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Presidential Update Fall 2010
To Hope College Alumni, Parents, and Friends:
It has been a spectacularly beautiful fall in western Michigan! The campus has been aglow with bright, sunny skies and mild temperatures. Early morning sunrises shimmering through multi-colored leaves and spreading their radiance on campus buildings, including especially the Chapel spires, have been particularly inspiring.
Campus visitors very often comment on the beauty of the Hope College campus. They like the variety of buildings constructed during different eras of Hope’s history, from the original Van Vleck Hall built in 1857 to some of the newer facilities like the Van Wylen Library, the Haworth Inn and Conference Center and Cook Residence Hall, the A. Paul Schaap Science Center, the Martha Miller Center, and the DeVos Fieldhouse. Each one has its own character, and the recently restored Graves Hall is a blend of both the old and the new. The adaptive restoration of Graves brought back much of the original character of this historic building, and the efforts of making it functional and fully accessible to those with special mobility needs were welcomed by all. If you haven’t been back to the college in a while, we invite you to return and enjoy some of the current facilities and campus grounds. It is a special privilege for the Hope community to work, study, and play in such a beautiful place.
Hope is located immediately adjacent to downtown Holland. While most liberal arts colleges are on the perimeter of a community or in a more isolated location, Hope has chosen to put its footprint in the downtown area. We are so grateful to be located in a community like Holland which welcomes and supports us, and city personnel indicate that they are equally grateful to have a college like Hope located in Holland. It is truly a synergistic relationship, with the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
On a fairly regular basis, I’m asked by personnel in other communities how Hope and Holland have forged such a mutually beneficial relationship. My answer is always, “intentionally, collaboratively, and over a long period of time.”
A recent example of this cooperative spirit is a land swap that is about to be consummated. It will enable Hope to acquire the current skateboard park on Columbia Avenue, the tennis court park near the Dow Center, and a multiple-acre site northwest of the Holland Municipal Stadium. In exchange, the college will relinquish the building and acreage located on the corner of 16th and Fairbanks, immediately adjacent to the city’s swimming pool, and some cash. The city will construct a new skateboard park within Smallenburg Park. We are very hopeful that the current skateboard park will one day soon be the home for a new concert hall/music department facility, the unplayable tennis court park a parking lot with possibility as a future building site, and the acreage by Municipal Stadium a new outdoor tennis stadium. We also anticipate a new student center where the current music building is located. None of this would be possible without the special relationship that exists between the Hope and Holland communities.
Most everyone in college and university settings enjoys the rhythm of the academic year and the traditional events that take place on a systematic basis. In August of this year, our orientation activities marked the beginning of the new academic year. Feedback indicates that Hope does this very well. Considerable planning and implementation efforts occupy virtually every corner of the college campus. This year’s Opening Convocation address was given by Psychology Professor Sonja Trent-Brown. Her remarks were titled A Multi-“tude” of Opportunity. In September, of course, we celebrated the 113th Pull between the sophomore and freshman men. This year the sophomores prevailed. It is not surprising to see their classmates line the banks of the Black River for this event, but there are also many alumni, parents, even grandparents that traipse through the marshland to get a first-hand view of this extraordinary competition. Homecoming and the return of several reunion classes to the campus were celebrated in October. In November, we experienced the 76th Nykerk Cup Competition between the freshman and sophomore women. This, too, is an extraordinary event which packs the Holland Civic Center to overflowing. The freshmen won the competition this year. As the beautiful autumn colors give way to the chill of winter, many are already beginning to think of December’s Christmas Vespers, that campus celebration which marks the advent of the Christmas season in our community. Once again, there will be four sold-out services.
Constituents from all colleges and universities are always interested in enrollment. This is especially true in these more challenging economic times. I’m pleased to report that we began the fall semester with one more full-time equivalent student on campus than ever before. However, enrolling 34 fewer freshmen than we desired has given us pause for the future. With this smaller freshman class and a very large class due to graduate next May, we anticipate an enrollment next fall of 60 to 90 fewer students. This will require a certain amount of downsizing in order to operate efficiently.
