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Presidential Update Spring 2004

To Hope College Alumni, Parents, and Friends:

Dean of the Chapel

Many of you have been eager to learn who the next dean of the chapel will be at Hope College. Our search has ended, and I am very pleased to share with you that the Rev. Trygve D. Johnson will begin his appointment at Hope in January 2005. In the interim, Trygve will be working toward the completion of his doctorate in theology with emphasis on homiletics (preaching) and imagination at St. Andrews University in Scotland.

The search committee, which I chaired, engaged in a thorough national search and recommended the hiring of the Rev. Johnson. I accepted this recommendation and sought the approval of our Trustees, who enthusiastically endorsed his appointment.

Interestingly, I have been searching for a dean of the chapel since 1999. My first search led to the hiring Trygve as chaplain at Northwestern College. He was my last appointment before leaving Northwestern to assume the presidency at Hope. In a sense, I have hired Trygve twice but have yet to work a single day with him! I am eager to do so.

Trygve is a product of the Reformed Church in America, having grown up in First Reformed Church of Oak Harbor, Wash., graduated summa cum laude from Northwestern College with a Bachelor of Arts in history, and received his Master of Divinity at Western Theological Seminary. He has held internships at Third Reformed Church in Holland, Mich., Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Mass., and the chaplain’s office at Hope College. He was chaplain and adjunct professor at Northwestern for three years before embarking on his doctoral studies at St. Andrews. The committee was looking for a person with the mind of a scholar, the heart of a pastor, and the courage of a leader. I am confident that we have found such a person.

Trygve’s wife, Kristen, is also completing her doctoral studies in theology at St. Andrews University. We welcome both of them to our community.

Library Award

Last year Hope received a very prestigious ranking in the U.S. News and World Report college guide for having the fourth-best undergraduate program in research and creative activity, behind only the University of Michigan, MIT, and Stanford. An award of similar significance was bestowed this past month on the Gordon and Margaret Van Wylen Library at Hope. The Association of College and Research Libraries selected Hope as the recipient of its 2004 “Excellence in Academic Libraries Award.” The ACRL honors one college library, one community college library, and one university library each year. Three of the last five recipients of the college award have been from the Great Lakes Colleges Association, an academic consortium of 12 prestigious liberal arts colleges of which Hope is a member.

This is a special national tribute to longtime Hope library director David Jensen and his staff for their service to students, faculty, staff, and the local community.

Each Person is Gifted

On a very cold Sunday evening in January, Martie and I were walking to the Gathering when we noticed steam rising from the basement of Graves Hall. There was little doubt that this was not normal. As I ran to report the problem, I noticed that Dave DuBois of our physical plant staff was already there. He had been alerted by our computer system that all was not well in the boiler room at Graves. I watched him carefully open the basement door and walk into the boiler room, only to retreat because of the extreme heat. He simply said on his way out, “I know what the problem is. I’ll have it fixed soon.” I had no clue what was the matter, but Dave did. And, he had it fixed promptly.

This incident was a good reminder for me that God has created all of us with different gifts and abilities. I could never do what Dave does. Nor, in fact, could I do what most people do on campus. Each student, faculty, and staff member has special gifts that together make a place like Hope function so well. The older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the more I realize how important are the contributions made by all of us in God’s kingdom.

Intercollegiate Sport

After the winter sport season, Hope once again leads the Commissioner’s Cup race for sports supremacy in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Hope has won championships this year in football, golf, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s swimming, and men’s basketball.

The men’s Hope-Calvin basketball games have been telecast in western Michigan for many years. For the last five years, there have been satellite broadcasts throughout the country where Hope and Calvin alumni gather together. This year it was Hope’s turn to present the television halftime show, which I was grateful to host. Interspersed with my comments were campus scenes—showing students in laboratories, classrooms, and other campus activities. The text of my halftime talk is as follows:

This is a very exciting time to be at Hope. Martie and I feel so privileged to be able to serve our alma mater during this important time in her history. To partner with so many talented colleagues, alumni, and friends in this endeavor is very special.

