The Hope College Alumni Association will present four graduates with Distinguished Alumni Awards during the college's Alumni Day on Saturday, May 4.
Being honored this year are: Bruce Neckers, a 1965 graduate from Grand Rapids; William Poppink, a 1937 graduate from Sault Ste. Marie; and Dr. Robert D. Visscher and Marjorie Visscher, members of the Classes of 1951 and 1953 respectively who are from both Holland and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The annual Distinguished Alumni Awards are presented by the Alumni Association Board of Directors in recognition of the awardees' contributions to society and service to Hope. The award, presented during the college's Alumni Banquet, is the highest honor that alumni can receive from the college's Alumni Association.
Bruce Neckers is serving a one-year term as president of the State Bar of Michigan, which consists of all of the 34,000 lawyers licensed to practice law in Michigan.
He has been in the private practice of law since 1968 with the Grand Rapids firm of Rhoades, McKee. His practice is limited to significant litigation in state and federal courts. He is also a certified facilitative mediator as part of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.
Neckers is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and the International Society of Barristers. He is former president of the Grand Rapids Bar Association.
He is active in the Reformed Church in America. He is an elder at Third Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, and has served the denomination in numerous capacities including a term as chair of the General Program Council. He was also a member of the General Synod Executive Committee.
Neckers came to Hope from Clymer, N.Y., as a Third Generation Hope student, the son of alumni M. Carlyle and Doris Neckers and grandson of alumnus Albert Neckers. He is a past member of the college's Alumni Board, and taught business law at the college for several years.
He and his wife Susie, who has been a teacher since graduation, met as students at Hope. They have three children: Matthew, who attended Hope for two years; Melissa, a 1995 graduate; and Allison.
William Poppink is a retired educator, and remains active in his community as a volunteer.
He taught, coached and was a high school principal in Rockford until 1950. He is a World War II veteran, serving in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946.
Poppink was principal of Godwin Heights High School in Grand Rapids from 1950 to 1953, and from 1954 to 1963 served first as assistant superintendent and then as superintendent with the Hillsdale Public Schools. He was superintendent of the Reeths Puffer Schools from 1963 to 1967, and then of the Sault Ste. Marie Area Public Schools until retiring in 1975. In all three of the districts he served as superintendent, every millage vote passed on the first try; two, in Hillsdale and in Sault Ste. Marie, resulted in new high schools.
His community involvements include Hospice, Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, United Way and Rotary. He is active at Central United Methodist Church. He is past president of the Sault Country Club.
He and his wife Loma were named local Volunteers of the Year in 1993. The Sault Ste. Marie Rotary Club established the William A. Poppink Distinguished Teacher Award in 1996. He received Honorable Mention in the "Retired Educator of the Year" program of the Michigan Association of Retired School Personnel in 1997.
Poppink was captain of the 1937 MIAA championship men's basketball team, and is a past member of the college's Alumni H-Club Board. He is past chair of the 50-Year Circle, and was also the 1937 Class Representative.
He and Loma met while teaching in Rockford. All five of their children attended Hope: Grace, Class of 1963; William "Cal," Class of 1965, now deceased; James, Class of 1967; Lyn, who attended two years; and Sue, Class of 1975.
Dr. Robert Visscher and Marjorie Visscher have been active in their careers, community and the life of the college.
Robert is retired from a career as a physician and medical educator. A pioneer in the field of in vitro fertilization, he founded and was the first director of the In Vitro Fertilization Program at Blodgett Memorial Medical Center in Grand Rapids.
He was an obstetrician and gynecologist in private practice in Grand Rapids from 1963 to 1990, and specialized in reproductive medicine from 1980 to 1990. Also from 1980 to 1990, he was program director for the Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency at Blodgett. He is professor emeritus of the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University.
Robert was medical director from 1990 to 1992, and executive director from 1993 to 1996, of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Birmingham, Ala.
His honors include the AOA Honorary Medical Society at the University of Michigan Medical School (1954), the Spectrum Health Distinguished Physician Award (2000), the William Heath Byford Award from the OB-GYN Department of Northwestern University Medical School (1998) and the Lifetime of Teaching Excellence Award from the OB-GYN Department at Blodgett (1990).
He was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps from 1956 to 1963. He has been active in the RCA, including service as elder and deacon.
Marjorie taught third grade in Ann Arbor. She was a substitute teacher in Traverse City and in the Grand Rapids area. She has spent a significant amount of time as a volunteer tutor.
She has been active in the family's churches since graduation, including at Fifth Reformed in Grand Rapids for 25 years and more recently at Christ Memorial Church in Holland. Her service has ranged from singing in the choir, to serving on planning and building committees, to teaching and organizing Sunday school programs. She has held leadership positions in the Guild for Christian Service and Women's Circles.
Marjorie was on the board of directors of Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids, and volunteered with programs including the "Other Way" Community Center in Grand Rapids and the New Hope Baptist Church Lunch Program, and providing transportation and finding resources for needy persons through FISH (Fellowship in Serving Him) and Operation "Second Mile" respectively. She was a member of the Kent County Medical Society Auxiliary for 20 years. She was also a member of the Women's Committee of the Grand Rapids Symphony.
Marjorie directed spouse-guest activities for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine from 1993 to 1996.
Robert was on the planning committees for the college's Dow Center and the new science center, and is a past president of the Alumni H-Club and has been involved in planning for his class reunions. Marjorie has been active on the planning committees for her class reunions. Both are members of the Hope Academy for Senior Professionals.
They have three children, all of whom attended Hope: Beth, Class of 1979, Steven, Class of 1980; and Linn, Class of 1982.