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Presidential Update Fall 2002

To Hope College Alumni and Friends:

After a stunningly beautiful autumn in Holland, the leaves have begun to fall. Black squirrels scurrying everywhere burying acorns serve as a reminder that winter is not far away. The changing seasons remind us that there is a time for everything. We know as well that, amidst this change, God is unchanging, and His faithfulness is ever sure. What a marvelous confidence this is for us as His children.


I am very pleased to report that we are enjoying a record enrollment with 3,035 students beginning the fall semester. For this we are most grateful as we believe the college operates most effectively and efficiently with about 3,000 students. Classrooms are full. Increasingly, upper-class students desire to live in college housing, which in tandem with the high enrollment has also caused our residence halls, apartments, and cottages to be filled to capacity. We believe this is good because it allows students to enjoy the many benefits of living on campus. Hope is definitely a residential college, with fully 75 percent of our students living in campus housing.

Enrollment of freshmen is down by 35 students, or five percent. This was anticipated because we experienced a 12 percent decline in applications. Fortunately, the yield on applications was up over previous years, enabling us to still enjoy one of our larger freshman classes. Superb retention during the past three semesters contributed to our record enrollment. Though it is still too early to make valid comparisons, we are pleased that applications for next year are very strong.


I received so many favorable comments from students and parents about orientation for students new to the college. The efforts of Diana Breclaw, our director of student activities, student orientation co-chairs Paul Jackson and Beth Otto, and student activities committee chair Mary Chambers have not gone unnoticed. Orientation was administered overall by Richard Frost, vice president for student development and dean of students. He was ably assisted by his staff, Maura Reynolds, our chief academic advisor; our faculty advisers; and our campus ministries staff. This coordinated effort has evolved into a model program.

Pre-College Conference

It is customary for colleges to have a day or two of professional activities at the beginning of each academic year. Oftentimes, an outside speaker is featured. This year, our academic deans decided to highlight our own faculty members. Ten professors from different divisions and departments gave brief presentations concerning their scholarship, teaching, or performance activity. These presentations were both informative and stimulating. A "mini version" was presented for our trustees at our recent Board meeting, during which we focused on what it means to be a nationally recognized academic institution. I came away from both experiences better understanding why students are so enthusiastic about their professors and their classes. While I believe that it is the whole package of experiences that makes Hope stand tall relative to our competition, it is gratifying that this most important dimension of all is at the heart of student satisfaction with the Hope experience.

Student Research Fair

One of our great joys at Hope is to observe the talents of students demonstrated so frequently in both curricular and co-curricular activities. The college's second annual Undergraduate Research Celebration enabled 140 students from 16 different departments to share their scholarship with the campus community. I marveled at the depth of student scholarship, most often done in collaboration with a faculty mentor. This collaborative research began in the sciences but has now spread to many other campus departments. One of our goals is to see the activity expand to every department.

U.S. News & World Report

One of the distinguishing features of Hope is the scholarship dimension for both students and faculty. It is unusual for undergraduate liberal arts institutions to produce year-in and year-out the quality and quantity of undergraduate activity for which Hope has become recognized. Because this is a distinguishing feature at Hope, it was satisfying to be recognized in the September 23, 2002, issue of U.S. News & World Report, which ranked colleges on a variety of measures. In the new category of "Undergraduate Research/Creative Activity," Hope was ranked by its peers fourth in the country. In addition, the company was quite good! The University of Michigan was ranked first, MIT second, and Stanford University third, with Hope and Furman University tied for fourth. Other colleges like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton were ranked further down the list! Lest we think too highly of ourselves, I am reminded that presidents usually give great credence to these rankings only if their institutions appear in them-and give them hardly any significance at all when they do not. Nonetheless, it was encouraging to have this core value of Hope recognized by our peers.

It also reinforced for me my often-stated passion that Hope will be at the same time exceptional academically and vibrantly Christian. The record of history would indicate the difficulty of this aspiration. Though few institutions have ever achieved it, I believe it is entirely possible that Hope can and will make its mark in higher education by providing exceptionality in the academic program while remaining intentionally true to its Christian heritage.

Provost Jim Boelkins

New Provost James N. Boelkins has assumed the chief academic leadership role at Hope with energy and expertise. He is all that I hoped he would be and more. I can enthusiastically predict with even greater certainty now than before that he will lead the college to new levels of academic distinction. It is a joy to work with him, to recognize his passion for the mission of Hope, and to see him interact so effectively with our faculty and students.

Campaign and Projects

Our current capital campaign, Legacies: A Vision of Hope, is coming to tangible fruition with several current projects. Through the extreme generosity of our alumni, parents, and friends, nearly $92 million has been committed toward our goal of $105 million. We realize that the last portion of this initiative will be the most difficult, but we are also confident that we will reach our goal by the end of the campaign in December of 2003. The commitments of so many, even during such a difficult economic time, is especially gratifying.

Last spring, we broke ground for the science center addition, and that construction is now very visible at the Peale site. The construction crews are on schedule for a fall, 2003, occupancy. The center will be a magnificent addition to our physical plant and will enable our students and faculty to do science the Hope way, with considerable hands-on collaborative experiences.

