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Presidential Update Summer 2003

To Hope College Alumni and Friends:

The past year was filled with many, many significant achievements-both individually as students and faculty and collectively as an institution. For this we were very grateful. There were sufficient successes to affirm us and, alas, enough challenges to keep us appropriately humble! All in all, it was, perhaps, the smoothest academic year I have experienced in 18 years as a college president. This is a tribute to the diligence of our students, the commitments of our faculty and staff, and the wonderful support of so many of you, our cherished friends and alumni. Together, with God's grace and favor, we can make a significant difference for good at this place for which we have so much affection.

Nursing Program

This spring also marked the conclusion of the 20-year joint Hope-Calvin nursing program. We are grateful for those who envisioned and implemented this program and for its success during the past two decades. Both institutions now embark on accredited nursing programs of their own, and we wish for each a rich measure of success in these separate ventures.

For us, we know the nursing program is expensive, primarily because of the low student/faculty ratio for the clinical experience. Yet, given Hope's strength in the sciences, it would seem unconscionable for us to do anything else at a time when our nation faces such a critical shortage of competent nurses. We applaud our nursing faculty and science administration for developing a new program, which holds considerable promise for fulfilling our institutional mission and the needs of our society. Nursing applications for this coming year have increased by more than 100 percent over recent years.


Hope has received an unprecedented number of applications for the fall, totaling nearly 2,500. This represents a more than 25 percent increase over last year and brings with it some interesting challenges. Given the infrastructure at Hope, we are able to accommodate only 3,000 students. Because of this, we are not able to enroll all the qualified students who would like to be at Hope next fall. We currently are over-subscribed and have a waiting list of almost 100 students. Because we have a rolling admissions policy that admits students throughout the year, new meaning is given to the encouragement for prospective students to apply early in their senior year of high school. Thank you for encouraging such talented young women and men to consider Hope for their college education. Enclosed please find a card to share with us your recommendation for the fall of 2004.

Organizational Changes

In order to advance the resources of the college and to further enhance the college's reputation regionally and nationally, I have instituted some organizational changes in the areas of development and college relations.

This organizational shift is a strategic effort that is endorsed by our professional consultant, comes with the advice of many whose recommendations we value, and reflects best practices in higher education nationally. The changes deal specifically with the development of an integrated marketing plan supported by an enhanced public relations effort and an increased emphasis on building a strong base of financial support from our alumni and parents. It is also an acknowledgement of the growing demands on our current staff in the alumni and public relations office who continue to serve the college exceedingly well.

The marketing effort will be led by a yet to be named part-time external staffer/consultant who will report directly to me and engage a broad spectrum of current college personnel to develop and implement an integrated marketing plan. Two major areas that will be addressed are the use of the Web as a marketing tool and our college publications.

In the ensuing weeks, the college will develop the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations within college advancement that will fall under the leadership and supervision of Scott Wolterink, who is being promoted to associate vice president for college advancement. This office will work to actively engage both alumni and parents with the college and serve to strengthen our base of financial support for annual funds and capital campaigns.

In the area of public relations, there will be a name change to the Office of Public and Community Relations to better reflect the scope of work in this area. Lynne Powe, who has served very capably as alumni director, has been promoted to associate director for public and community relations and will assume major responsibilities in public relations and serve as Internet content manager. Greg Olgers, who has served as director of information services in public relations since 1988, will assume the new title of director of news media services and is being promoted from managing editor to editor of news from Hope College. Finally, Tom Renner, who has served the college with distinction for 37 years, will continue to provide leadership for this area with the new title of associate vice president for public and community relations.

Legacies: A Vision of Hope

I know that many of you are eager for the construction of both the Martha Miller Center and the DeVos Fieldhouse. I am too! We continue to work as diligently as we possibly can at securing the necessary resources to meet our preferred timetable of beginning construction in late summer or early fall.

Given the sluggish economy, I'm sure you can appreciate the challenge this presents. I do not have special news to share with you except that we continue to receive major commitments most every week, and our efforts have surpassed the $100 million mark. Still, we remain approximately $4 million short on each of these projects in securing the full funding commitments, which are necessary before beginning construction. Planning on both facilities is virtually complete, and we anticipate going out for bid on both projects in the near future.

