The Hope College Alumni Association will present four Distinguished Alumni Awards during the college's Alumni Day on Saturday, May 6.
Being honored this year are Helen and the Rev. J. Samuel Hofman of Holland, who are members of the Classes of 1958 and 1955 respectively; Dr. Thelma K. (Tommye) Leenhouts of Washington, D.C., who is a member of the Class of 1966; and Dr. A. Paul Schaap of Grosse Pointe Park, who is a member of the Class of 1967.
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.
The Hofmans are retired after serving for more than 40 years as Reformed Church missionaries in Chiapas, Mexico. The Hofmans served in Mexico from 1958 to 2000, working with Mayan tribes.
For the first 28 years they helped develop a Bible School to provide leadership training for the Tzeltal tribe. At the school they taught church leaders and their wives a wide variety of biblical and practical subjects, wrote Tzeltal literature and textbooks, and prepared audio-visual materials. Sam also administered health centers in 60 tribal locations and they visited the hundreds of congregations scattered in the rugged hills and jungle.
In 1988 they moved to the town of Las Margaritas, the shopping center of the Tojolabal tribe. During the following six years they translated biblical and health materials into their language. They also arranged for a reprint of their New Testament, enlarged and republished their hymnal, and taught them to sing the hymns. Tribal persecution was severe, and they became involved in the support and encouragement of converts who were expelled from their villages.
In 1994 they moved to the city of San Cristobal de Las Casas to be near the Amatenango area of the Tzeltal tribe. They helped prepare a hymnal and a translation of the New Testament in that Tzeltal dialect.
The move to San Cristobal was also prompted by an invitation from the highland Tzeltal church leaders to coordinate the revisions of their Bible and hymnal and to prepare Sunday School materials. At the dedication service of this Bible in August 2002, the entire edition of 15,000 copies was distributed to the Tzeltal churches. During their four decades of service the Hofmans witnessed the growth of the Tzeltal Church from 7,000 to over 60,000 members.
Sam and Helen met on a blind date, attending an evening service at Third Reformed Church in 1955. It was Sam's first week as a student at Western Seminary and Helen's first week as a student at Hope College. Three years of courtship followed, and Helen squeezed four years of college into three so they could both graduate and be married in the summer of 1958.
They received their call to missionary service at Maplewood Reformed Church in the Fall of 1957. They were visiting the church to hear the dynamic preaching of the Rev. James Baar; but there was a guest speaker that morning: the Rev. John Kempers, the pioneer Reformed Church missionary to Chiapas. Through his message they heard the Lord's call to serve in Mexico.
In addition to their writing in the Tzeltal and Tojolabal languages, their publications include a textbook on church history in Spanish and a devotional booklet, "Light from Tzeltal Lamps," published by Words of Hope in 2001. Sam wrote articles regularly for the "Missionary Monthly" and the "Church Herald," a collection of which was published in 1993 as the book "Mission Work in Today's World." In 2004 he wrote an article for the Reformed Review of Western Theological Seminary titled "The History of the Chiapas Mission."
Despite their distance from Michigan, their ties to Hope remained strong through the years, partly because four of Helen's siblings are also alumni. Helen's brother Keith taught history at Hope College from 1987 to 1989. Her brother-in-law, Bruce Brumels, is a past president of the Alumni Association. Another brother-in-law, Charles Van Engen, is a member of the Board of Trustees.
Their three children, David, Jonathan and Lisa, are all Hope graduates, as is Jonathan's wife, Richelle. Six of Helen's nieces and nephews are also graduates of Hope College, including Kirk Brumels, who is presently a Hope faculty member.
Leenhouts is employed with the U.S. Department of Education in Washington,
D.C. She currently serves as the program officer for the Transition to Teaching grant program which supports the recruitment and retention of mid-career professionals and recent college graduates into teaching in high-poverty districts. She also has major responsibility as project officer for a variety of national grants focusing on teacher quality issues. Her entire career has been one of distinguished dedication to education in its many facets, including federal service at the U.S. Department of Education, university teaching, tutoring inner-city youth, and mentoring Hope College students.
After graduating from Hope, Leenhouts completed her master's degree in rhetoric and public address and her doctorate in speech communication at the University of Michigan. She has held teaching positions on the communication faculty at the University of Massachusetts, University of Kentucky, Salem (MA) State College, and the University of Wisconsin at both Eau Claire and River Falls.
While in Eau Claire and River Falls, she was active politically, leading to an opportunity to serve as a national advance person for the 1980 presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush with responsibility for organizing events in nine states. Through her experience on the Bush campaign and work on U.S. Senate and gubernatorial campaigns in Wisconsin, she was appointed as a special assistant at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where she worked in economic development.
She began her career at the U.S. Department of Education four years later, in 1985. She has held a variety of leadership positions during her 21 years with the department, and has been in her current position since 2002.
Leenhouts has been an active member of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in downtown Washington, D.C., where she is a past elder, choir member, and current chair of a college scholarship committee for financially needy women. She evidenced her strong commitment to the education of young people by serving as a volunteer tutor for 17 years in the church's one-on-one program for inner-city youth in the District of Columbia, a program now in its 44th year. In 1998, she was named the program's Tutor of the Year. Currently, she sings in the Chancel Choir of the National Presbyterian Church and serves on the church's Middle East Committee. Since 1988, she has been singing with the 180-voice Washington Chorus, with which she has made five tours abroad. The Chorus performs at the Kennedy Center and won a Grammy in 1999 for Best Choral Performance.
Leenhouts has been a constant and enthusiastic presence for Hope College. She served on the college's Alumni Association Board of Directors, representing the D.C. area, from 1987 to 1993 and continues to support Hope through active involvement with the DC-area
alumni. A special highlight of this involvement is her participation for over 10 years with the college's Washington DC Honors Semester, mentoring and encouraging the many Hope students who have interned with her at the Department of Education. She has also served on the class reunion committees for her 30th, 35th and current, 40th, reunions.
Schaap is president of Lumigen Inc., which he founded, and is also retired from the chemistry faculty of Wayne State University.
He spent the last semester of his senior year at Hope as a research fellow in organic chemistry at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He received his doctorate in organic chemistry from Harvard University in 1970, joining the Wayne State faculty that same year.
Schaap's research at Wayne State focused on the study of dioxetanes, high-energy chemical compounds which can be triggered to generate chemiluminescence, or light. He directed the study of nine master's in chemistry students and 18 Ph.D. students, and published more than 100 papers in refereed research journals.
While continuing his teaching and research efforts at Wayne State, he formed Lumigen Inc. in 1987 to commercialize the dioxetanes which had been developed in his research laboratory. The dioxetanes are now distributed worldwide by major corporations because of their sensitivity, versatility and stability as chemiluminescent detection reagents in life science research and medical diagnostics.
Schaap retired from Wayne State in 2000 to become full-time president of Lumigen. The Southfield company now has 43 employees.
He remains involved with Wayne State as a member of the Board of Visitors of the College of Science and of the Steering Committee of the Mott Center. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Detroit Merit Academy, and is a member of St. Ambrose Church in Grosse Pointe Park.
Schaap presented the J. and J. Neckers Lecture in Chemistry at Hope, focused on his research, in 1992, and also spoke during the dedication activities for the college's new science center on Oct. 8, 2004. The atrium in the science center is named in honor of him and his wife Carol in recognition of a leadership gift that they made to designate the space in celebration of influential Hope chemistry professors Dr. Gerrit Van Zyl and Dr. J. Harvey Kleinheksel.