A total of eight current or former members of the faculty are retiring this year, one this past December and seven this spring. They have served the college for a combined 249 years.
The retirees are listed below. Biographical sketches of each are featured.
- Rhoda Burton
Rhoda Burton, Ph.D.
DuMez Associate Professor of English
“Memoir,” says Dr. Rhoda Burton, “is never about our circumstances. It’s about our change.”
She has enjoyed teaching memoir because it reinforces the believer’s path to self-awareness. And without self-awareness, growth is impossible. “We can’t pursue the life of faith without having detected a need for change in ourselves. Nor can we write memoir without similar epiphany. Memoir makes us pay attention to the takeaway of experience. It invites us to connect the dots among many communities. It helps us understand human frailty and resilience.“
“Sometimes folks think that memoir is suspiciously like venting in a journal,” Burton says with a chuckle. “You know what, though? Memoir is the dead opposite of belly-gazing. It offers a reliable way to mature our vision.”
This is Burton’s final semester at Hope. Since joining the Department of English in 2000, she has taught courses in 19th- and 20th-century American literature, modernism, literary intellectual history, poetry, memoir, advanced nonfiction and composition.
One course she never saw coming was Standard American English Grammar. She’s grateful that Hope gave her a chance to stretch. “Many professionals overlook how usage rules can exclude people who’ve never had access. I don’t tell my students how to talk or write. Instead, I offer up some useful information, and then encourage them to make intentional choices about how they want to present themselves in speech and on paper.” She invited her students to invent lively grammar games. “It’s hard to be bored when someone is throwing a dodge ball and shouting about gerunds,” she observes. “One time, in a game that choreographed parts of speech to dance moves, we laughed so hard we had to take a time-out.”
Grammar and memoir represent quite a sea change for Burton, who came to Hope as a poet and a scholar of gendered moral conventions in 19th-century literature. After focusing on languages and literature at Fresno Pacific University, Burton earned three graduate degrees: a master’s in poetry at the University of Florida, where she studied with legendary teacher and poet Donald Justice, and another master’s and a Ph.D. in American literature at UCLA.
Eight years after Burton arrived at Hope, while she was recuperating from a car accident at her parents’ home in California, she wrote her first memoir — accidentally, she likes to say. “I was sending a friend updates on what it’s like to return to a Mennonite community after 20 years of urban academic life. And I was attaching photo documentation — Check it out, here’s a close-up of a teabag my mom just used for the third time!” Her friend, a fiction writer, told Burton that her emails were starting to smell like memoir.
That memoir, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, went to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Translated into five languages and released in 12 countries, it topped bestseller lists in England and Canada, too. When the memoir became a finalist for the 2010 Thurber Prize in American Humor, Burton was on a book tour. Readers expected her to know the ins and outs of the genre. “I had to get up to speed fast,” she says. “Up until then I hadn’t actually read much memoir, unless you count Augustine.”
Burton has also published a collection of poems, Babel’s Stair; another memoir, Mennonite Meets Mr. Right; and a writing textbook, Squeeze the Sponge. She recently finished the manuscript for a novel based on a turn-of-the century true story, and is already planning her next project.
In retirement she plans to write all the livelong day — when she’s not learning Spanish, taking piano lessons or reading theology.
- Peter Gonthier
Peter Gonthier, Ph.D.
Professor of Physics
Given that his field is highly theoretical, it’s remarkable how many places Dr. Peter Gonthier’s research has taken him — and his Hope students.
The Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
And much closer to home, the Holland Western Horse Park eight miles south of campus.
This spring the theoretical physicist’s 40-year Hope College teaching career comes to an end, but he plans to continue his research on a class of extraordinarily dense neutron stars called magnetars, which have the strongest magnetic fields in the known universe. Using data gathered by X-ray telescopes in space, he builds and fine-tunes computer models as part of a worldwide effort to better understand what goes on in the far reaches of our galaxy.