We are working very hard to enroll a freshman class in the fall of 2011 that will enable us to continue having approximately 3,000 full-time equivalent students on campus to begin the fall semester. This is the optimal size for us to operate both efficiently and effectively, fully utilizing all of our campus facilities. We continue to take extraordinary efforts to keep a Hope College education affordable for talented and deserving students. The recent reductions in the Michigan Tuition Grant and the elimination of the Michigan Promise Grant have made this even more challenging. Still, we are very pleased with the quality of students on campus with an average ACT score of slightly more than 26 and an average high school GPA of 3.78.
For many years, Hope has tried very diligently to increase the number of domestic minority and international students. We have been more successful with the former than the latter but continue to make significant strides in both areas. We have deployed admissions counselors around the country and even internationally to assist us in this endeavor. Students of color have increased from approximately 125 students five years ago to almost 350 today. The increase is the result of a concerted effort by our admissions team, our faculty, and our staff. Many of our alumni and friends have assisted in this endeavor as well. However, what is most encouraging about this and quite unusual among colleges and universities is Hope’s rate of retention and persistence to graduation for domestic minorities. Hope’s graduation rate is the second highest in the state of Michigan, behind only the University of Michigan, and our minority students at Hope graduate at virtually the same rate as our majority students. I believe this is also attributable in part to the effort of Professor Charles Green, who leads our very popular Phelps Scholars Program for students desiring a more focused diversity experience, and to our successful efforts in attracting both minority and international faculty and staff, who serve as role models and mentors. While we have much work yet to do, we are very pleased with our progress toward having a campus community more reflective of the citizenship of the world.
Most of you are aware that three years ago we authorized the restoration
of the historic E. M. Skinner organ in Dimnent Chapel. Installed in 1929,
this instrument was just designated by the Organ Historical Society of
America as one of America’s most important instruments. The approximately
$1 million restoration will enable this instrument, now valued at approximately
For the first time ever, a few Hope College engineering students, with Professor John Krupczak and Dean Richard Frost as advisors, built a race car from scratch. The car was entered in international competition in Detroit and received the Rookie of the Year Award. I reported on the project in my last Presidential Update and somewhat facetiously added that I wished they’d let me drive it.
One should be careful what one wishes for! In early November, the engineering group offered me the opportunity. They invited me to the Le Mans-style racetrack near South Haven, Mich. for a test drive. I arrived in my suit and tie and was quickly told to “strip down a bit” to fit into the thermal suit, helmet, boots, and gloves. I nestled into a very, very small space in the 600-pound race car. It was a rainy day, and the track was a bit slick, but I managed to maneuver my way around the track a couple of times without incident. To be sure, it was a thrill for me, one about which I wisely refrained from telling Martie until it was over. Driving a race car for the first time ever was enjoyable, but I came away from this experience most impressed with the abilities of our students to pull off something like this while also attending to their responsibilities as full-time college students. Impressive indeed! Driving my college-owned 2005 Toyota Avalon back to campus didn’t provide quite the same thrill, but I must admit that it was a bit more comfortable!
Hope has won the Commissioner’s Cup for supremacy in intercollegiate sport for the last ten consecutive years. This is an extraordinary achievement on the part of our student athletes and our coaching staff. We are very proud of their efforts. This year both the men’s soccer and the women’s volleyball teams won MIAA conference titles and represented the league as automatic qualifiers for their national tournaments.
Hope hosted the regional cross country event this year, and has received notification from the NCAA that we will be hosting the women’s basketball finals and women’s volleyball finals at DeVos Fieldhouse in both 2012 and 2013.
Hope has signed an Early Assurance Program agreement with Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine that will enable three students each year to receive early acceptance to MSU’s medical school program. This agreement adds a little more luster to Hope’s long-time nationally reputable pre-med program.
I have long been inspired with the service orientation of the current generations of Hope students. It is exemplary and recognized. Sometimes this service is very much behind the scenes, with our students working individually with at-risk students in the community or visiting with elderly people in Holland. Oftentimes it involves raising money for charitable organizations like the Children’s Miracle Network via Dance Marathon or the American Cancer Society through Relay for Life. The best and most recent example of this was the award received by Hope’s Alcor Chapter of the national Mortar Board college honor society—a society that stands for scholarship, leadership, and service. Hope was selected “Best in the Nation” among all the college and university chapters in the country. Along the way, the chapter won nine category awards for excellence as well. Co-advisors are Dr. Dianne Portfleet, adjunct associate professor of English, and Martie Bultman ’63.