Hope’s mission is to deliver an exceptional educational experience in a caring, Christian environment. My personal passion, shared by so many, is for Hope to be at the same time exceptional academically and vibrantly Christian. By God’s grace and diligent effort, we are able to achieve this.

Thank you for entrusting to us your sons and daughters. Enrollment at Hope is at an all-time high, and the caliber of students is truly outstanding. I once asked Jeremy Brieve, our Student Congress president, what he liked best about Hope. Without hesitation he replied, “I love Hope because I’m surrounded by so many talented people who build me up and make me better than I otherwise would be.”

To prospective students, I can say with integrity—if you want to be part of a grand tradition, with excellence in academics, superiority in co-curricular activities, and exceptionality in Christian faith and character development—come to Hope. Hope College—a place to learn, a place to grow, a place to love, a place to become all that God intends for you to be. Hope will positively influence your life for time and eternity.

Thank you, too, for being a financial partner with the college through your annual, campaign, and estate plan gifts. Our current capital campaign, Legacies: A Vision of Hope, is nearing its completion with every indication that we will exceed our goal of $105 million. Major initiatives include endowment for student scholarships, the new Science Center occupied this past fall, campus development including especially the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication, and the DeVos Fieldhouse for intercollegiate sport. We build buildings so that students and faculty are able to perform at the very highest levels.

The science facility, for example, will enable Hope to retain its very lofty reputation in undergraduate science. Last year Hope was ranked fourth in the nation among all colleges and universities for the quality of its often-replicated collaborative programs in undergraduate research and creative activity. Historically, Hope receives more National Science Foundation grants than any other liberal arts college in the country. Likewise, the DeVos Fieldhouse will be built so that Hope will never, ever lose to Calvin again!!

Finally, I want to thank you for uplifting the college in your prayers. The challenges for private higher education are real. But, we are confident of the future because of God’s blessings in the past and the wonderful support received from those who love Hope.

A brief word about the game. Hope-Calvin basketball is one of the great rivalries in all of intercollegiate sport. I hope that by now we are far ahead, but even a single point at the end of the game will do!

We cherish the opportunity to compete with Calvin College—an institution we hold in such very high esteem. This is intercollegiate sport at its finest—sport 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. May it ever be so for participants and spectators alike!

I’m so pleased that Hope won this game!!

That’s What Hope Professors Do

Our only grandson’s name is Joe Bultman, the same as my father’s. Joe is now three years old and loves sports of all kinds, especially baseball. It was no surprise during this past Christmas season, when visiting his maternal grandparents in Iowa, that Joe wanted to go to the local park to run the bases on a balmy December day. When his parents looked up from watching Joe’s two-year-old sister, Jennaka, they discovered that Joe had exercised a headfirst slide into the mud at home plate. Our son Matt’s initial question to him was, “What are you doing, Joe?” To which he replied, “That’s what ball players do!”

Hope professors are similarly expected to do certain things. And, I am so pleased with the commitment with which they do them. Our expectation is that they will teach at the cutting edge of their disciplines while bringing a Christian perspective to their classrooms. We expect that they will do superb scholarship, oftentimes competing with scholars of institutions large and small across the country for research dollars involving collaborative work with students. Finally, we expect that they will care for students, treating them as individuals with gifts to be nurtured and developed.

This is the heart of what we do at Hope. It brings purpose and meaning to our work. I am so pleased with those who teach, with those who learn, and with those who facilitate the critical interface between teaching and learning.

Coaching Award

Hope College alumnus Ron Schipper ’52 recently received one of the most prestigious awards in all of sport. Coach Schipper was the recipient of the “Amos Alonzo Stagg Award” for his remarkable coaching career at Central College in Pella, Iowa. The award honors those “whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football.” Ron coached football for 36 years, won two national championships, and was cited for his unwavering commitment to the development of young men who would make their mark for good in family, church, and community.

