Alumni Association to Present Four
With Distinguished Alumni Awards
Posted April 15, 2002
HOLLAND -- The Hope College Alumni Association
will present four graduates with Distinguished Alumni Awards
during the college's Alumni Day on Saturday, May 4.
Being honored this year are: Bruce Neckers, a
1965 graduate from Grand Rapids; William Poppink, a 1937
graduate from Sault Ste. Marie; and Dr. Robert D. Visscher
and Marjorie Visscher, members of the Classes of 1951 and
1953 respectively who are from both Holland and Fort
The annual Distinguished Alumni Awards are
presented by the Alumni Association Board of Directors in
recognition of the awardees' contributions to society and
service to Hope. The award, presented during the college's
Alumni Banquet, is the highest honor that alumni can receive
from the college's Alumni Association.
Bruce Neckers is serving a one-year term as
president of the State Bar of Michigan, which consists of
all of the 34,000 lawyers licensed to practice law in
He has been in the private practice of law since
1968 with the Grand Rapids firm of Rhoades, McKee. His
practice is limited to significant litigation in state and
federal courts. He is also a certified facilitative
mediator as part of the U.S. District Court for the Western
District of Michigan.
Neckers is a fellow in the American College of
Trial Lawyers and the International Society of Barristers.
He is former president of the Grand Rapids Bar Association.
He is active in the Reformed Church in America.
He is an elder at Third Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, and
has served the denomination in numerous capacities including
a term as chair of the General Program Council. He was also
a member of the General Synod Executive Committee.
Neckers came to Hope from Clymer, N.Y., as a Third
Generation Hope student, the son of alumni M. Carlyle and
Doris Neckers and grandson of alumnus Albert Neckers. He is
a past member of the college's Alumni Board, and taught
business law at the college for several years.
He and his wife Susie, who has been a teacher
since graduation, met as students at Hope. They have three
children: Matthew, who attended Hope for two years;
Melissa, a 1995 graduate; and Allison.
William Poppink is a retired educator, and remains
active in his community as a volunteer.
He taught, coached and was a high school principal
in Rockford until 1950. He is a World War II veteran,
serving in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946.
Poppink was principal of Godwin Heights High
School in Grand Rapids from 1950 to 1953, and from 1954 to
1963 served first as assistant superintendent and then as
superintendent with the Hillsdale Public Schools. He was
superintendent of the Reeths Puffer Schools from 1963 to
1967, and then of the Sault Ste. Marie Area Public Schools
until retiring in 1975. In all three of the districts he
served as superintendent, every millage vote passed on the
first try; two, in Hillsdale and in Sault Ste. Marie,
resulted in new high schools.
His community involvements include Hospice,
Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, United Way and
Rotary. He is active at Central United Methodist Church.
He is past president of the Sault Country Club.
He and his wife Loma were named local Volunteers
of the Year in 1993. The Sault Ste. Marie Rotary Club
established the William A. Poppink Distinguished Teacher
Award in 1996. He received Honorable Mention in the
"Retired Educator of the Year" program of the Michigan
Association of Retired School Personnel in 1997.
Poppink was captain of the 1937 MIAA championship
men's basketball team, and is a past member of the college's
Alumni H-Club Board. He is past chair of the 50-Year
Circle, and was also the 1937 Class Representative.
He and Loma met while teaching in Rockford. All
five of their children attended Hope: Grace, Class of 1963;
William "Cal," Class of 1965, now deceased; James, Class of
1967; Lyn, who attended two years; and Sue, Class of 1975.
Dr. Robert Visscher and Marjorie Visscher have
been active in their careers, community and the life of the
Robert is retired from a career as a physician and
medical educator. A pioneer in the field of in vitro
fertilization, he founded and was the first director of the
In Vitro Fertilization Program at Blodgett Memorial Medical
Center in Grand Rapids.
He was an obstetrician and gynecologist in private
practice in Grand Rapids from 1963 to 1990, and specialized
in reproductive medicine from 1980 to 1990. Also from 1980
to 1990, he was program director for the Obstetrics and
Gynecology Residency at Blodgett. He is professor emeritus
of the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State
Robert was medical director from 1990 to 1992, and
executive director from 1993 to 1996, of the American
Society for Reproductive Medicine in Birmingham, Ala.
His honors include the AOA Honorary Medical
Society at the University of Michigan Medical School (1954),
the Spectrum Health Distinguished Physician Award (2000),
the William Heath Byford Award from the OB-GYN Department of
Northwestern University Medical School (1998) and the
Lifetime of Teaching Excellence Award from the OB-GYN
Department at Blodgett (1990).
He was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy
Medical Corps from 1956 to 1963. He has been active in the
RCA, including service as elder and deacon.
Marjorie taught third grade in Ann Arbor. She was
a substitute teacher in Traverse City and in the Grand
Rapids area. She has spent a significant amount of time as
a volunteer tutor.
She has been active in the family's churches since
graduation, including at Fifth Reformed in Grand Rapids for
25 years and more recently at Christ Memorial Church in
Holland. Her service has ranged from singing in the choir,
to serving on planning and building committees, to teaching
and organizing Sunday school programs. She has held
leadership positions in the Guild for Christian Service and
Marjorie was on the board of directors of Bethany
Christian Services in Grand Rapids, and volunteered with
programs including the "Other Way" Community Center in Grand
Rapids and the New Hope Baptist Church Lunch Program, and
providing transportation and finding resources for needy
persons through FISH (Fellowship in Serving Him) and
Operation "Second Mile" respectively. She was a member of
the Kent County Medical Society Auxiliary for 20 years. She
was also a member of the Women's Committee of the Grand
Marjorie directed spouse-guest activities for the
American Society for Reproductive Medicine from 1993 to
Robert was on the planning committees for the
college's Dow Center and the new science center, and is a
past president of the Alumni H-Club and has been involved in
planning for his class reunions. Marjorie has been active
on the planning committees for her class reunions. Both are
members of the Hope Academy for Senior Professionals.
They have three children, all of whom attended
Hope: Beth, Class of 1979, Steven, Class of 1980; and Linn,
Class of 1982.