James E. Bultman Biography

Dr. James E. Bultman served as the 11th president of Hope College from July 1999 until retiring at the end of June 2013.

A 1963 graduate of Hope, he returned to his alma mater with an extensive background in higher education.  Immediately prior to becoming president of Hope, he had been president of Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, for 14 years.  He had also previously served at Hope as a faculty member, academic administrator and coach. 

His emphasis as president was on assuring that Hope provide students with an exceptional educational experience in a vibrant and caring Christian environment. His leadership included leading the college in updating its mission statement and identifying the distinctive qualities of a Hope education.

Hope enjoyed distinction on a variety of external measures during his tenure, including multiple national recognitions of and major grant support for the college’s emphasis on collaborative faculty-student research, and national accreditation in all four arts programs (art, dance, music, and theatre). A Lilly-funded “Program for the Theological Exploration of Vocation” established in the fall of 2003 expanded the college’s emphasis on encouraging students to consider the role of calling in their life and career choices. In 2011, Hope was one of only 115 colleges and universities across the country named to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s “2010 Community Engagement Classification,” a reflection of the college’s institution-wide emphasis on service and service-learning.

The 14 years during his presidency were also a period of steady growth in enrollment, from 2,943 students in 1999 to more than 3,200 students each year beginning in 2006, including a record enrollment of 3,343 during the 2012-13 school year.

During his tenure, Hope pursued the two largest single fund-raising efforts in the college’s history, which together raised more than one-third of a billion dollars.  Campus development emphasized providing faculty and students with facilities to enable them to perform at the highest levels while also accommodating the steady growth in enrollment.  Across his presidency, the acreage of the campus increased three-fold, virtually every major building was renovated and multiple new buildings were constructed or planned, and the college’s endowment increased by 50 percent.

The college launched the “Legacies: A Vision of Hope” comprehensive campaign during his second year as president.  The campaign’s four major components included construction of the A. Paul Schaap Science Center and renovation of the Peale Science Center; construction of the Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse; increasing the endowment; and general campus improvements, including the construction of the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication, a restoration of historic Graves Hall and a renovation of Lubbers Hall.  When it concluded in 2005, Hope had raised more than $161 million from more than 3,300 donors, well above the goal of $105 million.

Hope launched its current “A Greater Hope” comprehensive campaign in October 2011.  The $175 million effort is benefiting every student as it strengthens the college’s endowment, adds several new buildings, and supports immediate needs through the annual Hope Fund.  The endowment portion of the campaign includes $30 million for student scholarships, $20 million for faculty-student collaborative research, $20 million to support outstanding faculty in their teaching and research, and $10 million for initiatives in international and multicultural education and spiritual life.  Facilities completed include the Van Andel Soccer Stadium, Boeve Baseball Stadium, Wolters Softball Stadium and outdoor VandePoel-Heeringa Stadium Courts in tennis.  The Haworth Engineering Center is being completed for the start of classes in the fall of 2013, and forthcoming major enhancements will include the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts, the Kruizenga Art Museum and a new student center.  Concurrent with the campaign initiatives, Hope is also building the Tom and Ryan Cook Village, up-scale housing for 60 students that is also being completed in time for the start of classes in the fall of 2013. 

Bultman joined the Hope education faculty in 1968, chaired the department of education from 1976 to 1982, and was dean of the social sciences from 1982 until 1985.  He was head baseball coach at Hope from 1971 to 1985, and an assistant football coach from 1970 to 1984.

He was president of Northwestern College from 1985 to 1999.  Northwestern, like Hope, is one of three colleges with ties to the Reformed Church in America.

Across his career, Bultman was an active leader in higher education circles as well as in the community.  Among other activities, he served on the Presidents Council of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

He graduated from Hope with a major in chemistry.  He holds a master’s degree and doctorate in educational leadership from Western Michigan University.

Before joining Hope’s faculty, Bultman taught and coached in the public schools in Portage and was the assistant principal of Portage Northern High School.

Hope presented him with a Distinguished Alumni Award in May 1995.  He received an honorary degree (L.H.D.) from Keiwa College, a sister college of Northwestern in Shibata City, Japan in March 1998, and an honorary degree (Litt.D.) from Hope on the occasion of his inauguration on October 22, 1999.  In October 2001, Bultman was presented a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Western Michigan University Alumni Association.  In November 2012, he received a “West Michigan Dutch-American Leadership Award” during the West Michigan Dutch-American Heritage Day.

Bultman’s wife, Martie, also is a 1963 Hope graduate.  She is co-author of the Friendship Series, a religious instruction curriculum for the developmentally disabled that is used throughout the English-speaking world and has been translated into Spanish.  She has multiple certifications in special education, and while in Iowa was a learning disabilities instructor at MOC-Floyd Valley High School.  Her active involvement in the life of the college during her husband’s presidency included serving for many years as co-advisor of the college’s Alcor chapter of the national Mortar Board honor society. She was presented the Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) degree by Hope College at the 2012 Commencement.

The Hope College Board of Trustees at their October 2011 meeting announced the naming of the future student center in honor of the Bultmans, and the Bultmans received the Hope for Humanity Award from the college’s Alumni H-Club at the 2011 Homecoming.

The Bultmans have two grown children: a son, Matthew, in Overland Park, Kan., and a daughter, Heather, in Broadhead, Wis.; and five grandchildren.