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Presidential Update Spring 2006

To Hope College Alumni, Parents and Friends:

We are entering the last segment of the 2005-06 academic year. Mid-term exams for the second semester are over, the winter sports season has transitioned to the spring, and the long-anticipated spring break for students has ended. What remains are a host of student activities, the academic work that students now wish they had done before, and the days of accountability for what was supposed to have been learned during this semester. It is a very enjoyable and busy time of the year.

We Are the Champions!

For the second time in the history of the college, Hope has won an NCAA team championship. Sixteen years after winning the Division III national women’s basketball title, this year’s Flying Dutch did it again! It was a stunning season for the Flying Dutch as they lost but a single game against 33 wins, captured the MIAA regular season and tournament championships, and won six consecutive games—all on the road—to win the national title.

There are several things about this very special team that are noteworthy: 1) they played hard every minute of every game; 2) they played with great enthusiasm; and 3) they played together. There seemingly were no egos involved, and I sincerely thought that they felt playing basketball for Hope College was a privilege, not an entitlement. En route to their championship, Hope had to defeat the number one-, two-, three-, and four-ranked teams in the nation. That they did it with such determination and class is a tribute to all of them and their coaches. In the process, Brian Morehouse, who has coached the Flying Dutch for the past ten years, was named the Division III coach of the year, and senior guard Bria Ebels was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player. It was a season of unforgettable moments—a Cinderella story, really.

But, every Cinderella story also has a human interest story to complement it. This team was no exception. When faced with the NCAA rule of dressing only 15 women for the tournament, Coach Morehouse was left with a difficult decision as to which one of his 16 players he would have to eliminate from the playing squad. Personifying the old adage that “team has no I in it,” junior Becky Bosserd, an excellent player, stepped forward and volunteered to be the one not to dress. It was a very unselfish act that was recognized when Coach Morehouse called her out to accept the national championship trophy with the three co-captains.

The men’s basketball team also enjoyed an exceptional year closing the season with a 28-3 record, winning the MIAA tournament, and advancing to the sectionals of the national tournament before losing to Wittenberg—the eventual Division III runner-up. The men, under Coach Glenn Van Wieren, who is the eighth winningest active coach in Division III, avenged their only losses of the regular season by defeating Calvin three out of four games and Albion two out of three games.

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams were undefeated in our new DeVos Fieldhouse, keeping their “promise” to the president (at least that’s the way I interpreted it) of never losing in the new arena!

Vice President for Admissions James Bekkering to Retire

It is with very mixed emotions that I share with you the announcement that Dr. James R. Bekkering, vice president for admissions, will be retiring at the end of this academic year. On the one hand, I am very happy for Jim and his wife, Lynne, that they are able to transition to a less stressful next phase of their lives at their home in northern Michigan. They will leave Hope and Holland with our very best wishes.

On the other hand, this is a significant loss for Hope College. Jim has held the very challenging position of chief admissions officer for the past quarter century. His influence on Hope is considerable and lasting. Everyone wants to make a difference. Jim Bekkering has done it throughout his distinguished career at Hope.

This is a loss for me both professionally and personally. Jim and I grew up in Fremont, Mich., about two blocks from each other. We played high school and college football together and spent innumerable hours with each other in summer conditioning and practice. During Jim’s first two years and my last two years at Hope, we were college roommates. He is a great friend and cherished colleague. One of the joys of returning to Hope was the opportunity to work with Jim once again.

I continually receive comments from parents and students that Hope does a better job of recruiting than any of the other colleges they are considering. Jim has developed a wonderfully productive team in admissions, but he would be the first to say that our admissions successes are because of our faculty and staff across the campus. This is, of course, true, but Jim is the leader. His stabilizing and consistent administrative effort has contributed significantly to our successful enrollment patterns. In the last five years, we have doubled our minority enrollment from five percent to ten percent of the incoming class. During that same period, we have increased our geographical diversity by reducing the number of Michigan students from three-fourths to two-thirds of the freshman class. The academic profile for incoming freshmen has increased to an ACT average of 26-plus, and we have been able during the last three years to better shape the incoming classes because of an increased number of applications.

There are many reasons for Jim’s success. Certainly among them are his passion for Hope; his ability to articulate our mission in compelling ways; his stature within the church as a Christian leader; his credibility with musicians as a performer; and his identification with student-athletes because he excelled as a student-athlete himself.

Two Graduates Serving Our Country

On Dec. 2, 2005, Hope’s mid-year graduates were recognized. There were many in this group, but two of them had prepared for a unique next step.

Steven R. Haack graduated with a degree in communication, and David R. Pate graduated having majored in political science. On Feb. 4, 2006, Steven was commissioned in Dimnent Chapel as a first lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. On Jan. 4, 2006, Capt. David Pate reported back to the United States Army Intelligence, after an 18-month leave of absence to finish his degree (Hope was strongly recommended by David’s commanding officer). Both officers clearly articulated that what they learned at Hope has prepared them for the extremely complex world in which they will be expected to make sound and ethical decisions, critically evaluate strategic, cultural, and military objectives, and provide servant-leadership for the personnel under their command. Perhaps of even greater importance is that both Steven and David stated that their faith has grown and matured, empowering them to do their assignments, knowing that God has planned their journey and will always be with them.

For all of us, the past three years of war in Iraq have been sobering. Lt. Haack has been ordered to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to begin his preparation for deployment. Capt. Pate is now deployed with an Iraqi battalion in one of the most dangerous theaters of the war. In early February, prior to being deployed, David flew back to Holland to give thanks again to the faculty, the campus ministries group, and the college as a whole for preparing his heart and his mind for this assignment. While Hope has sent other individuals into the military, the reality of events taking place half a world away was brought much closer through these men.

