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Presidential Update Spring 2010

To Hope College Alumni, Parents and Friends:

It hardly seems possible that we are entering the home stretch of the 2009-2010 academic year. Time certainly flies when you’re having fun!


Hope began the academic year with a near-record enrollment of 3,230 students. Despite the challenging economic conditions, we were able to meet our freshman goal of 800 students. Retention from spring ’09 to fall ’09 and from fall ’09 to spring ’10 was outstanding. We feel very blessed to have so many capable students experiencing a Hope College education and persisting to graduation in four years.

The year began with a very inspirational convocation address by Dr. Peter Schakel, the Peter and Emajean Cook Professor of English. Once again, the college’s orientation session featuring programs for incoming students, parents, and siblings earned high marks from the newest members of the Hope community. And, there have been many faculty and student achievements in the months since that exciting beginning. Four of our 2009 graduates were the recipients of the distinguished Fulbright Award for teaching abroad this year: Danielle Johnson, Spain; Robin Litscher, Germany; Lani Pickard, Colombia; and Molly Smith, Malaysia. Most every week, faculty are publishing books and articles in reputable journals and receiving research awards that enable faculty and students to engage in meaningful externally funded undergraduate research. This past year, Hope received more NSF grant money than every Michigan institution except the three Research I institutions—U of M, MSU, and WSU—and Michigan Technological University.

Applications for the fall of 2010 are already at a record level (3,187 for 800 available spots in the freshman class). The challenge now will be to convert these applications to actual enrollments. More than half of Hope’s freshman applicants have a 3.9 GPA (out of a possible 4.0), and more than one-quarter have an ACT of 30 or greater (out of a possible 36).


Hope was the recipient of the 2009 Holland Chamber of Commerce “Corporate Leadership Award” for its pervasive influence in the Holland area. We desire to be a significant player in the greater Holland economy, cultural programs, educational opportunities, recreational activities, and intercollegiate sports spectator events. For the fifth consecutive year, Hope was named one of West Michigan’s top 100 places of employment.

Hope’s indoor DeWitt Tennis Center was named the winner of the 2010 “Public Facility of the Year” award. There are more than 6,000 clubs in the U.S. The DeWitt Center offers year-round instruction for players from kindergarten through high school as well as adult instruction and team programs. The club is managed by Jorge Capestany who is one of only 10 Master Professionals with both the Professional Tennis Registry and the United States Professional Tennis Association.

Semester Milestones

The college also experienced many significant milestones during the fall semester. Chief among these were celebrating 100 years of Hope science with the publication of a commemorative book and a banquet, the celebration of 100 years of Hope football, the centennial celebration of the Knickerbocker Fraternity, and a celebration of 175 years of the Fraternal Society. (The Fraternal Society was a transplant from Union College in New York and, thus, exceeds the number of years of existence of Hope College itself.)


We rededicated historic Graves Hall in October. This adaptive restoration of the college’s third oldest building was a highlight for many of Hope’s constituency. The restoration was beautifully done and returns this magnificent Richardsonian architectural masterpiece to much of its original grandeur. Modern infrastructure systems and handicap accessibility enable this landmark building to provide space for classroom instruction as its main function. The Graves Hall restoration was made possible through a leadership gift from Edward ’64 and Diana ’64 Marsilje and the generous support of many other alumni and friends of the college.

The college was also able to dedicate the new Van Andel Soccer Stadium located in the Ekdal Buys Athletic Complex of the eastern corridor to campus. The stadium is superior in every way and enables Hope soccer teams, lacrosse club teams, and summer soccer camps to enjoy one of the finest facilities in the country. It was made possible by a leadership gift from David ’83 and Carol ’81 Van Andel and several other generous supporters.

