The facts may fade but the memories will last, the Hope College Class of 2000 was told on Sunday, May 7.
Dr. C. Baars Bultman, associate professor of education at Hope, delivered the address, "Remembering Why You Came." He invited the graduates to treasure their memories of the college and the people they learned with and from, and to remember that they, too, are part of Hope College.
"Hope will always be you, and you will always be Hope," he said. "Do not be afraid to look back for fear that your resolve about the future might somehow be weakened. It is okay to look back."
It was the first Hope Commencement in the presidency of Bultman's brother, Dr. James E. Bultman, who became Hope's 11th president last July. Approximately 5,000 attended the event, held at Holland Municipal Stadium. About 565 Hope seniors participated, including graduates from as far away as Ecuador, Turkey and Zambia.
"All of this sounds so nostalgic, so unbearably sentimental," Baars Bultman said of his remarks. "And I hope that is how you take it."
"The fact is that your time here at Hope is short," he said. "As Adlai Stevenson told Princeton University graduates nearly 50 years ago: 'this is the last of your springs here, and now in this place where you have traveled the depths of truth and felt the hem of heaven, when you leave, don't forget why you came.'"
"I urge you to shake hands firmly today," Bultman said. "Hug tightly. And when you leave, don't forget why you came."
Bultman outlined his daughter Marta's college search. As she made her college choice two years ago, he said, she selected Hope because of the people. "Hope people cared," he said. "Professors were welcoming, understanding and competent."
"But isn't that true of many colleges? Perhaps and probably," he said. "Still, what happens here, in the way that it does, is so unique that it seems utterly inexplicable even to those of us who share the experience."
Although he acknowledged that many of the graduates were no doubt also drawn to Hope by other strengths, he was confident that the people were an important consideration for them as well. He reminded the graduates that they, similarly, were part of the experience for others, helping to shape the place that had drawn them.
"Regardless of why, exactly, you came here, you quickly found that you were a participant in a story much larger than you ever could have imagined; the amazing story begun in 1866," Bultman said. "Like those who came before you, and those yet to come, you affected that story."
It would be their memories of the people of Hope, he said, that would endure.
"Without identifying any one class in particular, the fact is you will probably not recall much of what you think you've committed to memory, and even less of what you half-committed to memory," he said.
"You will remember the people with whom you had late-night conversations; you will remember who sang next to you at Vespers; you will remember who sat next to you on the bench at the Civic (a situation, frankly, with which I had more experience than I wanted); you will remember the magic of the registrar who enabled you to get out of here in four to seven years; and, yes, you will remember professors, not necessarily because of what they taught, but because of who they were: their humanity, their compassion, their concern for both your intellect and your spirit," Bultman said.
"And you will remember how you helped one another to grow; how you found faith, or how you rebuilt it, or how you discovered that you were not the only one holding the chalice of faith with trembling hands; even recognizing that it was not your own faith, but the faith of others that got you through the day," he said.
Earlier in the day, the Rev. Dr. Gregg Mast delivered the Baccalaureate Sermon, "Take Nothing for the Journey." Mast is the 1999-2000 president of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America and senior pastor of The First Church in Albany, N.Y.
He based his text on Luke 9:1-6. In the passage, Jesus sends the disciples to engage in ministry, instructing them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics."
"You can almost imagine the eyes of the disciples as they grew wide as saucers and they looked at each other and said, 'We are to take nothing at all?,'" Mast said.
Jesus's point, Mast said, was that the disciples wouldn't require possessions to be equipped for their task. "In a very real sense, Jesus gave them everything they needed," Mast said. "Jesus gave them purpose, a passion, and partners for the journey ahead."
Mast challenged the graduates to pursue their own forthcoming life journeys in the same way.
Concerning purpose, he said, "Our dream is that you will not only go for employment and also a career, but a call."
"The call is far beyond employment and career," he said. "A call is that which lasts and lifetime and then beyond."
"Jesus gave to his disciples a call, a purpose, a reason to get up in the morning," Mast said.
Mast encouraged the graduates to pursue their purpose with passion, just as the disciples had pursued theirs. He quoted T.E. Lawrence, who had discussed the transformational power of people who "dream with their eyes open" and had described them as "very dangerous people." Mast cited Desmond Tutu and Mother Teresa as examples.
"In a very real sense, Hope College wants to send you out as dangerous people," he said.
"Some of you arrived that way--you got a head start," Mast joked. "We hope all of you leave that way: willing to dream with your eyes open."
Partners, he said, would also be a help in the graduates' life journeys, but he noted that their own college roommate experiences likely already showed them that it wouldn't always be easy.
"This is hard work," he said. "Let's face it, most of the world is not as perfect as we are. They talk too much or they talk too little. They walk too fast or they walk too slow. To go out with partners is not easy stuff."
The challenge, Mast said, is to learn how to work with strengths and weaknesses alike.
In closing, Mast shared a saying that noted that those who carry guns tend to see everything as a target; those who carry cameras tend to see everything as a photograph; and those who carry a credit card tend to see everything as for sale. The graduates, he said, should be different.
"Class of 2000, we send you out as the first pilgrims in this new millennium," Mast said. "Hear the words of Jesus: take nothing for the journey. Take nothing, for you have everything: purpose, passion, people. Take nothing, for then everything will be a gift."