Please keep these individuals, as well as other members of the Hope College family who are serving our country, in your thoughts and prayers.


Enrollment for next year looks very strong. We are matching almost exactly the number of applications, acceptances, and deposits from our record-breaking last year. To date, we have received 2,613 applications for the 780 freshman openings for next fall.

We feel very blessed to have this kind of interest in the Hope experience. We do not take it for granted. Rather, we are grateful for the reputation of Hope, the dedication of faculty and staff, and the positive messages shared about Hope through our alumni and current students. Indeed, the Hope package of intellectual, spiritual, social, and physical development continues to be a much sought after undergraduate experience.

Comprehensive Plan and Strategic Plan

During this academic year, many groups and individuals have been thinking about and planning for Hope’s future. The overall strategic plan is nearing completion and will incorporate an evaluation of our current Comprehensive Plan to Improve Minority Participation at Hope. We believe that Hope should be a great experience for every member of our community. Our strong desire is to do this well so that persons of color become part of the fabric of Hope without sacrificing their own cultural identities.

We recognize that creating and maintaining such a community is a sometimes difficult, oftentimes costly, process. We have every intention and resolve of doing this well because of both educational and Christian mandates. Although we have made considerable progress on many of the initiatives in our Comprehensive Plan, much work remains to be done, and we, therefore, anticipate an even more concerted effort in the future.

The strategic plan will likely be more of a continuing dialogue and process than a completed document. There are several major initiatives in the plan, not the least of which is an effort to increase our endowment substantially. This is the one area where Hope does not compare favorably with our benchmark groups and an area where we lag in national comparisons, where endowment correlates very nearly with reputation. It is our goal to accept the strategic plan this spring, to initiate immediately its implementation, and to think strategically on a continual basis.

Capital Improvements

The campus continues to be alive with construction activity. A 66-bed addition to Cook Hall is nearing completion for the fall semester. This will replace some cottages and provide more flexibility in our student housing. During the summer, Lubbers Hall will get a modest renovation, upgrading offices and classrooms.

Most Days Are Good

I am often asked by a variety of people how the year is going. My usual answer is that “most days are good!” In actuality, there are so many joys in my work and so few disappointments. Martie and I often give thanks to Almighty God for His goodness and grace to us and the Hope College community.

So, what does bring joy?

  • seeing students achieve at the highest levels in their academic coursework;
  • observing the outstanding performances of Hope students in the arts and intercollegiate sport;
  • celebrating the frequent publications and grant awards of faculty, which so often involve collaborative work with our students;
  • receiving generous, even sacrificial, gifts from our faithful donors;
  • seeing Dimnent Chapel filled to overflowing with students, faculty, staff, and community members fours days every week;
  • being on a beautiful campus with its natural beauty and combination of new buildings and well-maintained historical facilities;
  • fulfilling our mission of being at the same time exceptional educationally and vibrantly Christian; and
  • simply being in the presence of so many talented young women and men whose lives are marked by a desire to glorify God and serve humankind.

So, if these are the joys, what are the disappointments? They are few, actually. Probably my biggest disappointment is seeing the occasional student with so much ability squander his or her privileged opportunity to do well. Another would be alumni who profess their gratitude for a Hope education, acknowledge the assistance they have been given by others, but seem unwilling to contribute financially as they are able.

Every student who has ever attended Hope has been the recipient of the generosity of others. No student—even those who pay the full sticker price—pays the true cost of their education. It is always subsidized by friends and alumni whose gifts help keep a Hope education affordable. In addition, most students receive additional institutional support (current average of $9,000 per year) in the form of scholarships. In my circles of feedback, there is overwhelming appreciation for the Hope College experience, but there is not always overwhelming alumni support to our annual Hope Fund.

The most reputable and highly nationally ranked institutions have alumni support at the approximate 60 percent level. Hope’s is less than half that. I am convinced that we will never be ranked as highly as we should be unless a larger percentage of our alumni contribute to the Hope Fund. It is most important that young alums establish the practice of joyful giving. No gift is too small; even small amounts are crucially important to increasing our percentage. We have never expected alumni to contribute more than they might reasonably be able. But, in order to continue to offer the kind of Hope College education that our constituency has come to expect, it will be necessary for a much larger percentage to become contributors to the college. You know it as that special “intergenerational thing,” where a previous generation makes it possible for a succeeding generation to attend Hope. It has always been that way and will continue to be so in the future.

We need you to make a difference before the fiscal year ends on June 30. I hope I can count on many of you who read this Update to begin and/or increase your support to Hope so that a current generation can be the recipients of your generosity, even as you were supported by those who preceded you at Hope.

I invite you to consider sending a gift to The Hope Fund, Hope College, PO Box 9000, Holland MI 49422-9000. You may also give on-line by visiting the Hope Fund website – www.hope.edu/hopefund.

Challenges Are Real and Considerable

I’m sure you are aware of the challenges faced by American higher education today. Long considered to offer the world’s best higher education, our nation’s colleges and universities are being scrutinized more than ever before. Curricular relevance and rigor, as well as cost containment and sustainability, are being evaluated in light of increasing international competition. All of this is occurring even as federal and state support is declining and the cost of insurance and energy is increasing.

Never before has a Hope College education, with its emphasis on intellectual, spiritual, social, and physical development, been as important to our country as it is today.

But, “The Best is Yet to Come!” Thank you for your friendship and support. Both are cherished.

James E. Bultman, President