NCAA Division III Presidents Council

I have the privilege of serving as vice chairman of the Division III Presidents Council of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. This group of 15 college presidents sets the policies for the NCAA’s largest division which consists of 447 colleges and universities. The most distinctive quality of Division III intercollegiate athletics is that student-athletes are students first with all the opportunities, responsibilities, and collegiate experiences of other students on campus. Division III also has the expectation that its coaches will engage fully in campus life like their teaching colleagues.

When I attend these meetings, I am deeply thankful for the way that Hope has been able to be very competitive while keeping intercollegiate sport in perspective. Our student-athletes are not treated differently than other students on campus. There is no athletics-related financial aid, and there are no special dormitories or meal tables. There is simply the opportunity to compete for the love of sport. It is intercollegiate sport at its purest.

At the fall Presidents Council meeting, we celebrated the life of Myles Brand, the president of the NCAA who passed away last summer. Dr. Brand, the former president of Indiana University, attended the first Hope vs. Calvin men’s basketball game in the new DeVos Fieldhouse. While here he interacted with our student-athletes, coaches, and members of the community. Although he will always be known as the president who fired legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight, his legacy, in my mind, was much broader than that. He worked diligently during his tenure as president of the NCAA in bringing a true academic dimension to college athletics. At heart I believe he loved the Division III philosophy of sport.

The Hope Experience

I am so bullish on the Hope College education offered today. Our students are talented, diligent in their work, and come from families which enable us to build on the sure foundation established in their homes. To be sure, not every one of our students is as yet fully refined, but as Martie reminds me (more often than I’d like!), neither is the president! We have a talented faculty which takes both teaching and scholarship very seriously. In addition, we have a very dedicated staff that facilitates the teaching-learning interactions for our students. The mission of Hope is to “…educate students for lives of leadership and service in a global society through academic and co-curricular programs of recognized excellence in the liberal arts and in the context of the historic Christian faith.” My personal passion shared by so many is that Hope will be at the same time exceptional educationally and vibrantly Christian. The record of history for this passion, however, is very discouraging. Although virtually every private college in the country originally espoused this goal, hardly any institutions have maintained this emphasis long-term. Few even aspire to it today. With every fiber of my being, I am committed to a Hope College that is able to transcend the record of history by playing at the highest levels in academics, co-curricular activities, and spiritual life. It is a noble goal and one which, by God’s grace and the efforts of all of us, is fully achievable.

College educations today are very costly, and there is waning support at both the state and federal levels. Yet, I am convinced that the investment in a Hope College education is an investment that will bear fruit—not just in a job but for all of life. Hope graduates make a difference in the world! One of my great joys in serving at Hope is the interaction I have with the many constituencies of the college. These include alumni and friends, members of the community, faculty, staff, and students. I care for each one of you and give thanks for your affection for the college we love.

Young Alumni

Hope can claim so many productive alumni who occupy influential positions, including some who do so at a very young age. Certainly, Matt Scogin ’02 is one of these. Matt was a leader on Hope’s campus, serving as both vice president and president of Student Congress. During his senior year, he participated in the Washington Honors Semester, holding an internship at the White House. Following his Hope experience, Matt served as an aide to a state legislator, completed a masters’ degree at the renowned Kennedy School at Harvard, and then was hired by the U.S. Treasury Department. He now serves as vice president and chief of staff to the CEO of the New York Stock Exchange. Matt recently spoke on campus about his experiences, “From Washington to Wall Street.” His expertise, commitment to the Christian faith, and humility in the midst of his early successes are all endearing qualities. He attributes much of his success to Hope personnel who served as references for him. It’s not just who you know, but who you know who cares for you. That is a trademark at Hope!

