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Presidential Update Summer 2005

To Hope College Alumni, Friends and Parents:

It has been too long since I last communicated with you. This is my fault, and I apologize for it. There is much to share.


Hope is enjoying another banner year in admissions. We currently have 2,670 applications—more than ever before—for 780 freshman spots. We are encouraged that so many students and their families are interested in the Hope experience. In addition to the large number of applications, we have also seen our highest retention rates ever from spring ’04 to fall ’04 and from fall ’04 to spring ’05. This combination has caused several new challenges for us.

For the second consecutive year, we have had to turn away students who were traditionally accepted at Hope. There simply is no room. The trustees have appropriately set a cap on the enrollment at 3,000 fulltime equivalent students for the fall semester, which reflects the existing infrastructure that allows for an exceptional undergraduate experience. On the one hand, this enrollment crunch enables Hope to be more selective and, therefore, more like other nationally reputable institutions. On the other hand, it hurts to deny admission to qualified students who could benefit from the Hope experience. This policy will be reviewed during our current strategic thinking process.

We are very grateful for those of you who recommend Hope to prospective students, for faculty and staff who meet with students and their families on visitation days, and for an admissions staff that functions so well under the leadership of Vice President James Bekkering '65. Enclosed please find a card to share with us your recommendations for the fall of 2006.


The college currently is engaged in a strategic thinking process that will hopefully set the agenda for the next five-year period at Hope. Ten committees with more than 100 participants, including faculty, staff, students, trustees, and friends of Hope, are considering a broad range of topics that will position the college for success in the years ahead. This is an exciting process that will look carefully at the challenges and opportunities we face as an institution together with plans for making Hope the exceptional place that students and their families have come to expect. We look forward to the future with confidence and enthusiasm for the marvelous ways that God will yet bless this institution.

Even as we plan for the future, we are engaged in an integrated marketing process that will enable the college to send consistent and unified messages about the worth of a Hope College education. While we are not interested in purporting to be more than we are, neither are we interested in conveying less. A consistent, accurate, and forthright message about the college is what we strive to deliver.


With 547 full-time and 186 part-time employees, personnel transitions at Hope are ever present. The effort to hire the best faculty and staff for Hope is ongoing and consumes a great deal of time, energy, and resources on an almost daily basis.


Four longtime faculty members retired from Hope this spring. Their combined record of service totaled 104 years.

  • Hersilia Alvarez-Ruf – Professor Alvarez-Ruf taught Spanish at Hope since 1984. In 1994, she was selected by the graduating class for the “Hope Outstanding Professor Educator” (HOPE) award. In 1996, the student body presented her with the inaugural Homecoming “Favorite Faculty/Staff Member” award.

  • George C. Kraft – Since 1967, Professor Kraft served the department of kinesiology as professor and coach. He coached wrestling from 1967 to 1978 and was an assistant football coach from 1967 to 1997. He was the initial director of the Dow Center and served as department chair from 1988 to 2003.

  • Stuart Sharp – Professor Sharp was a member of the department of music since 1975. He served as department chair for 15 years and was active in a leadership role with several state and national music associations.

  • Leslie Wessman – Professor Wessman was the “Arnold and Esther Sonneveldt Professor of Education” and taught at Hope since 1990, serving as chair since 1996. Her interest in brain research and its implications for learning led her to establish the annual “Midwest Brain and Learning Institute,” a weeklong summer conference held at Hope that has drawn educators from around the country. She received the “Ruth and John Reed Faculty Achievement Award” this past January.

    In addition, William K. Anderson, who served the college faithfully and well for nearly four decades as chief fiscal officer, has retired. It is not coincidental that during Bill’s tenure at Hope the college never failed to achieve a balanced budget. For the past three years, Bill assumed two major roles as senior vice president for finance and advancement. It gave the trustees great pleasure to name the 100 E. 8th St. building the “Anderson-Werkman Financial Center” in honor of Bill and his longtime colleague Barry Werkman (37 years at Hope and still counting!).

    Finally, Katherine Mervau, administrative assistant to the president, has retired after providing dedicated service to the college since 1980. For the past 17 years, Kathy was the administrative assistant for the late President Emeritus John H. Jacobson and me.


    Scott Wolterink ’88 – Scott has been promoted from associate vice president for college advancement to vice president for college advancement. Scott assumed his new assignment effective March 1. We look forward with eager anticipation to his leadership of the overall fund raising and promotional activities at the college.

    Thomas Bylsma ’86 – Tom became vice president and chief fiscal officer on July 1. He was the unanimous choice of the Search Committee following a national search. Tom has served as a certified public accountant and since 1990 had been at Freedom Village of Holland, serving as executive director there since 1999. Tom is passionate about Hope, and we are confident of his ability to lead the college in this important area.

    Trygve D. Johnson – Reverend Johnson assumed the position of dean of the chapel effective January 1. Trygve is a product of the Reformed Church in America and the Oak Harbor Reformed Church in Washington. He graduated from Northwestern College in Iowa and, after his education at Western Theological Seminary, returned to Northwestern as chaplain. He is in the midst of completing his dissertation and doctorate from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Trygve has already connected well with the campus community, and we look forward to his leadership of our spiritual life program.

    Yes, it is true that there is a bit of a youth movement at the senior administrative level at Hope. Retirements of career-long administrators have necessitated several recent appointments. Youth does not scare me. In fact, it invigorates me. I am very confident of the ability of a younger generation to begin assuming more responsibility at the college, even as a now-retiring group did a generation ago.

