The alumni H-Club at Hope College will present its "Hope for Humanity Award" to R. Jack Baas of Grand Rapids on Saturday, Oct. 18.
The award, first presented in 1990, recognizes Hope athletic alumni for service to others, transformation of Christian values and consistency of commitment. 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 recognize Baas during its annual Homecoming luncheon, which will be held in the Haworth Inn and Conference Center.
Baas graduated from Hope in 1942 with majors in history and English. As a student-athlete he earned six varsity letters - two each in baseball, basketball and tennis. His activities as a student also included the Fraternal Society, which he served as secretary, and the Blue Key organization.
He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, piloting a torpedo bomber off the USS Essex. He flew 12 anti-submarine and convoy-protection missions in the Atlantic Theater during the summer of 1944, and 52 missions in the Pacific between November of 1944 and September of 1945, including over Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Japan. He earned 14 decorations, among them three Distinguished Flying Crosses.
After the war he spent 20 months as an underwriter trainee with Mutual of New York. In 1947, he joined American Seating Co., holding a variety of management positions until retiring in 1982 after 35 years with the company.
Baas has been active in the life of the college in multiple ways since graduation. He was president of the H-Club in the 1960s, regularly attends class reunions, and also regularly attends cultural and athletic events at Hope. In 2002, he spoke to Dr. Fred Johnson's history class about carrier operations in the Pacific during World War II.
Prior to his retirement, his community involvement included active service as a member of the Reformed Church in America, including seven terms as a deacon and elder in his church and service as vice president and president of the South Grand Rapids Classis. He served two three-year terms on the board of Camp Geneva, and was the board president in 1976. He also served two three-year terms on the Grand Rapids Recreation Board, and a three-year term on the Board of Grand Rapids Planning. He officiated high school and college basketball for 20 years.
His current volunteer activities include judging pole vault at Grand Rapids-area, regional and state track meets for the past 48 years; serving as a transportation driver for the American Red Cross for the past 20 years; running the publishing center in a K-8 school for the past 12 years; and 19 years as a member of the Golden Kiwanis of Grand Rapids.
His wife, Jeanette (Rylaarsdam) Baas, is a Hope classmate who served in the U.S. Navy WAVES in Washington, D.C., during World War II. They were married on Jan. 17, 1946.
Baas and his wife have four children: Marc Baas, Myra Smith, Curt Baas and Cara Brzezinski. Myra graduated from Hope in 1971, and Curt and Cara both attended the college in the 1970s. Jack's granddaughter Alyson Brzezinski graduated from Hope in May of this year.