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Presidential Update Summer 2013

To Hope College Alumni, Parents, and Friends:

This is my final communication with you via the Hope College Presidential Update. It has been my pleasure for the last fourteen years to periodically share inside news of the college with you. There is always so much activity at Hope that finding interesting things to share is never difficult. It is true that God has blessed the college in ways beyond our fondest expectations. To be a part of this with all of you has been one of the great joys of our lives. For the special privilege of leading the college we love at this time in its storied history, Martie and I will always be grateful.

Enrollment for the fall looks very strong. There has been an incredible interest in Hope in recent years that has made it necessary to cap our enrollment to coincide with our campus infrastructure. This year we had over 4,000 applications for 800 freshman spots. The average academic profile for the entering class is impressive, with an average high school grade point of 3.8 and ACT score of 26+. We look forward to a very full house again this fall with a total enrollment of approximately 3,300 students. The admissions staff under the leadership of Vice President Bill Vanderbilt and with the assistance of the entire campus community has once again done outstanding work in securing such a talented class.

Because each year presents its own challenges, we encourage you to recommend talented students for Hope by completing the enclosed card and returning it to the college. We will then follow through with our admissions process for the fall of 2014.

In early May we celebrated a groundbreaking for the new Kruizenga Art Museum located adjacent to the DePree Art Center on Columbia Avenue. It was a joyful time!

In August we will dedicate the new Tom and Ryan Cook Village on Lincoln Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets. Four apartment-style units will house 60 students in an upscale facility.

On September 6 we will dedicate the new Haworth Engineering Center attached as a new wing to VanderWerf Hall. Engineering is our most burgeoning department.

Earlier this year the college purchased Holland Municipal Stadium from the City. Newly renovated and renamed, we will dedicate the Ray and Sue Smith Stadium at halftime during the Community Day football game with Millikin on September 14.

Finally, I am so pleased to report that the college is proceeding with plans for the construction of a new music complex along the Columbia arts corridor, housing the Department of Music and including an 800-seat concert hall. The facility was inspired by a very generous lead gift from Richad and Helen DeVos and brought to fruition by a transforming legacy gift from Jack Miller ’54 this past week. By official Board action, this facility will be named the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts in recognition of Jack’s lifetime of generosity to his alma mater.

A Greater Hope
Our goal of $175 million for the comprehensive campaign, A Greater Hope, is now well within reach. To date, commitments total $172.6 million. Obviously, we still have money yet to be raised in order to fund all of the campaign components, but kudos to our fundraising team and to so many donors who have contributed so generously, many even sacrificially, to this campaign. In the combined Legacies: A Vision of Hope and A Greater Hope campaigns of this century, Hope will have raised more than one-third of a billion dollars. This is a major achievement, especially during a time of economic uncertainty and recession.

State of the College
Hope has every reason to feel very good about the state of the college. Martie and I have been physically present on the Hope campus for at least part of each of the last seven consecutive decades. We know it well. Never before have we felt the college to be this strong educationally, spiritually, and financially. That is a tribute to God’s favor and to so many committed people who have cared deeply about the college during Hope’s nearly 150-year history. We should be humble about this, not boastful; confident, not haughty; grateful, not arrogant.

That Hope is strong today should not be surprising. Colleges are supposed to get better, and at Hope there is an ethos, an expectation, that we will be better today than yesterday and better still tomorrow. And we can be! Hope is not perfect, though we strive to be. We are at our best when everyone works hard to maximize our collective abilities, when we guard against complacency and shun mediocrity, when we are intent on serving rather than being served, when we treat everyone with the dignity and respect befitting all God’s children, when we live fully into our mission of providing an exceptional education in a caring Christian environment, and when we acknowledge with gratitude God’s grace and goodness to us.

You are well aware of Hope’s tremendous success in intercollegiate sports, winning the coveted Commissioner’s Cup for overall athletic supremacy in the MIAA for twelve consecutive years—until this year. It wasn’t that we weren’t good, but rather that Calvin just had a better year. They deserved to win the Cup.

Hope also fields a very competitive team in club hockey. Coached by Chris Van Timmeren, the team qualifies for the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament virtually every year. Chris’ younger brother Scott is an assistant coach, and his father Dr. John Robert Van Timmeren is the voluntary team physician. After the season at the team banquet, Chris always asks his seniors to speak to the families assembled. Their passion rarely leaves us without laughter or with dry eyes. What has always impressed us, though, is that without fail, every year all of the seniors sincerely thank their parents for their financial sacrifice and time commitments that have allowed them from a very early age to pursue their dream of playing team hockey.

In an era when so many are so selfish, it is refreshing indeed to see a common thread among Hope students—gratitude for parents, friends, mentors, teachers, coaches, and directors who invest in their lives. It is one quality among many that we so admire in Hope students.

Oh, and one other matter of importance: a record 15 Hope hockey players were named Academic All Americans by the American Collegiate Hockey Association this year for achieving a grade point average of 3.20 or higher.

It is well known that Hope is a national leader in the receipt of research grants for undergraduate research in the sciences. It continues as one of Hope’s distinctives. Much less frequent are opportunities for grants in the non-science areas. It is worth noting, therefore, that Dr. William Pannapacker, a professor in our Department of English, received notice this week that he had received a $500,000 Mellon Foundation grant for collaborative research with students in the digital humanities. This grant is designed to fund enhancements for our Mellon Scholars Program through which students and faculty work closely together on a variety of humanities research projects.

