Hope College President John C. Knapp will leave his position at the college this summer to lead Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania.
Washington & Jefferson College announced Knapp’s appointment on Friday, April 21. Invited by Washington & Jefferson College to be considered for the presidency, he will assume his new role in August. The search committee chair shared that Knapp emerged as the strongest, most qualified finalist among 150 individuals in a "very distinguished pool of candidates." His last day at Hope will be July 31.
Knapp has served as Hope’s 12th president since July 1, 2013, and also holds appointments as a professor of religion and professor of management. In a message to the campus community, he noted, “This was not an easy decision, for Kelly and I cherish our relationships with each member of this very special community.”
“Leading Hope College is a tremendous privilege, and I am deeply grateful for your support, dedication and collaborative spirit over these last four years,” he continued. “I look forward to leading the college in the months ahead as we finish a successful 2016-17 academic year and prepare for Hope’s next chapter.”
Karl Droppers, chairperson of the Hope College Board of Trustees, praised Knapp’s impact and service across his four years helming the college.
“I am thankful for the four years of service John has dedicated to Hope College. As president, he has worked hard to implement many positive initiatives and programs, and Hope is a stronger and more successful college as a result.”
Since joining Hope, Knapp has led the development and implementation of “Hope for the World: 2025,” a 10-year strategic plan to enhance the college’s distinctiveness as a place of academic excellence, faith development, inclusiveness and global engagement. The college is also completing the first comprehensive campus master plan in more than 30 years.
Milestones during the current school year have included creation of the Boerigter Institute, which is a cross-functional and integrated program designed to ensure that every student is robustly prepared for career success and professional growth; and of the Mellon Grand Challenges Initiative to develop linked courses and research opportunities exploring large-scale, relevant themes. Knapp established the Presidential Colloquium lecture series in 2014 to bring noted speakers to campus to address issues of national and global significance, and the college joined the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan as an educational partner in 2016 to bring international experts to campus through the council’s Great Decisions Global Discussion Series.
Also during his tenure, Hope has reorganized its domestic and international off-campus study programs within its new Fried Center for Global Engagement to strengthen emphasis on connecting students with the world beyond campus; restructured its multicultural life programs in a new Center for Diversity and Inclusion; raised new support and re-engaged alumni through a restructured Division of Development and Alumni Engagement; and unified and expanded its community-relations and awareness-building efforts through a new Public Affairs and Marketing Division.
Among other highlights during his years at the college, the women’s volleyball team won the NCAA Division III national championship for the first time in history in 2014, and Hope celebrated its 150th anniversary with a variety of activities during 2016.
In 2015, Hope successfully completed the “A Greater Hope” comprehensive campaign, which was started during the presidency of his predecessor, Dr. James E. Bultman. The largest and most successful fundraising effort in the college’s history, the campaign raised more than $203 million for undergraduate research and innovation, student scholarships, faculty support and 10 major capital projects. Among the facilities initiated earlier during the campaign and completed during Knapp’s presidency are the Haworth Engineering Center (2013), Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts (2015), Kruizenga Art Museum (2015), and Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center (opening in August).
Knapp and his wife, Kelly, have connected with students in a variety of ways, from attending campus events and taking their meals in the Phelps Hall dining hall, to inviting students to their home, to establishing a new tradition of lighting a campus Christmas tree with students in 2013. The Knapps have five grown children, and two grandchildren.
Prior to coming to Hope, Knapp served as the founding director of the Francis Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, serving concurrently as University Professor and Mann Family Professor of Ethics and Leadership at Samford from 2008 to 2013. Before joining Samford, he was professor and director of the Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business. His scholarship includes multiple books and articles on leadership ethics, issues in higher education, and the intersection of faith and work.
Succession planning is underway and Hope’s Board of Trustees will make decisions in the coming weeks regarding interim leadership and the timeframe for a national search for the college’s next president.