|hope college > van raalte institute|
Year of Variety and Change
For me, this year has been chiefly characterized by institutional service to Hope College. I conducted archival research into the religious history of the college in the early fall of 2002. Together with Carol Simon of the philosophy department, I wrote the document “A Contested Past,” which highlighted disputes about the Christian identity of Hope College from the end of World War II to the mid-1980s. The primary purpose of the document was to stimulate discussion among faculty about the past, present, and future direction of the school. In this respect we were highly successful; 60 faculty members turned up for discussion, and many more asked for copies of the paper. The Board of Trustees, too, read the document as a basis for its own discussion about the religious nature of Hope College. The document is now going to be expanded into a book, and one publisher has already expressed great interest.
I have also been involved in the college’s Religious Life Committee and the Task Force on Sexuality, which was appointed by the college president to write a report on how best to discuss and approach issues of sexuality which the campus faces. Additionally, I was part of a committee that put together a proposal that is asking the Lilly Foundation to provide Hope College with $2,000,000 in order to help students discern and act out their callings. We hope to receive a positive response in December 2002.
This was also the year that my book on euthanasia came out in the Netherlands (January 2002). While in the Netherlands during that month, I made a number of appearances to promote that book. Since then, I have given presentations about euthanasia in West Michigan at religious and civic organizations. A Dutch television crew visited me in April to make a documentary about euthanasia, which has since aired on Dutch public television. I also have engaged in smaller projects, such as participation at a conference in The Hague on the “IJkpunten” series in Dutch history, and a chapter in a German-language book about the Dutch.
This year has also been the year of the interview. In addition to a dozen or so interviews surrounding my book, the tragic and stunning events of the past year have prompted Dutch journalists to ask for my input. Some journalists have asked me to explain to a Dutch audience how America has changed since September 11; other journalists have asked me to help account for the changes that have taken place in the Netherlands in the past year, including the unprecedented election victory of the party once led by the murdered Pim Fortuyn. It has been engrossing to try to offer fresh and accurate analysis, and I can see why I chose to become an historian and not a prophet.
Finally, this year has been marked as a year of personal change. I have been appointed to a professorship at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, to lead research in Dutch history for the period from 1870 to the present. The position begins in 2003, and I shall be gone from Hope College and the Van Raalte Institute for at least a couple of years. I remain deeply grateful to the Institute for the research time, financial backing and personal encouragement that it has generously offered me in the past five years.