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Presidential Update Fall 2012

To Hope College Alumni, Parents, and Friends:

In my summer Presidential Update, I indicated that we were anticipating a very large freshman class. This did in fact materialize as we welcomed 905 freshmen to Hope this fall. While this large number posed some real challenges with housing, class sections, and cafeteria space, I was very proud of our staff for successfully addressing these challenges in late summer thus insuring that each student would have the Hope experience that they and their families were expecting.

The record freshman class and overall largest student body in Hope’s history necessitates a reduced goal of 800 freshman students for next fall. At the same time, it is crucial that Hope continues to connect with prospective students, so thank you for continuing to be ambassadors for Hope and for encouraging talented students to consider Hope. In my various roles in higher education, I’ve probably been on 300 different college campuses. With regard to the generally accepted important dimensions of student development—intellectual, spiritual, social, and physical—I think Hope does it best. Okay, I admit I’m partial—but I still believe it!

We expect Hope graduates to be able to think clearly and creatively, discern wisely, and communicate effectively. Also expected is for them to do well on their national exams in areas requiring licensure or certification as a condition of employment. What has happened in the last couple of years, however, exceeds even our fondest expectations. In nursing, accounting, teacher education, and athletic training, Hope students for two consecutive years have had a 100-percent pass rate on the first try. Phenomenal! Does this put pressure on next year’s classes, or what?!

Hope has many traditional events. It’s one of the things that makes college special. The 115th Pull and the 78th Nykerk Cup competition are now history. These competitions between the sophomores and freshmen are healthy outlets from the pressure of college studies. The number of very enthusiastic spectators at both the Pull and Nykerk never ceases to amaze me.

Because our athletic teams’ supremacy in the MIAA (more MIAA Commissioner’s Cups than any other college, including the last 12 in a row) is well known, you may not be as aware of their achievements in the classroom, something that is just as highly prized. Eleven of Hope’s 18 varsity teams were accorded MIAA team grade point average honors for having a team GPA of 3.3 or better for the year. In addition, 199 or about one-third of Hope student-athletes achieved a GPA of 3.5 or better for the 2011-12 academic year. The award program is administered by the Faculty Athletic Representatives of the MIAA-member colleges. At the national level, the Hope women’s swimming and diving team had the highest GPA of all NCAA Division III programs at 3.79, while women’s golf had the 13th-best rank of all colleges and universities at 3.692. The designation “student-athlete” is appropriate at Hope!

Indebtedness & Repayment
You’ve probably heard a lot about student indebtedness. This is real, but the average indebtedness is not nearly as disturbing as a few extreme cases sensationalized in the media would have us believe. What is much less talked about are default rates on student loans. Hope’s first official Federal Direct Loan Program three-year default rate for fiscal year 2009 is 1.6 percent. The national rate for private institutions is 7.5 percent and 13.4 percent for all institutions. Commendation is appropriate for Hope students and families for keeping their commitments to the timely repayment of loans.

It has been an exciting fall on the Hope campus relative to several recent projects. The Vande Poel – Heeringa Stadium Courts at the Etheridge Tennis Complex are fully functional. What a marvelous addition this is to our tennis program, made possible by many gifts, but mostly funded with leadership gifts from those whose names the facility bears.

Given the very wet fall and the number of football games played at Holland’s Municipal Stadium, the newly turfed and improved playing field has been a welcome renovation for Hope and Holland Public Schools. The sale of the stadium to Hope College will be consummated within the next few weeks.

Finally, the long-awaited expansion of our engineering facility is underway. Earlier this fall, we celebrated the groundbreaking ceremony for the Haworth Engineering Center, a primarily “design space addition” to VanderWerf Hall made possible by a generous leadership gift from Haworth, Inc. and the Haworth family. Hope’s department of engineering is fully accredited and is the college’s most rapidly growing major.