Thanks to the Administrative Council

In this publication, I especially want to pay tribute to the members of the Administrative Council:

    Jim Boelkins, Provost
    Tom Bylsma, CFO
    Richard Frost, Dean of Students & VP for Student Development
    Alfredo Gonzales, Associate Provost & Dean for Multicultural and International Ed.
    Trygve Johnson, Dean of the Chapel
    Lori Mulder, Director of Human Resources
    Bill Vanderbilt, VP for Admissions
    Scott Wolterink, VP for College Advancement

These are the people who work directly with me on a daily basis. I feel privileged and blessed to serve with them. In selecting people for these top administrative posts, my goal is always to find those who are much more talented than I am (Many think this is not a difficult task!) and who together balance an overall administrative effort. These people work countless hours, oftentimes at the expense of their own personal and family schedules, on behalf of the Hope community.

Provost Search

Provost Jim Boelkins ’66 will retire at the conclusion of this academic year. This will be a loss for me personally and for the entire Hope College family. Jim has served with great distinction for the past eight years and has committed virtually his entire professional career to academic administration. I have especially appreciated his commitment to our mission, his emphasis on teaching and scholarship, his ownership of the academic program, and his unparalleled work ethic. He will be greatly missed by all of us. We are nearing completion of a national search for Jim’s successor.

Faculty Retirements

Also retiring at the end of this academic year are three long-time faculty members who have distinguished themselves with notable achievements during their Hope careers:

  • Dr. Donald Cronkite, professor of biology and a member of the Hope faculty since 1978, has received numerous awards throughout his career including the National Association of Biology Teachers’ highest honor, the association’s 2008 “Honorary Membership Award,” which recognizes individuals who have achieved career-long distinction in teaching, research, and service in the biological sciences.
  • Karla Wolters, professor of kinesiology, has coached collegiate athletics for 36 years, the past 22 years at the helm of the Flying Dutch softball team. Karla has more coaching victories than any other female coach in the history of the MIAA.
  • Dr. Robin Klay, professor of economics and management, has been a member of the Hope faculty since 1979 and is also an adjunct scholar with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Robin has been a frequent participating advisor for student trips abroad.

Intercollegiate Sport

Hope has won nine of the last ten Commissioner’s Cups for all-sports supremacy in the MIAA. League championships were claimed in the fall by the volleyball team (national tournament final four) and the men’s golf team (eighth title in the last ten years). For the winter season, men’s swimming and diving won their third straight title and women’s basketball their fifth in a row. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams won their league tournaments and thus automatically qualified for berths in the national tournaments. The Flying Dutch finished runner-up at the final four national tournament in Bloomington, Ill. Several members of our swimming teams also competed in their national meet at the University of Minnesota. In addition, the Hope club hockey team once again qualified for the national tournament in Fort Myers, Fla. and finished runner-up.

Emma and David

The campus community was thrown into deep mourning on the afternoon of January 17 when word spread quickly of a single-engine plane crash that claimed the lives of Emma Biagioni (St. Charles, Ill.) and David Otai (Kenya). Many members of the campus community attended memorial services in Dimnent Chapel and in Illinois. Associate Provost and Dean for International and Multicultural Education Alfredo Gonzales accompanied David’s body to Kenya and met there with family and friends to celebrate and honor David’s life. The community response was one of faith, hope, and love. “God is our refuge and our strength in times of trouble.”

State of Michigan Financial Aid

The economic woes of the state of Michigan have negatively influenced state financial aid to needy and meritorious Michigan students. The Michigan Promise Grant has become “unpromised,” and funding for the Michigan Tuition Grant/Competitive Scholarship has been severely cut. Unless the legislature and the governor are able to reverse course, Hope students will lose approximately $2M in state financial aid.

Hope currently grants institutional gift aid in the amount of $27M. State subsidies for our students certainly help keep a college education affordable as do your gifts to the college.

For all the ways that you support us—your prayers, your recommendations of students, and your financial resources—we are grateful. Hope College has always been dependent on the previous generation supporting a current generation, even as others supported them.

Every gift, large or small, is important, even crucial to the ongoing vitality of the college we love. Thank you for your generous response in supporting Hope as you are able. Every annual Hope Fund gift helps every student every day! Together, we can make dreams come true for so many young people who desire the Hope experience!

James E. Bultman, President