Other recipients of this award include coaching legends Paul W. “Bear” Bryant (Alabama), Woody Hayes (Ohio State), and Bo Schembechler (University of Michigan). Certainly Ron Schipper has joined one of the most elite groups of coaches in the history of intercollegiate sport.

This award reminded me of how fortunate the three RCA affiliated colleges have been in what most certainly would be termed a golden era of football for these institutions. The coaching careers of Ron Schipper at Central, Ray Smith at Hope, and Larry Korver at Northwestern paralleled each other. For 25 years, Ray Smith guided the football fortunes of the Hope College Flying Dutchmen and became the winningest coach in the history of the MIAA, America’s oldest athletic conference. No one else is even close. During that time, Ray’s teams won nine conference championships. During the same period of time, Larry Korver compiled a record of 212-77-6 while coaching the Northwestern College Red Raiders to two national championships in Division II of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

As exceptional as the records of these three men have been, I suspect that every player and coach from their teams would say they are even better human beings. Their concern for the development of the whole person—mind, body, and spirit—marked each of their careers.

On a related note, while attending the NCAA convention this past January in Nashville, Tenn., I attended the awards dinner. It was a very emotional evening filled with acceptance speeches by award recipients. As I thumbed through the program, I noted with considerable pride the names of three Hope College alums. Dr. Donald G. Mulder ’48 was one of the initial five silver anniversary award recipients in 1973 for his exceptional medical career during the 25 years since he starred in basketball and baseball at Hope College. Also, Dr. Fredrick A. Yonkman ’52 was listed as a silver anniversary recipient in 1977 for his distinguished career in the intervening 25 years since he starred in football at Hope. Finally, Dr. Kenneth J. Weller ’48 was the first chair of the Division III Presidents’ Council, serving during his distinguished 22-year career as president of Central College. Ken was an athlete and coach at Hope, and also served as professor and chair of the department of business and economics and assistant to President Irwin J. Lubbers ’17 before assuming the presidency of Central in 1972.

Here We Go Again

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has once again taken aim at the Michigan Tuition Grant—the primary resource for needy students attending independent colleges in Michigan—as a cost-cutting measure in these difficult economic times in the state. You will recall that the Michigan Tuition Grant and other aids for students attending private colleges were also under the knife just one year ago.

More than 1,000 Hope students are recipients of this award and in total receive approximately $1.25 million in aid each year. You can be sure that we will be fighting the elimination of this program through the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan and our friends in the Michigan Legislature.

When Gov. Granholm proposed eliminating this and other aids to private college students a year ago, I thought perhaps she had received bad advice from her advisors. Now I realize that she is philosophically opposed to any public aid for students attending private colleges. Michigan students attending private colleges, of course, save the state enormous sums of money each year because public education for all students—needy or not—is so heavily subsidized by the state. States offer tuition grants to students in part to stem the “brain drain” of their students going to private colleges in other states, where the tendency is to remain upon graduation. Once again we are prepared to pour an enormous amount of energy into saving this program.


This concluding story I share with permission. Earlier this year during a luncheon date with Ronald ’64 and Barb Hartgerink, Barb shared with me a very meaningful story which I suspect will touch you as much as it did me. The experience led their son, Kevin, to say that, “The people at Hope believed in me long before I believed in myself.”

During his early college experience, Kevin lacked confidence in himself, his ability, and his future. As a concerned mother, Barb called Kevins’s advisor, Professor Herb Dershem, and asked for his assistance. Herb’s response was, “As I begin each day of teaching, I pray for each student that I will teach that day by name. Now I’ll know specifically what to pray for in Kevin’s case.” The story, of course, has a wonderful ending. Kevin graduated from Hope in 1998 and is now a highly successful professional in the field of computer science.

Join me in expecting the exceptional at Hope. Together, by God’s grace and with diligent effort, we can make a big difference!

James E. Bultman, President