Dr. David Van Wylen of the St. Olaf College biology faculty has been named dean for the natural and applied sciences at Hope College.
Van Wylen is a professor of biology and the sustainability catalyst at St. Olaf, where his tenure previously included two three-year terms as associate dean for natural sciences and mathematics and serving as chair of the Biology Department. Hired following a national search, he will begin his duties at Hope on July 1.
“Dr. Van Wylen brings to his new position at Hope College an intimate understanding of the purpose and promise of world-class science education in the context of a Christian liberal arts college,” said Dr. Richard Ray, provost and professor of kinesiology at Hope. “His experience and his many fine personal qualities will serve the science community, Hope students, and our faculty’s professional interests very well.”
Although drawn to Hope by the high quality of the college’s programs and character, Van Wylen will also be coming to West Michigan and campus with strong personal ties. His parents are Drs. Gordon and Margaret Van Wylen of Holland. Gordon Van Wylen was president of Hope from 1972 until retiring in 1987.
“Most people associated with the natural, mathematical and applied sciences at liberal arts colleges know about Hope College, as Hope has been a leader in these areas for many years. So professionally, the opportunity to work with the outstanding students, faculty, and staff who have positioned Hope for such excellence is extremely appealing,” Van Wylen said.
“Furthermore, realizing academic excellence within a Christian context is a noble mission; I am pleased to join the Hope community on this journey. Finally, on a personal level, my wife and I have deep roots with Hope College and the Holland community, so we are delighted with what feels somewhat like a homecoming.”
Van Wylen has been a member of the St. Olaf faculty since 1994. As associate dean, he provided visionary leadership and strategic planning and implementation for a variety of initiatives, including serving as the design team leader for the $64 million Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, a LEED Platinum facility that opened in 2008. He also led a move from a traditional understanding of disciplines and departments to a more interdisciplinary and integrated approach.
His research emphases include cardiac physiology and neurobiology. He has had more than 50 articles published in refereed academic journals, and made presentations at multiple professional conferences across the United States and abroad, regarding his research as well as based on his expertise in program/space design in science buildings. In addition, he speaks frequently to church and civic groups about global water related issues. Van Wylen has been the principal investigator of several external grants in support of his research or programs at St. Olaf, from agencies including the American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health and Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Van Wylen is a 1980 graduate of St. Olaf, where he majored in biology, and subsequently earned a doctorate in physiology from the University of Michigan in 1983. Following three years as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia, he was an assistant and then associate professor in the department of physiology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. During this time, he received the American Heart Association Established Investigator Award, given to promising young investigators in the field of cardiac physiology.
A strong proponent of teaching and doing science in a liberal arts context, he has led semester-long study abroad programs in Asia, the Middle East, and Australia. In his role as sustainability catalyst at St. Olaf, he chairs the college’s Sustainability Task Force, leads and coordinates sustainability initiatives, promotes sustainable decision-making, and encourages earth-minded action.
Van Wylen and his wife, Pat, have three children: Nathan, an architect living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with wife Hannah; Thomas, a teacher and soccer coach in Tokyo, Japan; and Madison, a junior studio art major at St. Olaf.
Van Wylen will succeed Dr. James Gentile, who has been dean since retiring as president of Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA) in 2013. Gentile, previously a long-time member of the biology faculty who had been dean from 1988 until joining RCSA in 2005, returned to the college for two years following the departure of his successor, Dr. Moses Lee, who left the college to become program director for the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.