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Presidential Update Winter 2002
To Hope College Alumni and Friends:
Like most parts of the country, the Hope College campus has experienced an unusually mild winter. The usually absent winter sun has instead often cast a welcome glow on the spires of Dimnent Chapel. It has been for me a special reminder of God's grace and faithfulness to the Hope community for nearly a century and a half.
Dr. James N. Boelkins Elected Provost
I am pleased to share with you that Dr. James N. Boelkins was elected provost on January 24, 2002, by official action of the Board of Trustees. This action followed a consensus recommendation to me by the Provost Search Committee and my subsequent, enthusiastic recommendation to the Board of Trustees.
Jim is a 1966 Hope graduate who is currently vice provost of Grand Valley State University's Pew Campus in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His career has been spent in higher education, including faculty positions at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. He has been with Grand Valley since July of 2000 and served as chief academic officer at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, from 1985 to 2000.
While at Hope, Jim majored in biology. He completed a master of science degree at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks in 1968, received a doctorate in pharmacology at the University of Missouri at Columbia in 1971, and has done postdoctoral work at Penn State. He and his wife, Barbara, who also attended Hope, have three children.
Jim will officially begin his appointment on July 1, 2002. Until then, we remain enthusiastically committed to the 2001-02 year transition team of deans led so capably by Dr. Nancy Miller, who is serving as interim provost.
With confidence and expectation, I predict that Jim Boelkins will lead Hope to new levels of academic distinction.
Board of Trustees Okays Science Building Expansion
The Board of Trustees has made the courageous decision to begin construction on the science addition. Given the fact that we lack total funding for this project and the fact that funds are typically more difficult to secure once a project is in progress, I believe this represents a major step of faith. I am determined that every building that is built at Hope will be fully funded, so we have much to do as fundraisers and donors.
Obviously there is risk in moving ahead, but, as I shared with the Board, I feel there is a greater risk in not moving ahead for the purpose of addressing urgent needs and enhancing Hope's national reputation in the sciences. This will be a superb facility, and one which will serve the college well for many decades.
I am especially indebted to Dean Jim Gentile and the science faculty, Trustee George Zuidema, and Greg Maybury and Jerry Rademaker from our physical plant staff for their superb planning efforts on this addition.
Board of Trustees Expands Campaign Goal to $105 Million
The progress of the initial fundraising efforts for the Legacies: A Vision of Hope capital campaign at has led us to increase in the goal to $105 million.
The Board of Trustees authorized an increase in the scope of the campaign from $85 million to $105 million by adding the DeVos Fieldhouse project into the overall campaign. The move reflects the progress thus far in raising money for both efforts and is a special tribute to the generosity and faithfulness of Hope's constituency and the Holland community.
Funding is about two-thirds complete for the campaign's major building projects. The percentage for the campaign overall is a bit higher-about $83 million of the new $105 million overall goal has been committed.
While the building projects will significantly reshape the appearance of the campus and the eastern gateway to Holland and Hope, they are especially noteworthy for the effect they will have on the college's primary task of educating students. Hope College is not about building buildings. Hope is about providing facilities that will enable students and professors to perform at the very highest levels. The Science Center, Martha Miller Center, and DeVos Fieldhouse projects are tangible evidence of this commitment. These are projects that will change the face of Hope and improve its already lofty position in undergraduate Christian liberal arts education.
While we are pleased with the total raised thus far, fundraising for the campaign will be continuing in earnest through the end of 2003, particularly as the college expands its focus from leadership gifts to the Hope constituency in general.
The anticipated timetable for the college's major construction/renovation projects is as follows:
A New Friend
Following a thrilling men's basketball victory over Albion College earlier this season, I stopped in the Civic Center lobby to shake hands with a young man I did not know, William McLean. He opened the conversation by saying, "You have a nice looking wife." I smiled and responded in the affirmative saying, "I married up." Bill smiled with me and shared how he had been in a very serious motorcycle accident eight years ago and was left a paraplegic. He was not bitter, just grateful for each new day. Bill attends Hope basketball games as a member of the Holland Jaycees, shuttling freshly popped corn to the concession stand.
Hope College basketball is the team of the college, but also of the Holland community. It is one of the reasons I am so excited about the DeVos Fieldhouse project, which will address not only the spectator facility needs of Hope College but also of Holland Christian and the community. Seeing my new friend happy and enjoying such events makes the effort to build such a facility all the more worthwhile.
Upward Bound Director Receives Award
Elizabeth Colburn, director of Hope's Upward Bound program, recently received the 2001 "Social Justice Award in Education" from the City of Holland Human Relations Commission. Liz has been with Upward Bound since 1982, serving as director since 1987.
It was interesting to note during the award ceremony the comment made by Holland Mayor Al McGeehan. He stated that in the 30-plus years the Upward Bound program has operated on the Hope College campus, not a single participating student has failed to graduate from high school. Upward Bound is a program serving at-risk students, and includes a broad spectrum of Holland area youth. It is federally funded and has been additionally subsidized in the amount of approximately $100,000 annually by Hope College for the past 30 years. The college's support is one way Hope seeks to help economically disadvantaged, racially diverse, at-risk students. Hope College Upward Bound is one of the longest-running continuously funded programs in the country.