Dodging Bullets

In November of last year, the voters in Michigan voted overwhelmingly to allow the State Legislature to determine where the state's tobacco settlement money would be spent. Heretofore, it has been spent on competitive scholarship money for students doing well on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) tests. This defeated ballot initiative would have dictated that the money be spent on a variety of other initiatives. Michigan private higher education dodged a bullet!

But, perhaps, not for long. In her budget proposal to the State Legislature, Governor Jennifer Granholm has proposed rolling all of the current student aid for higher education into a new Michigan Opportunity Scholarships program which would be accessible by all students in the state, not just those attending private higher education institutions. Hope College students would not fare well in this proposal. At risk is the Michigan Tuition Grant program, the competitive scholarship program, the work-study program, the MEAP scholarship program, and the degree reimbursement program. In sum, if the governor's proposal were enacted fully, Hope College students would lose approximately $3 million annually in financial aid. This amount is the equivalent of Hope losing a $60 million scholarship endowment! We are working diligently with our state association and many legislators in trying to avert what would be a decimating blow for private higher education in the State of Michigan.

Of course, we believe that we should take our fair hit in difficult financial times. The governor's proposal, however, would decrease by a whopping 75 percent what already is a microscopic amount of aid for independent college students compared with those attending public institutions.

Hope Students Involved in Service

One of my great joys at Hope is to see the extent of student involvement in service projects of one kind or another. I have previously shared with you the spring service projects. This time, however, I am talking more specifically about the ongoing things that our students do that are of benefit to the larger community. The Dance Marathon is one of these kinds of events, and there are others like the Children's After School Achievement program, Higher Horizons (which is a Big Brother/Big Sister program), and Upward Bound for at-risk high school students. Hope students volunteer for a whole host of nationally recognized organizations through our fraternities and sororities as well as other campus groups.

I cannot compare intergenerationally the extent of student service relative to when I was a student, but I can make a personal assessment. Students today are much more involved in giving of their time than I was. I was simply more selfish. I was concerned about my own academics, my intercollegiate sports, my other co-curricular activities, my fraternity, and my own relationships to give much thought to serving others.

One volunteer service opportunity that students at Hope are intimately involved with is the special education ministry program, which has been conducted at Third Reformed Church in Holland for 35 years. This is a program with which I am familiar because my wife, Martie, and our dear friend, the late Marcy Vanderwel, were involved in the initial stages of leading the various groups, writing the curriculum, and subsequently co-authoring the now internationally popular Friendship Series. The core of this volunteer effort is a one-on-one relationship with a special needs person. During the 35th anniversary celebration this past spring, I found myself in the midst of this interchange which I share with permission:

Hope College student Stephanie J. Ross '04 introduced me to her Friendship Series student Ali. Ali said to me:

Mr. President, I want you to know that I attended the Gathering when you announced that Tim Brown would be returning to the Seminary full-time next year. I could tell you were sad about this, and I was too. And, Mr. President, I want you to know that I come to Hope at other times too. I visited one of your cultural heritage classes. And, Mr. President, I want you to know that there were college girls sitting behind me who were talking during the teacher's presentation. And, Mr. President, another time there were college boys sleeping during the class.

I asked Ali if she thought the president should address these matters, to which she quickly responded, No, I think their mothers ought to do that!

It was a good reminder for me that sometimes the best answers come from places where they are least expected! In the whole scheme of things, who really knows where wisdom resides?

All Sports Teams

For the third year in a row and for the 18th time in the last 24 years, Hope College has won the All-Sports trophy, now called the Commissioner's Cup, for overall sports superiority in the MIAA. We are very proud of this achievement because it represents across-the-board excellence in intercollegiate sport. As proud as we are of these achievements, we are even more proud of the way in which they are achieved-for the conduct of our players and coaches, for the ability to keep sport in perspective, and for the significant lifelong lessons such as teamwork, leadership, and fair play that are learned through sport.

I have often said that sport at Hope represents sport at its finest-sport at a level where disciplined effort is recognized, skillful play is applauded, sportsmanship is integral to competition, defeat is buoyed by hope, and victory is graced by humility.

This e-mail message sent to Coach Brian Morehouse after his team was ousted from the "Sweet 16" of the Division III national tournament was particularly rewarding:

My name is John Furrer, and I had the opportunity to officiate your Division III tournament basketball game against Wilmington, Ohio. While I am sure you are disappointed with the results of your [subsequent] game against Eau Claire, you are to be congratulated for an outstanding season.

