Mary VandeHoef, who is head women’s softball coach, intramural director and assistant director of the Dow Center at Hope College, has been named recipient of the college’s 18th annual “Vanderbush-Weller Award” for strong, positive impact on students.

The award recognizes and supports the efforts of Hope faculty and staff who make extraordinary contributions to the lives of students.

The recognition has extra significance for VandeHoef, who as it happens knows Ken and Shirely Weller of Pella, Iowa, who established the award.  She’s a 2003 graduate of Central College in Pella.  Ken Weller was Central’s president from 1969 until retiring in 1990, and he and Shirely continue to be actively involved in the life of the college.

"I know Dr. Weller and Shirely very well from my time at Central and that is definitely something that makes this award more meaningful," VandeHoef said.

VandeHoef has been a member of the Hope staff since 2010 and is in her seventh season as Hope College softball coach.  From the spring of 2011 through the end of April, she has guided the Flying Dutch to a 159-110-2 overall record and a 79-33 mark in Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association games, including winning the MIAA championship this year.  Hope will be hosting the MIAA Softball Tournament on Thursday-Friday, May 4-5.

The college’s long-running intramural program features men’s, women’s or coed team competition in several sports, including badminton, basketball, flag football, inner tube water polo, racquetball, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball.  About 2,000 members of the campus community — primarily students but also members of the faculty and staff — currently participate each year.  The total was approximately 1,300 during VandeHoef’s first year leading the program.

The Dow Center, opened in the fall of 1978 and remodeled and enhanced multiple times in the years since, is an activity-oriented facility open to the entire campus in addition to offering memberships to community members.  It includes gymnasium areas to accommodate a variety of sports and games, a running track, an L-shaped swimming pool with a diving area, three dance studios, racquetball courts, classrooms, faculty offices, locker rooms and a two-story weight facility.  The building also houses the Department of Dance and the college’s Health Center.

VandeHoef came to Hope with a strong undergirding in NCAA Division III athletics. She played softball at Central College in Pella, Iowa, and graduated with honors in 2003. She was a member of the softball coaching staff for two years (2005-07) at Ithaca College in New York as a graduate assistant while receiving her master’s degree in sport psychology, and helped guide the Bombers to the NCAA Division III College World Series in 2006.  She then served as an assistant at her alma mater, coaching the junior varsity program and assisting at the varsity level for three years before coming to Hope.

A co-captain of Central's 2003 NCAA Division III national championship team, VandeHoef was a four-time NCAA tournament participant, four-year letter winner, and recipient of the team's most inspirational player award three of her four years. Central compiled a 158-30-1 record during her career, with Iowa Conference titles in 2000, 2002 and 2003, third-place NCAA regional finishes in 2000 and 2002, and two NCAA Division III College World Series appearances, including a national runner-up finish in 2001 and the NCAA championship in 2003.

The Wellers created the “Vanderbush-Weller Development Fund” in honor of longtime Hope professor and football coach Alvin Vanderbush, who retired in 1972 and died on Feb. 20, 2005. Ken and Shirely Weller are both Hope alumni, members of the classes of 1949 and 1950 respectively.  Ken Weller is one of Vanderbush’s former players and also a former Hope faculty colleague, teaching at Hope from 1949 until he became Central’s president.