Also a part of Legacies was the renovation of the Dow Center which took place over the summer. The former wrestling and weight rooms were converted to studios to accommodate our burgeoning program in dance, and three lightly used racquetball courts were renovated to two 2,400-sq. ft. spaces for cardiovascular fitness and weight training, still leaving three courts available for recreational use. We are very pleased with the enhanced usage in all areas.

Finally, we have signed architectural contracts with Ellerbe Becket, a sports complex specialty firm, for the DeVos Fieldhouse and with Design Plus, a Holland firm, for the Martha Miller Center. The latter is evolving as a departmental home for communication, modern/classical languages, international education, and multicultural life. The anticipated synergy among these departmental units is exciting. With concerted planning during this academic year and with construction beginning in the summer of 2003, we anticipate occupancy for both facilities for the 2004-05 academic year.

Finances-A Challenge

We are well aware that this is a challenging economic time for our country. The economy has been particularly difficult for colleges and universities. The bear market has reduced our endowments and the subsequent payouts to operational budgets, low interest rates have reduced earnings on our short-term investments, and at the same time insurance rates for health and property have escalated. Because of this, balancing our budget will be more difficult than usual.

The construction already underway and that anticipated, the difficulty of balancing the operations budget, and the slow economic recovery, combine to create a heightened level of anxiety relative to the college's financial health. Yet, we are pleased with where we are and deeply grateful for the overwhelming generosity of our constituency.

Proposal 4

On November 5, Michigan voters will have the opportunity to vote on Proposal 4-the constitutional amendment which designates the use of state monies received in the national tobacco settlement. In jeopardy is the Michigan Merit Award program, which currently is providing $2,500 of scholarship support to 83 percent, or 437, of Hope College freshmen (a freshman-only scholarship) from the state of Michigan who qualify for this award.

I am joining with every public and private college and university president in the state of Michigan; Governor John Engler; Lieutenant Governor Dick Posthumus; Attorney General Jennifer Granholm; former Governor William Milliken; virtually every elected and appointed state official, including especially former Attorney General Frank Kelley who negotiated the tobacco settlement; as well as with many hospitals (among them Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids and Edward W. Sparrow Hospital in Lansing) and other organizations (such as the League of Women's Voters and Michigan Education Association) too numerous to mention in urging Michigan citizens to vote NO on Proposal 4.

In sum the reasons are:

  • This is poor legislation. It sets a precedent for special interest groups to designate monies rather than leave their allocation to the wisdom of elected state legislators. In addition, this proposal designates money without accountability for its use.
  • The tobacco settlement money, according to Frank Kelley, was designed to reimburse the state for monies already spent on tobacco-related illnesses (more than $5 billion in the last decade alone!). Those that now want this money for their special interest groups never participated with the state in the suit to recover money from the tobacco companies.
  • It eliminates the Michigan Merit Award scholarship program and breaks the state's promise to 250,000 young people who have already passed at least one of the qualifying tests.
  • If Proposal 4 is defeated, the state will continue to spend money from the tobacco settlement on smoking cessation and health programs but, in addition, will have the flexibility to use it for other worthy causes like the Michigan Merit Award program.

I encourage friends of Hope College to vote NO on Proposal 4.

Younger Than I Really Am

It is a pleasure for Martie and me to converse with students over lunch and dinner once each week. Typically, we choose Sunday noon and Wednesday evening to eat with a single student or a small group of students.

Earlier this fall, we asked Jon Sedon and Lindsay Bosak if we could join them for dinner at the Cook Hall cafeteria. We had not met either of them before. Jon is a senior mathematics major from Midland,Mich., and Lindsay is a junior social studies major from Livonia, Mich. Lindsay came to Hope because she wanted to attend a Christian liberal arts college with outstanding academics. She shared Martie's lifetime passion of working with special needs students by volunteering at the Special Education Ministry of Holland-a program that Martie and the late Marcy Vanderwel nurtured for many years in the 1970s and 80s.

Jon and I also had something in common. When I asked Jon who his favorite professor at Hope had been, he unhesitatingly said Professor John Van Iwaarden. When I responded that he was also one of my favorite teachers, he looked at me in utter amazement. I could almost hear him thinking, "How could someone who no longer has bad hair days have the same professor I had?" Simple. I had Professor Van Iwaarden for a course titled "Physics with Calculus" during his first year of teaching at Hope. He enjoyed a distinguished career at Hope spanning 40 years, enabling Jon Sedon to sit under his tutelage during Professor Van Iwaarden's last year at Hope. All of a sudden I felt much younger than I really am!

Inspirational and Uplifting

Martie and I had returned home from a college function at about 10:30 p.m. on a Tuesday evening. When the doorbell rang, I must confess I was less than excited. Shame on me! When I went to the front door, there were about 15 Hope women and men standing on our porch. They were members of the Hope College men's and women's cross-country teams. They asked if they could come in. Of course, I said yes. When they got inside, one of the students said, "We are here to pray for you and the college." We then joined hands together in a circle, and for the next few minutes each person in turn offered a prayer for the college. Hope College students never cease to amaze me! How thoughtful. How refreshing. Our hearts were filled to overflowing with gratitude for their commitment to the power of prayer.

Thank you, too, for your prayers which sustain and nourish us and for the wonderful privilege of working with the talented women and men entrusted to our care.

James E. Bultman, President