Campus News

Remembering a Banner Year

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August is a time of anticipation at Hope, as new students, faculty and staff prepare to begin their time as members of the college community and returning students prepare to resume theirs.

This year, the beginning of August was also a time of reflection as seven faculty who joined that community in a record-breaking way 50 years ago gathered to remember not only the beginning but the decades that followed.  A total of 64 full- and part-time faculty were hired in the fall of 1967, a milestone that still stands.

“It was a banner year for hiring at Hope,” noted Dr. George Kraft, who retired in 2005 as a professor emeritus of kinesiology and hosted the August 5 event at his home along with his wife Roberta, a member of Hope’s music faculty from 1975 to 2008.  “There were 64 faculty appointments.”

The specific figure was provided by Dr. Jacob Nyenhuis for the forthcoming comprehensive history “Hope College at 150,” of which he is editor and primary co-author.  Nyenhuis, who is interim director of the Van Raalte Institute, editor-in-chief of Van Raalte Press and professor of classics and provost emeritus, developed an appendix listing every faculty member hired at Hope from 1862 through 2015.  The compilation also shows that the second-highest total was 41 new hires in 2000.

The number becomes even more remarkable when considering that the college was much smaller in the fall of 1967: 156 full- and part-time faculty and 1,769 students then, as opposed to 357 and 3,224 respectively during the recent 2016-17 school year.

The expansion half a century ago was initiated by President Calvin VanderWerf, who saw and seized the opportunity to enhance the college’s academic quality by increasing its cadre of outstanding teacher-scholars.  Not all of them stayed through retirement, of course, but many did, spending much or all of their careers at the college and helping shape thousands of lives as well as the institution itself.

Pictured are the seven who attended the mini-reunion, five of whom are now retired from Hope and two of whom continue to serve.  From left to right, along with their years of service, are:

            Dr. J. Cotter Tharin, professor emeritus of geology (1967-1996);
            Dr. George Kraft, professor emeritus of kinesiology (1967-2005);
            Dr. Sheldon Wettack, professor and later dean, 1967-1982; part-time instructor since 2004;
            Dr. David Myers, professor of psychology, 1967-present;
            Dr. Richard Vandervelde, professor emeritus of mathematics (1967-2000);
            Dr. Robert Ritsema ’57, professor emeritus of music (1967-1999);
            and Barry Werkman ’64, who joined Hope as an instructor in economics and business administration,
moving to administration in 1969 and retiring as vice president for finance in 2007.

“We had a great time sharing stories of those early days,” Kraft noted.