A Moving Chapel
We have made a concerted effort in recent years to better integrate our three programmatic areas at the college: academic, spiritual life, and student development. This effort manifested itself this past spring semester. Dr. Michael Ackerman, pediatric cardiologist at Mayo Clinic, was a guest at the college speaking to students studying pre-medicine and nursing. He was also interviewed in chapel by Chaplain Paul Boersma along with graduating nursing student Stefani Pentiuk from Leland, Michigan.

Dr. Ackerman was a young doctor fulfilling a pediatric cardiology fellowship when he met then eight-year-old Stefani suffering from virus-induced heart damage and in desperate need of a transplant. Dr. Ackerman was on the transplant team and developed a close relationship with Stefani. As she was being prepped for the surgery, Stefani asked Dr. Ackerman if she would survive. He responded that not only would she survive, but he would dance with her at her senior prom. He fulfilled the promise! Both doctor and patient gave testimony to their Christian faith and how instrumental it was before, during, and after the surgery. In God’s marvelous plan, skillful surgeons performed, prayers were answered, and life was snatched from death!

When John Knapp was appointed the 12th president of Hope in March, for the first time in my life I felt jobless. When we moved out of the President’s Home in mid-March to make way for some renovation and redecoration in anticipation of the arrival of the new presidential family on July 1, I suddenly felt homeless. Knowing that I will soon turn in the keys to my 2005 presidential car makes me feel carless. When I parked in a college lot and got a parking ticket, I thought the message was getting clearer. And, when I called into the college and the response was “Jim who? . . . Would you spell that for me, please?” I realized that my time as president was about to end!

It’s a new and exciting time for President-elect and Mrs. Knapp and for the college. They come to Hope with great credentials, eager to serve the Hope community and ready to lead the college to new levels of distinction in the years ahead. I am very grateful to the Presidential Search Committee and its chair Joel Bouwens and to Board of Trustees Chair Mary Bauman for their perseverance and skill in securing the appointment of such an outstanding candidate. We can say with confidence that indeed the future looks very bright for Hope. I trust that you will afford the Knapps the same warm hospitality you have extended to us these past 14 years.

Our goal has been to enable a seamless transition so that Hope can continue to flourish as a leading Christian liberal arts institution. With God’s blessing and the diligent efforts of all of us who love Hope, there is every reason to believe that the college will, in the words of our founder Albertus Van Raalte, “be our anchor of hope for the future.”

There are so many people I would like to thank for making these last fourteen years so pleasant, fulfilling, and productive. I give thanks for a visionary Board of Trustees who provided support and encouragement. For a very talented faculty and dedicated staff who work as partners in fulfilling our mission, I will always be grateful.

I am indebted to our alumni and friends for their generous financial support of the college even during challenging economic times. For the students who inspired us with their diligent performance both in and outside the classroom, we feel blessed. The expertise, camaraderie, and selfless efforts of the leadership team will long be remembered. And, certainly I have cherished the competence and loyalty of Kathy Mervau, Mary Wilson, and Delores Wernette who have served as my assistants at various times during my presidency.

Forgive me for personalizing a public tribute to my wife Martie. Long before I knew I could be a college president, I knew Martie would be a great college president’s wife. Most of you are aware that Martie came to Hope as a student from the San Francisco Bay area, sight unseen and without any connection. Several years ago while on a fundraising trip in her hometown, we stopped to refuel the car. When I went into the station to pay, I noticed Martie was having quite a cordial conversation with the gas station attendant. A couple miles down the road I brought this up, and she said he was an old high school flame. This made me quite uncomfortable. A while later I said, “I’ll bet you’re glad you married a college president instead of a gas station attendant.” To this Martie quickly replied, “If I’d married him, he’d be a college president and you’d be pumping gas!” Then there was silence in the car for quite some time! Well, this is not a true story, but there is lot of truth in it. Martie has been a pillar of strength for the college and for me. She voluntarily sacrificed her own professional career in special education to serve as a presidential spouse without complaint or remuneration. We’ve been a team together. And in a good-natured way she’s kept me grounded and humble, sharing both my joys and sorrows.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every one of my 28 consecutive years as a college president and counted each day as a genuine privilege. But there is something very special about serving your alma mater. We love the college and especially the people of Hope—students, faculty, staff, trustees, alumni, and friends of the college. Today I can say with the psalmist, “The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places.”

Throughout my days at Hope I have always tried to do my very best and always do what is right. I have actually made very few unilateral decisions, but rather sought the wise counsel of those who were more knowledgeable than I about a variety of matters. I know that I have pleased many of you while also displeasing others. Although I like to please people, that was not my primary motivation. I have had a lot of recognition, more than I deserve. Like most people, I like to be recognized, but I never sought it nor was I much motivated by it. All I ever wanted was for God to find me faithful. That’s it! And that’s enough! And so as I leave the college I love, please know that I respect all of you and cherish your friendship. I feel very privileged to have been on the same Hope team with all of you. Today I can say with the apostle Paul, “I give thanks for every remembrance of you.”

James E. Bultman, President