A prominent campus landmark with a storied community and campus history will soon provide a spacious new home for Hope College’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion and multicultural student organizations.
The center and student groups will be moving in late November to the Keppel House on 10th Street between College and Columbia avenues after being based in the Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center since it opened in 2017.
CDI will hold a prayer dedication for the campus community on Thursday, Oct. 29, at 3 p.m. Members of the campus community are encouraged to watch the event online on Facebook LIVE at www.facebook.com/HopeCenterforDiversityandInclusion. Space for in-person attendance will be limited, with masks and physical distancing required, out of an abundance of caution due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. A formal dedication ceremony open to the public will take place in the spring on a date still to be determined.
The Oct. 29 event will include reflections about the importance of the move by President Matthew A. Scogin, Dean Emeritus Alfredo Gonzales, Associate Dean of Students and Director Vanessa Greene, Rev. Dr. Denise Kingdom Grier, CJ Kingdom-Grier and Taylor Calloway of the Class of 2021.
The ceremony will also celebrate Greene’s impact and tenure — which has included leading the drive for the new space. She is leaving the college after Nov. 6 to become chief executive officer of the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute (GRAAHI).
“Vanessa has been an ardent advocate for a stand-alone campus space for diversity and inclusion,” said President Matthew A. Scogin in a message sent to the campus community in advance of the event. “We celebrate with Vanessa the chance to see her vision become a reality.”
“I want to thank Vanessa for serving the Hope community, especially our students of color, with purpose and determination,” Scogin said. “She has been an unwavering source of support for students and student groups, always there to listen, encourage and inspire, even in the most challenging times. Vanessa helped us be better and do better, and we will continue her work.”
Greene’s move to GRAAHI, a non-profit organization dedicated to achieving healthcare parity for African Americans, will keep her connected to Hope. Through her leadership, the college has partnered with GRAAHI since 2018 on a region-wide initiative to support students of color interested in healthcare professions, a relationship forged with her guidance.
Built in 1914 and owned by Hope since 1986, the stately, two-story brick Keppel House provides not only more room but a distinctive location along an active route that links multiple residence halls and academic buildings. The staff offices will be on the second floor, with most of the building reserved for students, who were involved in selecting the décor and furnishings. The building includes meeting, study and lounge space for students, and space for small-group workshops, seminars and gatherings.
“This beautiful house will provide a warm, inviting, open and community enriching atmosphere for the entire campus community,” CDI shared in announcing the Oct. 29 dedication. “We are grateful for everyone who has worked, planned and prayed for a place and space to live more fully into the mission and vision of diversity, equity and inclusion at Hope College.”
CDI supports the college’s ongoing and increased emphasis on fostering racial and cultural understanding and equity through campus- and community-wide programming and outreach, and through working with student organizations and individual students. The center’s activities include coordinating multiple annual lecture series and other events throughout the year, from the Hispanic Heritage Month Lecture in September to the Women of Color and Senior Recognition banquet each spring; organizing workshops for students, faculty and staff; and serving as a liaison with other area organizations like the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute and the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance. The center also works closely with the college’s seven multicultural student organizations (MSOs) in developing programming and providing a support network for Hope’s students of color.
In addition to Greene, the staff consists of Jevon Willis, assistant director, who will become interim director following Greene’s departure; and Margo Walters, program coordinator/office manager. The MSOs for whom the house has become home base are the Black Student Union, Asian Student Union, Latino Student Organization, Lambda Delta Pi Leadership Community, Men’s Enrichment Network and Pan African Student Association.
The Center for Diversity and Inclusion began in the mid-1980s as a multicultural education program with office space in the DeWitt Center. Hope established a two-room multicultural center in Phelps Hall in 2000 for students, providing informal gathering space for the MSOs and a conference room that also contained computer-equipped work stations. The offices and lounge space moved to the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication when it opened in 2005, remaining until moving to the Bultman Student Center.
The Keppel House is located at 129 E. 10th St., between College and Columbia avenues. The house was built in 1914 by Albert and Kate Keppel. The college purchased it in 1986 from their daughter Ruth Keppel, who lived in it until 1989. It served as a guest house for Hope from 1989 until 1994, and housed the Campus Ministries staff from 1994 until the program moved to the newly constructed van Andel Huys der Hope in 2019. The house was originally located at 85 E. 10th St., but Hope had it moved east in the summer of 1995 to help clear space for the construction of the Haworth Hotel and Cook Hall residence hall.