in the future. This proposed new facility would afford the college the opportunity to play in an enhanced arena, while allowing us to continue our focus on other campus building projects. The three-year commitment will be funded from donors who have an interest in this project and will not come from tuition dollars or the general operating funds of the college.

Martha Miller Center

Many of you are aware that the college received a most generous gift from the estate of Martha Miller. The money will be used in conjunction with other gifts to build a facility to house the dance program at the college as well as other academic or institutional components. An updated campus master plan is being formulated which will determine the exact components and location of this facility. We gratefully acknowledge the vision of Martha Miller and her family in providing this very generous naming gift.

Legacies: A Vision of Hope

Legacies: A Vision of Hope is a capital campaign in its initial stages. The appropriate envisioning has been completed, identifying the need for 1) a greatly expanded and renovated science facility, 2) an upgrading of other campus facilities, and 3) an enhanced endowment. This anticipated capital campaign will be an exciting and major effort designed to bring the college into the next millenium with great strength. You will be hearing more about this as our planning evolves during the next several months.

Healthy Pride

All of us have learned that a prideful, arrogant attitude is harmful, but a healthy pride, born out of commitments and experience, can be very helpful. In this regard, I have often reflected on what allows our students and alumni to have a healthy pride in Hope. More and more I'm convinced that this kind of pride comes from achieving something challenging and worthwhile. Because of the nature of the Hope experience, I'm confident that the worth of this education is apparent today and will manifest itself even more fully in the years ahead.

Student Reaction

During my many visits with students, I often ask them about their experiences at Hope. I generally expect these to be positive, but the intensity of the response has been overwhelming. It is with great exuberance that students respond to the question, "How do you like Hope?" When questioned further, the most popular response is that they absolutely love their classes and their professors. Since we are an educational institution, this response could hardly be more heartwarming. Hope College is fortunate to have a visionary board, a dedicated faculty, a talented staff, and gifted students. For all of this we are grateful. It is my fervent hope and prayer that God will allow us to be instruments through whom He works as together we assist students in becoming all that God intends for them to be. Thank you for uplifting us in your prayers, entrusting to us your sons and daughters, and supporting us with your gifts. We are very grateful.

James E. Bultman, President