The alumni H-Club at Hope College will present its "Hope for Humanity Award" to Kenneth J. Weller of Pella, Iowa, on Saturday, Oct. 4, during the college's Homecoming Weekend. A 1948 Hope graduate, he spent two decades on the Hope faculty and then another 21 years as president of Central College in Pella.
The award, first presented in 1990, recognizes Hope athletic alumni for consistent service to others and demonstrating the values of Christian commitment and service. The H-Club consists of Hope alumni who were athletic letter winners and other honorary letter winners as approved by the H-Club's Board of Directors.
The group will honor Weller during its annual Homecoming luncheon, which will be held in the Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse.
Weller graduated from Hope with a degree in economics and business administration. His co-curricular activities as a student included football, track, debate and the Fraternal Society.
He completed an MBA in marketing at the University of Michigan in 1949, when returned to Hope as a member of the economics faculty and football coaching staff. He rose to the rank of full professor, and also chaired the department of economics and business administration. During his time on the faculty he also served as an assistant to Hope President Irwin Lubbers and coordinated Management Institute programs at the college. In addition, while teaching at Hope he completed his doctorate in finance and business economics at the University of Michigan in 1961.
He remained at Hope until 1969, when he was named president of Central College. Central prospered during his presidency, with accomplishments including significant growth in enrollment and the college's endowment; the construction of six new academic buildings; the expansion of the international studies program to include campuses in England, Wales, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Spain, China and Mexico; and a broadly successful athletic program with 65 occasions in which teams finished in the top 10 of Division III. In 1988, he was named one of the top 100 college presidents in the nation. He retired from Central's presidency in 1990.
Weller was active in the NCAA while at Central. He served on a wide variety of committees, most notably on two task forces which made women full participants in the NCAA and established the Presidents Commissions. While chair of the Division III Steering Committee, he wrote and achieved adoption of the Division III statement of philosophy.
His professional activities while at Central had included chairing the board of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and serving as president of both the Iowa College Foundation and the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
He has received a variety of awards in recognition of his career, including decoration by the Queen of the Netherlands as a knight in the Order of Orange Nassau; honorary doctorates from Hope and Central, and appointment as an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College of Wales; a resolution of appreciation for service to the Reformed Church in America on both local and national levels; and the City of Pella Award for community service for his 17 years as the volunteer founding president of the Pella Community Foundation. He also received an award for outstanding service from the national Council for Independent Colleges. Central College named its Center for Business and International Studies in honor of him and his wife Shirely, who is a 1950 Hope graduate.
One of his hobbies is officiating in track and field, which began at Hope about 50 years ago, culminating in officiating in Big 10, Big 12, Drake Relays, and NCAA National Championships in Division I and III. His work over the years has been recognized by the MIAA and by election to the Iowa Track Officials Hall of Fame in 2008.
In addition to his honorary degree, which he received in 1983, Hope presented him with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1971. He and Shirely established the college's "Vanderbush-Weller Development Fund" award, first presented in 2000, in honor of longtime Hope professor and football coach Alvin Vanderbush, who retired in 1972 and died on Feb. 20, 2005. In addition to having been a former Hope faculty colleague, Weller was one of Vanderbush's former players.
The Wellers have two grown sons, Bill, a 1976 Hope graduate whose wife Sally is a 1978 Hope graduate, living in Crystal Lake, Ill.; and Matt of Green Bay, Wis. They also have five grandchildren, including Claire, a Hope junior studying this semester in an off-campus program in New York City.