The purpose of my message is to comment on one of your players, Amanda Kerkstra. As a basketball official who has averaged working approximately 75 games a year for ten years, only once in my career have I come across a young lady as polite and respectful as Ms. Kerkstra. While I am sure she did not agree with every one of our calls, not once did she question a call or offer any type of criticism. Obviously, having never worked one of your games, I was unaware of her basketball abilities until reading your Web site this morning. It does not surprise me that such an outstanding young lady is also an outstanding basketball player [All-American and Academic All-American 1st teams].

As a father to two young sons and coach to a select baseball team of 11-year-olds, I can only hope that my children and players can show the respect and friendliness towards officials shared by Ms. Kerkstra.


Hope has an excellent record in the receipt of grants. This is especially true in the sciences, where Hope once again has more National Science Foundation (NSF) grants than any other liberal arts college in the country. Such grants are necessary, too, if Hope is to retain its lofty national reputation.

During just this academic year, Hope has been awarded a $2 million Lilly grant for the Theological Exploration of Vocation (principal authors Bill Reynolds, dean for the arts and humanities, and Nancy Miller, dean for the social sciences); an $850,000 Kresge Foundation challenge grant for the new science building addition-if we raise $3.1 million before March 1, 2004, to complete the funding for the addition (principal author Melanie Meengs, director of corporate and foundation relations); a recommended $660,000 grant from NSF for a new accelerator and microprobe in physics (principal author Graham Peaslee, associate professor of chemistry); a recommended $154,000 grant from NSF for biology equipment (principal author Tom Bultman, professor of biology and chair of the department); an Upward Bound grant for $1.8 million (principal author Elizabeth Colburn, director of Upward Bound); and $212,000 from the Clare Boothe Luce Foundation for scholarships for women students in science.

Proud of My College Roommate

Most of you are probably unaware that Jim Bekkering, vice president for admissions, and I were Hope College roommates. This seems improbable in part because Jim has a beautiful head of hair, and I, well, I don't have bad hair days any longer!

We grew up together in Fremont and often worked out together in the summers in preparation for Hope football. I've always admired Jim for his many personal and professional achievements and for his commitment to family, church, and community. My admiration for him grew last week.

I was walking to the office shortly after 7 a.m. just as Jim was heading to the music building. As a very accomplished trumpeter, Jim was ready to practice. I said, "Bekks, you're practicing early today. What's the deal, an upcoming recital?" He replied, "No, I just want to get better." How impressive, I thought. Still wanting to be better today than yesterday and willing to practice to achieve it! A wonderful lesson for all us!

Dean of the Chapel Search

The Dean of the Chapel Search Committee continues to meet on a regular basis. We have concentrated most recently on viable and talented candidates, of whom there are several who we believe could do an excellent job in this capacity.

The Search Committee plans on having conversations with our leading candidates in the next several weeks and bringing before the campus community our top candidate(s) in early fall. Unless something unexpected happens in the next few weeks, this means that we will begin the fall without a dean of the chapel. While this would not be my preference, I have little anxiety about it because of the size and competence of our campus ministries staff. They are fully capable of maintaining our current efforts until a dean of the chapel is selected.

We are unequivocally committed to selecting the best person as opposed to filling the position to meet some arbitrary deadline. In the meantime, we ask for your continued prayers and the sharing of any suggestions or concerns you may have.

Proud of Our Graduates

With permission, I share a heartwarming story. Dr. Kenneth Brown, one of our outstanding young chemistry professors, brought his ailing mother to Holland to live with his family. When he took her to his doctor to determine the cause of her ill health, the doctor sensed that her challenges went beyond the physical. Ken's physician ascertained that the best course of action, in addition to the medication, was to convey peace and comfort and reassurance, so he extended the appointment through his lunch hour praying and reading comforting scriptural passages with her in his office. So uplifted was she that there was a discernable and favorable change in her condition. The medical doctor was Peter Vance '90. I cite this as but one example of the efforts of so many of our graduates in so many fields who go beyond the routine to exceptionality in their performance.

We really are very proud of all of you. Your lives as graduates are the best and really only testimony to the worth of a Hope education.

James E. Bultman, President