A Greater Hope
The comprehensive campaign, A Greater Hope, is in the final and perhaps most important stage. We are $20 million short of our lofty goal of $175 million. The college has again been very disciplined in not constructing facilities until all the funding for a project has been committed, and even then not until an additional 25 percent of the construction cost has been committed for maintenance endowment so that future generations will not be saddled with indebtedness or operational costs.

Funding for the Kruizenga Art Museum is nearly complete. Assuming the remaining monies are committed, we will begin construction in May 2013 with a one-year construction time frame. This facility is largely possible because of a very generous leadership gift from Richard and Margaret Kruizenga.

The most expensive project in the campaign is the concert hall/music department facility that will be constructed on the old skateboard park area on Columbia Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets. We are trying to do for the arts at Hope what we have done for other areas at the college by providing facilities that will enable students and faculty to perform at the highest levels. Because of its location along the Columbia Avenue arts corridor and its proximity to downtown Holland, we anticipate that this facility will be great for Hope, and perhaps even a bigger benefit for the Holland downtown and the greater Holland area. Everyone involved in the planning is ecstatic over the design and functionality of the building. It is made possible by a very generous leadership gift from Richard and Helen DeVos. We have roughly $10 million yet to go on a $35 million facility and recognize that this may be Hope’s and Holland’s best, perhaps only, opportunity for a downtown concert hall. We need the financial help of both the college and the community in order for this project to become a reality. We would like to begin construction in late 2013, provided the funding commitments are complete.

Planning for the proposed student center is complete, and funding is about $8 million short of the $22 million goal. This exciting project is made possible by a very generous leadership gift from Trustee Cheri DeVos VanderWeide, and will be constructed in the heart of the campus where the music facility now resides. Obviously, this construction will follow completion of the concert hall/music department facility and cannot begin until the old building is razed.

The remaining money to complete the campaign is targeted for scholarships and programmatic improvements in spiritual life, international education, and multicultural education. Thanks to all alumni and friends of the college for giving your thoughtful and prayerful consideration as to how you might become financially involved in bringing this campaign to a celebratory conclusion by June 30, 2013.

A Culture of Philanthropy
One of the big challenges we face as a society and as a college is how to create a culture of philanthropy among younger generations. We’ve all heard about the Greatest Generation and their unbelievable deeds of sacrifice and benevolence beyond themselves. One idea for getting young Hope alumni to experience the joy of giving would be for parents to begin a scholarship fund to which their children could then contribute as they are able during their lifetimes. Such a plan would go a long way in doing for future generations what a previous generation did for them.

In the next issue of News from Hope College, you will find an envelope that I hope you will use to participate in the annual Hope Fund. All gifts, large and small, are important; we cherish your support as you are able.

The worth of your Hope degree is largely dependent on Hope’s reputation; Hope’s reputation in turn is very dependent on alumni participation in the college’s annual fund. Rating agencies, foundations, and many donors consistently base their partnerships with the college on the percentage of alumni who give back to their alma mater. There is a large correlation between college rankings and alumni giving. Fewer than 25 percent of Hope alumni contribute annually to the college. We can do better! The highest ranked liberal arts colleges in the country are closer to 50 percent. Will you join us in giving back to Hope for today’s students even as others from a previous generation gave for us?

Students today communicate more and more in short sound bites. At this time of the year it’s likely you could receive a text like this:

Dear Dad.
So sad.
Need mon.
Your son

I’ve got a short response for you to text back:

Dear Son,
No mon.
Too bad.
Your Dad

Martie and I are so pleased to be back at Hope for this “extra” year. It is a privilege to lead the college we love! Martie says it is our “bonus” year; I say the Trustees are giving me yet another opportunity to see if I can finally do it right! Whatever the reason, we are very confident that in His marvelous plan for Hope, God is preparing even now the next person to lead the college to new levels of distinction. And when that person assumes the leadership role next July 1, they will quickly discover what we have experienced, namely, gifted and purposeful students, talented and dedicated faculty and staff, visionary Trustees, and wonderfully supportive alumni and friends. May God’s grace and goodness continue to be ours in great abundance even as we faithfully commit ourselves to His plan for Hope.

James E. Bultman, President