Since the beginning of the academic year, two fraternities have been placed on suspension for doing things which they should not have been doing and for which they previously had been warned. Rarely are suspensions given without warning attempts by those responsible for supervision.
Invariably, I am asked if the college is trying to get rid of fraternities and sororities. The answer to that question is unequivocally no. But, we do expect that they will conduct themselves in accord with the purposes for which they are established. When they do, and that certainly is most of the time, they provide a very good relational experience for young women and men.
The ballgame has changed, however, in the last decade. We are members of an increasingly litigious society, and behavior that might have been dismissed in an earlier era is no longer permissible. Nor is it insurable. Fraternities and sororities are required to carry liability insurance, and they have found their premiums escalating rather dramatically due to litigation that has occurred around the country. Hope College is not immune from this historical trend and, therefore, both out of conviction and practice has taken the necessary steps to protect individuals and the college.
These sanctions have not been imposed because of administration versus student issues. Rather, they reflect an entire campus community, including especially student peers, reaching decisions through deliberations by the Campus Judicial Board.
A Rich Experience
As a college president, I have been attending the annual meetings of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) for the past 17 years. NAICU is the primary legislative advocate for independent colleges and universities, especially in the areas of student financial aid and taxation. Occasionally these meetings have been rather forgettable, but most have been very productive. These meetings always include the opportunity to meet with members of Congress relative to the concerns of independent higher education.
This year's trip to Washington, D.C., however, will always be especially memorable for me. Paul Wackerbarth '64, who has a distinguished professional record in foreign service, offered to give me a personal tour of the Washington National Cathedral, where he serves as a docent. I marveled at the beauty of this treasure, constructed with private monies over a period of 83 years. Even more thrilling, however, was the opportunity to renew a friendship with The Reverend Eugene Sutton '76, who recently was appointed Canon for Spiritual Formation and Director of the Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage at the Cathedral. How proud we are of him for this major appointment.
In conjunction with this time in Washington was the opening of an exhibit of Ethiopian art at the Smithsonian Institute. Here we held a Hope College reception and special viewing for friends and alumni, with more than 100 in attendance. Dr. Neal Sobania, Hope College professor of history and director of international education, and Hope junior Daniel Berhanemeskel of Aksum, Ehtiopia, assisted in the preparation of the exhibit, "From Monastery to Marketplace: Tradition Inspires Modern Ethiopian Painting." Neal's interest and expertise in Ethiopian history, culture, and art go back to 1968, when he served in the Peace Corps there. Daniel is a fourth-generation Ethiopian painter specializing in devotional icons.
Ethiopian artists typically receive their training through the Christian church. This exhibit features not only Daniel's commissioned work but also works by his father and his great-grandfather, and will be on display in the African Voices Focus Gallery at the Smithsonian for the next year.
Phelps Scholars Program
The Phelps Scholars program, under the able direction of Dr. Charles Green, is in its third year of operation. It is a program designed for those who wish to maximize diversity opportunities at Hope through living arrangements and social/academic programming.
As is our custom, Martie and I invited the current Phelps Scholars to an evening dessert at our home. It was followed by conversation during which each student shared his or her likes and dislikes about Hope. These were fairly predictable. You would expect a group like this to wish for more racial, cultural, and geographic diversity. They did. You would also expect them to identify caring and competent professors as a strength. They did. You might also imagine that while some loved Holland, others thought there was not quite enough "action." Most identified their relationships with their classmates as a strength.
There was one response that drew an enthusiastic round of applause from everyone present. One student said that he appreciated the college's cleaning ladies the most. In an instant, it reminded me that significant influencers are not necessarily those who have the highest-profile jobs. Anyone on the team can make the most significant contribution to the experience of others. Every person at Hope has a role to play, and none of us should underestimate his or her relative importance in creating the kind of caring, Christian environment we desire at the college.
An Oftentimes Hidden Strength
There are so many visible strengths at Hope-a beautiful campus with many outstanding facilities, a proven curriculum with foundational liberal arts experiences, a talented teaching and scholarly faculty, a supportive constituency, and a vibrant Christian faith dimension. Yet there is one strength at Hope that, in my experience, is rarely identified. It may very well be among the greatest strengths of all.
It manifested itself very tangibly for me during the Christmas season. Martie and I were doing some last minute Christmas shopping in downtown Holland. As we were making a purchase, the salesperson asked if I knew who he was. His face was familiar, but embarrassingly I couldn't quite recall his name. He identified himself as Jeremy Brieve, a sophomore at Hope from Holland.
I proceeded to ask him what he liked best about Hope. Without hesitation he said, "I've never before been surrounded by classmates who were so interested in building me up and making me better than I otherwise would be."
Our goal at Hope is to build on the firm foundations established in the homes of so many of our students. We have the faculty, staff, students, and importantly the resolve to make this happen in beautifully fulfilling ways. Thank you for affording us the wonderful privilege of doing so.