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Presidential Update Winter 2007

To Hope College Alumni, Parents, and Friends:

The spring semester is here! The campus is again alive with our students newly returned from Christmas vacation. There is every expectation that a very good first semester will continue into the second!

The fall semester began with a record enrollment of 3,203 students. It was the third consecutive year that we have had many more students apply than we were able to accommodate. We are very grateful for this strong interest in a Hope College education.

Of course, there were also the traditional Hope events, including the Pull and Nykerk Cup (both won by the sophomores), Homecoming, Parents’ Weekend, and Christmas Vespers. Sprinkled in between were numerous Chapel and Gathering services, athletic contests, concerts, plays, exhibits, recitals, and lecture series. The college calendar is full—so many opportunities for the Hope and West Michigan communities to engage in meaningful activities. In the midst of all of this, students are expected to attend class approximately 15 to 20 hours per week and study another 25 to 30 hours per week—a nice 40- to 50-hour workweek!

Hope is a great place. It is why I so often hear students exclaim, “I just love Hope!”

It’s Easy . . .

For many, adjusting to college life is relatively easy. Students meet the challenges of greater class expectations, make friends easily, are healthy and happy, receive encouragement from home, are grounded in their faith, know what they want to do in the future, have sufficient resources to enable them to be full-time college students, and have a lot of fun. It’s a great time of life when one is relatively unencumbered with many responsibilities that most certainly will come in due time.

For some students, however, just the opposite is true. For them, college is not easy. Rather, it is a constant struggle to achieve and be successful. Fortunately, at Hope we have the personnel and resources to assist students at this crucial time in their lives. On a regular basis I hear remarkable stories of perseverance that enable students to achieve despite considerable odds. Many of you reading this Presidential Update have assisted in this regard with encouragement and resources. Thank you for all you do to make a Hope College education possible for so many deserving students for whom it might otherwise be impossible.

Likewise, it may seem easy to be a college professor—professional status, a nice office, good benefits and pay, nice vacations, and, as some say, no heavy lifting! I think it is fairly easy to be a college professor—if your goal is to be mediocre. Fortunately, I do not see professors at Hope for whom mediocrity is the goal. To be exceptional as a teacher, scholar, and in service to the college can be very consuming. It is this interface between faculty and students which all the rest of us at Hope try to facilitate on a daily basis. It is the reason Hope exists—to make a difference in the life of each student who chooses to attend here.

At this time of the year we are recruiting both students and faculty. We are looking for students who want to be at a place like Hope, have the academic skills to be successful here, and are motivated to achieve in the classroom and often in co-curricular activities. We are also in the midst of many faculty searches that will determine the composition of our faculty for years to come. This is an assignment that our department chairs, academic deans, Provost Jim Boelkins, and I take very seriously. Dr. Boelkins and I interview every faculty candidate. We are looking especially for colleagues who want to be at a college like Hope, are skilled in and passionate about teaching, have a desire for continuing scholarship, and have an understanding of and commitment to the Christian faith. Fortunately, there is no dearth of such candidates.

Leadership Is Important

I feel so very privileged to work on a daily basis with the senior administrative team. In any given day, many important decisions are made at Hope by these individuals. We meet weekly to give counsel to each other so that these decisions can be wise, fair, and in keeping with our mission.

In the relatively brief time that I have served Hope as president, there have been numerous retirements from the administrative team. Recently, I received verification from Mr. Barry Werkman ’64, our vice president for finance, that he will retire at the end of March. I knew from previous conversations that Barry’s retirement was imminent, but I accept it with reluctance. Barry has served Hope faithfully, first as a faculty member and for most of his career as a finance administrator. His service has been exceptional for these past 39 years. In addition, he is a cherished friend. Indicative of our esteem for Barry’s work is the fact that the Trustees have named the large Hope building at 100 East Eighth Street the Anderson-Werkman Financial Center.

Of the people who sat around the administrative table with me when I first arrived at Hope as president—Bill Anderson, Jim Bekkering, Bob De Young, Richard Frost, Jack Nyenhuis, Ben Patterson, Kathy Mervau, and Barry Werkman—only Richard Frost will remain after Barry’s retirement. I am very grateful for the 214 combined years that these people have given to Hope and for the contributions now of those who have succeeded them.

Will Polik

Very occasionally, a colleague gets an award at a young age that usually goes to those in the twilight of their careers. Dr. William F. Polik, the Edward and Elizabeth Hofma Professor of Chemistry at Hope College, was recently named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). This is a very significant award for an unusually gifted professor.

Will received his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkley, and has been teaching at Hope since 1988. He received this award for his teaching, research, and service to the profession.


When our students returned to campus last fall, 66 of them moved into the new Boersma-Claus wing of Cook Hall. In addition, 65 faculty and staff members from the departments of English, philosophy, religion, political science, and history moved into the renovated Lubbers Hall, where many of them for the first time have office windows and all of them for the first time will have air conditioning.

On January 30, the newly restored Skinner organ will be dedicated in Dimnent Chapel. The renewed clarity of an instrument that is 75 years old was evident at Christmas Vespers. We anticipate that we will see the full repertoire of musical possibilities for this instrument at the dedication ceremony. The organ is among only a few Skinner masterpieces in this country and is now valued at approximately $4 million. I hope that many of you will be able to attend this dedicatory concert on January 30.

