Hope College is anticipating that a record number of graduating seniors will cross the Commencement stage on Sunday, May 8.
The approximately 745 seniors surpass the previous high of 718 in 2007. The figures reflect that the Classes of 2007 and 2011 were also the largest incoming classes in the fall of 2003 and fall of 2007 respectively.
The college's 146th Commencement will be held at 3 p.m. at Holland Municipal Stadium. Baccalaureate will be held earlier in the day, at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.
The Commencement speaker will be Dr. Jesus Montaño, associate professor of English at Hope. The Baccalaureate sermon will be delivered by the Rev. Dr. Blaine Newhouse, currently pastor of preaching and leadership with Calvary Reformed Church in Holland and newly appointed executive director of Geneva Camp and Retreat Center.
Montaño joined the Hope faculty in 1999 as an assistant professor, and was promoted to associate professor in 2004. The graduating class presented him with the "Hope Outstanding Professor Educator" (H.O.P.E.) Award in 2010.
His primary academic interests are Latina/o literature and Medieval English literature, and he has written and delivered invited addresses in both fields. In 2002 he received a Sluyter Fellowship from Hope to explore the literary and cultural issues of the border lands, through a focus on Mexican American literature for children and young adults.
Montaño's work resonates with students, and his courses are always packed. When the college's Cultural Heritage course requirements were adjusted to include more cultural traditions, he introduced a new course that explored the cultural encounters of Native Americans, the Spanish colonies, and Northern European settlers in the American Southwest. Through his course "Routes and Roots," part of the capstone Senior Seminar program through which graduating seniors articulate their life view, he encourages students to understand that even though their point of origin may be known (their roots), their journey is on-going and their destination unknown. His attention to gender-specific learning styles also marks his awareness of student needs, and he has incorporated new types of writing assignments, research opportunities and presentation methods in his classes.
Montaño has also developed new research and artistic inquiries in recent years. He is an accomplished photographer, using his camera to document his frequent road trips to the West and Southwest. He follows the linguistic and artistic migration of words and symbols of Mexican Americans as they travel across the North American landscape. During a recent Critical Issues Symposium on Immigration, Montaño offered a lecture about his own immigrant experience, illustrated with his photographs. Student and faculty interest in the presentation was so great that it had to be moved to a larger room so that more than 300 people could witness his work and hear his stories.
Montaño graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1991, and from The Ohio State University with a Master of Arts and a doctorate in English in 1996 and 1999 respectively.
Newhouse, who is a 1986 Hope graduate, will begin serving as executive director of the Geneva Camp and Retreat Center at the beginning of May. Dedicated in the summer of 1948 through the vision of Reformed Church in America pastors and lay leaders for a place for Christ-centered summer programs for youth, the center now hosts up to 4,000 children and youth in its summer programs as well as more than 12,000 adult retreat guests annually.
He is concluding a tenure with Calvary Reformed that began in 1995. During his service, the church has emphasized outreach to the community. Among other initiatives, Calvary Reformed has partnered with two other churches in "Heights of Hope," a Christian community development partnership that focuses on empowering the neighborhood's residents to make social, physical and spiritual life change; established Blacktop Rec., a recreational ministry for neighborhood K-5 grade children; and developed a community vegetable garden on the front lawn that also serves as a neighborly meeting place.
His on-going community involvement also includes serving as a mentor through Kids Hope and for at-risk youth in HollandHeights, and as a member of the spiritual care advisory board of HollandHospital. Among other activities, in May 2010 he was a moderator during the Lakeshore Summit on Racism.
Prior to coming to Calvary Reformed Church, he was with Forest Grove Reformed Church in Hudsonville, serving as director of Christian education and youth from 1986 to 1991 and as co-pastor from 1991 to 1995.
Newhouse has held leadership roles in the Reformed Church in America as well. He was vice president and president of the Synod of the Great Lakes in 2006 and 2007 respectively. From 2000 to 2009 he chaired the denomination's Multiracial Congregational Team, and from 2001 to 2008 he chaired the Holland Classis's Student Support and Supervision Committee. Since 1994, he has also served as a teaching church mentor for Western Theological Seminary.
Newhouse majored in religion at Hope, where his co-curricular activities included serving as president of the college's chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and captaining the football and wrestling teams. He completed his M.Div. at Western Theological Seminary in 1991, and his D.Min. at the seminary in 2006.
In the event of rain, Commencement will be held at the Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse. Admission to Baccalaureate, and to Commencement if indoors, is by ticket only.