    Finally, the deaths of several people important to me personally and to the life of Hope College have been sobering. The passing of my beloved mother, Dorothy L. Bultman, President Emeritus John H. Jacobson, distinguished professors Alvin W. Vanderbush '29 and Lambert J. Ponstein '48, and most recently Phyllis J. Vandervelde have weighed heavily on me and the campus community who were so positively influenced by their lives and witness.


    Interest is very high as we near completion of the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication. This building, named in honor of the late Martha Miller, will serve the departments of communication, modern and classical languages, multicultural life, and international education—four space-needy departments that have long lacked adequate facilities. This is a spectacular building on the corner of Columbia Avenue and 10th Street (the former Lincoln School site) and will create considerable synergy among the departments. The departments will move in on August 1.

    The Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse, though not quite as far along, will be ready for the 2005-06 basketball season, which will mark the second century of Hope basketball. It, too, is a magnificent building and will showcase Hope’s athletic program well. For the 20th time in the last 26 years, Hope captured the “Commissioner’s Cup” for overall sports supremacy in the MIAA. Also, for the third consecutive year and the seventh time in school history, Hope led the nation in Division III men’s basketball attendance. Prior to the 2005-06 basketball season, ESPN will feature the ten top national basketball rivalries; Hope-Calvin is one of those that will be highlighted.

    With the completion of these buildings and the earlier opening of the Science Center, a major transformation of the Hope campus will have occurred. I invite you to visit the campus to see firsthand the fruits of your investment in Hope. The Legacies: A Vision of Hope comprehensive campaign has now been completed with commitments totaling $140 million, which is an extraordinary achievement especially because most of the campaign occurred during an economic recession. Gifts more than doubled the amount raised in Hope’s last capital campaign and far exceeded the original goal of $78 million which our fund raising consultant thought “might” be possible. For your generosity in funding these buildings, restoring others, and growing the college’s endowment for student scholarships, we thank you. All gifts, both large and small, were necessary for an undertaking of this magnitude. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) has recognized the tremendous support as well with a recent award placing Hope among an exceptional group of colleges, universities, and independent schools in its Circle of Excellence for overall performance in fund raising efforts over the past three years. Earlier this year, an AP dispatch listed Hope fourth in gift income among all Michigan colleges and universities in 2004. Only the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Western Michigan University exceeded Hope’s record amount of $23,308,212. Thank you!


    In May of 1998, the Board of Trustees adopted a diversity initiative titled "A Comprehensive Plan to Improve Minority Participation at Hope." The purpose of the plan is "to increase minority participation at Hope and to enable the college to be a fully welcoming and embracing environment for students, faculty and staff of color." Clearly the college has made significant progress in this area, but less progress than we would like. As the college opens the doors to a new facility that highlights our commitment to racial, ethnic and geographic diversity and to global understanding, it is appropriate that we thoroughly evaluate the plan. At the urging of faculty and with approval from the trustees, a broadly representative committee will review the comprehensive plan during the fall semester.


    Hope provides outstanding facilities so that students and faculty have the environment to perform at the very highest levels. There are so many marvelous achievements. Publications, research grants, and fellowships proliferate in unprecedented numbers. Permit me to mention a few very special recognitions:

  • Dr. Donald Cronkite, professor of biology, was named “College Teacher of the Year” by the Michigan Science Teachers Association.

  • Dr. Thomas Ludwig, professor of psychology, was the 2005 recipient of the “Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award" presented by the American Psychological Foundation.

  • Dr. Joanne Stewart, professor of chemistry, was named a 2005-06 “Carnegie Scholar” by the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning. Only twenty-one such awards were given nationwide.

  • Dr. R. Richard Ray, professor of kinesiology, received the “Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award" from the National Athletic Trainers' Association, the highest award given by the association.

  • Graduating senior Jill Pinter, a chemistry and physics double major (women scientists are alive and well at Hope!), was the recipient of a prestigious National Science Foundation fellowship, paying $40,500 annually for up to three years of study toward the doctorate in science.

  • In recent days, Octavia Reese '05 was crowned Miss Michigan! Representing Detroit's Wayne County, Octavia will delay her teaching fellowship for a year in France to fulfill her new responsibilities. Octavia double majored in classical studies and French at Hope, and will display her talent as a cellist when she competes for the Miss America title later this year.

    But, students, faculty, and staff do more than study. They also serve! Vicki Weaver, president of the DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation, said in a recent note to me that, “Hope students are amazing! What energy, commitment and leadership! I hope you are as proud as we are of your students and their caring love for ill and injured children at DeVos Children’s Hospital. Please know that through their efforts more young lives are being saved and changed.” Hope students, under the direction of Diana Breclaw, assistant dean of students, raised $103,000 for the hospital during this year’s Dance Marathon.


    I receive many letters in any given day. Most are complimentary about the Hope experience. This one especially, from Hope parent Bob Chase, touched my heart, and I share it with permission.

    Dear Dr. Bultman,

    We have just arrived home after experiencing our oldest daughter’s (Kari) graduation from Hope. The four years have passed quickly and Kari left Hope a better person than she entered. I remember when we were in the new student/parent orientation almost four years ago. My wife and I were sitting in the back row of an auditorium listening to a program. I was excited for Kari, and also scared for her and so sad about her going. You came up behind me, put your hand on my shoulder, and said, “We’ll take good care of her for you.” You will never know what that meant to me, and you kept your promise!

    We are profoundly grateful to you and the entire Hope family for these years and look forward to another four with our youngest daughter, Karin, who will start at Hope this fall (she wants to be a nurse). Sorry, but the middle daughter went to Calvin!

    Oops! We don’t win them all!

    James E. Bultman, President