We are in the process of implementing our strategic plan to restore historic Graves Hall. Built in 1894, Hope’s second-oldest building is a treasured example of Romanesque architecture. After interviewing and analyzing the strengths of the various firms and trying our best to match them with the perceived needs of the restoration project, we decided that Grand Rapids, Michigan-based architects Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, Inc., with restoration architect Lorri Sipes and construction manager Lakewood Construction from Holland, were our best choices. We are currently planning with them and anticipate a 12-month construction period beginning in May.

Edward ’64 and Diana ’64 Marsilje have provided a generous leadership gift which is challenging other donors to provide full funding for this approximately $4 million project. We hope many of you will be responsive to those of us who will be asking for your financial support. The restorative challenges for a building this old are real, but Graves Hall is a campus treasure that merits such careful attention. If you are interested in financially supporting the restoration of the former semi-circle chapel, the stained-glass windows, the magnificent center staircase, or the stunning woodwork, together with the structural changes needed to make this building handicap accessible and functional in the 21st century, we would love to hear from you.


One of the great advantages for Hope today is Holland’s dynamic downtown. It is a popular destination for students, faculty, and staff. At a time when many downtowns struggle, Holland is thriving. The college community gratefully acknowledges this, for we are inextricably linked by founding and proximity. So often, what is good for Hope is good for Holland and vice versa.

There are many people to thank, of course, for Holland’s vibrant downtown. Those in city government and the downtown development group immediately come to mind. I also quickly think of the late Edgar Prince and his family for their vision and support in making downtown Holland very special. Hope College President Emeritus Gordon Van Wylen together with city planner Greg Holcomb ’80 and Seattle-based architect Bill Johnson have likewise been instrumental in this downtown revitalization.

In 2006, Money magazine selected Holland as one of the five “Best Places to Retire” due in part to the proximity and activities of the college and the benefits of an organization called the Hope Academy of Senior Professionals (HASP). This organization, envisioned by the late Hope Vice President John Hollenbach, implemented by the late Hope President John H. Jacobson, and facilitated administratively by Executive Director Diana Marsilje, has flourished. Now totaling more than 500, HASP members meet regularly on campus to continue their learning and to enjoy each other’s fellowship. They also enrich many college classes with their professional expertise. HASP is a perfect example of an idea implemented at the right time and in the right place.

Athletic Success

The exploits of Hope’s athletic teams, especially over the past quarter-century, have been well chronicled. Hope has won 28 Commissioner’s Cup awards for sport supremacy overall, including 21 in the last 27 years and the last six in a row. At the end of the fall season, Hope led in the Commissioner’s Cup standings by 22 points over the runner-up college located a few miles east of Holland! We commend men’s golf coach Bob Ebels, football coach Dean Kreps, men’s soccer coach Steve Smith and their teams for winning MIAA conference championships this past fall. The volleyball, football and men’s soccer teams qualified for their national tournaments, and the golf team has qualified for the NCAA championships in May. The golf championship was the sixth in a row and marked the seventh time over eight years that a Hope golfer has been the conference medalist.

A Special Guest

Sport at Hope is not long discussed without the Hope-Calvin men’s basketball rivalry, which Hope leads by the narrowest of margins in the alltime series, 82-81 in victories. On February 7, the Calvin Knights will be visiting Hope at the DeVos Fieldhouse. Dr. Myles Brand, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), has accepted our invitation to attend the game and to celebrate Hope’s 50 years of membership in the NCAA. In my letter of invitation to him, I indicated that the Hope-Calvin rivalry is one of the historic rivalries in NCAA Division III and was noted by ESPN last year as the biggest small-college rivalry in intercollegiate basketball. Dr. Brand immediately accepted and will be present for much of the day to talk with faculty, students, staff, and community members about intercollegiate sport. You may remember that Dr. Brand served with distinction as president of Indiana University, but is perhaps sometimes best known as the president who fired longtime men’s basketball coach Bobby Knight.

A Sequel

You will recall that Hope’s women won the NCAA Division III basketball championship last March. The team extended their winning streak to 44 in-a-row, the third longest in NCAA Division III women’s basketball history.

I shared with you in my spring Presidential Update that a Cinderella story evolved when then junior Becky Bosserd volunteered to sit out the tournament when coach Brian Morehouse was faced with the 15-player rule for the national tournament. Becky rightfully received immediate attention for this act of sportsmanship. But, that was not the end of the story.

Holland resident Rob Zaagman decided that he wanted to make Becky’s action a bit more lasting, so he generously funded an endowed scholarship in Becky’s name so that future deserving students could attend Hope. We celebrated all of this at a special dinner in Becky’s honor with her family, her coaches, and Rob in the H-Club Room at the DeVos Fieldhouse.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot—Rob Zaagman is a Calvin College graduate!!

Communicating With You

At about the same time you receive this Presidential Update, our Alumni staff will be launching myHope, a new online community that provides every alum a Hope-based digital home. I know that the thousands of you who are more computer savvy than I am will find myHope to be a rich resource for keeping abreast of college events and for communicating with classmates.

Another communication staple for Hope alumni and friends is news from Hope College. We have sent you this newspaper-format publication since 1969. Beginning in April we will be rolling out a “new” news from Hope College, one that I am confident you will enjoy. We will not be publishing a February issue but will be posting news on the college’s website on a regular basis.


Education is enjoyable for many reasons, but one of them certainly has to be the recurring cycles of the academic year. Each semester there is an opportunity to begin again—to teach more passionately, to study more diligently, to administer more effectively, to serve more faithfully. We look forward to the new semester with anticipation and expectation because we are “Anchored in Hope.”

James E. Bultman, President