Both an academic program and the athletic program at Hope College will benefit from a new major gift that will address facility needs to enhance student experiences and education.

Jim and Eileen Heeringa of Holland, Michigan, recently contributed $5 million to Hope College, designating approximately half toward the construction of a new locker room facility at Ray and Sue Smith Stadium and the other half toward the renovation of space in the DeWitt Center for new studios for the Department of Dance.

The Heeringas’ donation is the lead gift for each project, and the new facilities will be named in their honor.

“We are inspired by and grateful for the Heeringas’ generosity,” said President Matthew A. Scogin. “This gift will kick-start both projects and will simultaneously help meet needs for our faculty and students in dance and athletics.”

Long-time Holland residents, the Heeringas have extended their philanthropy to community projects in the past, most recently donating a major gift for the remodeled Holland Civic Center.  Now they are directing their attention to needs at Hope.

“Eileen and I believe Hope College plays a valuable role not only in Holland and West Michigan, but in the overall higher education landscape of the United States,” said Jim Heeringa. “We are honored to help young people achieve their dreams.”

For athletics, the new $3.3 million locker room building, to be located near the north end zone of Smith Stadium, will serve the 95-member Hope football team each fall. It will also have other uses within the athletic program, which constitutes more than 500 student-athletes.

“We are humbled and honored to receive this major gift from Jim and Eileen,” said Tim Schoonveld, director of athletics at Hope. “It is exciting to see their love for Hope College.  This will meet one of our athletic program’s facility needs while allowing us to continue to transform lives.  We cannot thank them enough.”

As part of its continuing accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Dance, the Hope dance department will have its facilities improved in the DeWitt Center and Dow Center to build upon and strengthen its national reputation in teaching and performance. The approximately $5.5 million overall project will include a dance studio theater addition to DeWitt as well as dressing rooms, a new green room, additional bathrooms and a legacy corridor. In the Dow Center, the current home of the dance department, a reconfiguration of current space will accommodate larger dance studios, including a dedicated tap studio, as well as benefit the general student population due to upgrades in fitness spaces.

The dance department at Hope has more than 60 students majoring or minoring in the program. Additionally, on average, it serves 300 Hope students each year in studio and general education classes and performance programs as well as hosts the annual International Summer School of the Cecchetti Council of America. The Cecchetti Council has chosen Hope as its summer home since 1995, with approximately 250 dancers, instructors and artists coming to Holland each year. In 2023, Hope College and the dance department will be hosting the Cecchetti International Ballet Festival and Competition. This will be the first time this event is held in the United States.

“I cannot express just how thrilled, humbled and honored we in the dance department are to receive this gift,” said Matthew Farmer, associate professor of dance and chairperson of the department. “The generosity shown by the Heeringas is overwhelming, as it now allows the Dance Department and Hope College to move full steam ahead on the long-awaited renovations and expansion of the dance department's studios and facilities. This family's name and generosity will forever be synonymous with the future growth and success of the dance department, and we, again, are deeply thankful to them."

The combined total of $8.8 million for both projects includes site preparation, construction and endowment for ongoing maintenance and building operations. Groundbreaking for each project is yet to be determined as fundraising continues. Per the new Pay It Forward policy recently enacted by the Hope Board of Trustees to move toward fully-funded tuition for students, new funds must be raised for the endowment that are equal to new building costs.