“I find my time so limited, because I want to do the research, and I need to do the research – I’m pressed,” Gonthier said this winter in a brief break from his usual post at his computer. “I don’t want to [spend] any time on anything else.”
Not to split hairs, but that isn’t entirely true. Another pursuit he plans to continue in retirement is scuba diving, which he first tried in the late 1990s and later worked into his teaching. From 2006 through 2019, he and Hope biologist Dr. Greg Murray (now retired) taught a marine biology and biophysics course together every other year, and it included an optional field trip to Cozumel, an island off the Yucatán peninsula. After Hope students completed open water exercises, Gonthier — a certified scuba instructor — would certify them so they could observe marine life below the surface (and, presumably, have some fun in the process). Gonthier returns to Cozumel once or twice a year to dive, and will do so again this May. The range of his interests and the dedication with which he pursues them on behalf of his students reflect in part why he received the college’s Ruth and John Reed Faculty Achievement Award in January.
He majored in chemistry at Texas A&M University and earned his Ph.D. there in nuclear chemistry. After joining the Hope faculty in 1983 and focusing for seven years on nuclear physics experiments involving heavy ion reactions, he was ready for a change. “I was tired of working all nights on experiments,” Gonthier said. He found his permanent niche in theoretical astrophysics, a field he notes is fairly rare at colleges of Hope’s size.
Over four decades he taught many physics courses — most recently, Physics I and II, Analytical Mechanics, Quantum Theory, and the general education course The Night Sky. (That’s what took him to the horse park south of town, to use telescopes with students in quite literal fieldwork.)
Switching fields early in his career required Gonthier to find a mentor in his chosen new specialty. He connected with Dr. Alice Harding of the Goddard Space Flight Center, whose research focus is pulsars, magnetars and supernova remnants. Gonthier spent the summer of 1992 at Goddard beginning to learn from her about that research, and they have collaborated ever since, along with Dr. Matthew Baring (now of Rice University).
For years, Gonthier took students to Goddard for up to 10 weeks in the summer to participate in that research and observe other NASA scientists (including Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist Dr. John Mather, whose office the Hope group used for three summers). Students also accompanied Gonthier to Michigan State University and to France for experiments in nuclear physics.
In the mid-1990s, a research grant he received from NASA led to Hope College joining the Michigan Space Grant Consortium, as the only liberal arts college in a group of major research universities. He has represented Hope in the consortium ever since, considering applications from faculty and students at member institutions for student fellowships, research grants, and funding for various programs. Hope College receives $50,000 to $100,000 yearly in Michigan Space Grants.
(story by Ann Sierks Smith)
- Stephen Hemenway
Dr. Stephen Hemenway
Betty Roelofs ’53 Professor of English
Like his Hope colleagues and professors everywhere, Dr. Stephen Hemenway has always had a heavy schedule during fall and spring semesters. He has developed and taught quite a spread of English courses since arriving at Hope in 1972. American, Irish, African American, Indian and British literature. Drama, the Beatnik poets, Catholic fiction, short stories that were made into movies, a course on global race issues. Seminars on Joyce, Shaw, Hemingway and other authors. Creative writing courses on satire and travel nonfiction. “I love the variety of teaching. I think it opens doors for creativity. I still have a childlike sense of wonder,” he said. He also was the advisor for 12 years to the Cosmopolitan fraternity (Phi Kappa Alpha) and eight years to the Delta Phi sorority.
You might think a post-Commencement breather would appeal. But every year since 1976 (except the first two of the COVID-19 pandemic), instead he has flown to Vienna to teach in and direct the Hope College Vienna Summer School.
Hemenway is retiring in stages. Spring 2023 is his final semester of on-campus teaching, but he’ll be in Vienna this summer as usual. About 60 Hope students will join him and his corps of European program faculty for May, June or both. Some 2,800 have participated on his watch. Along the way, some began calling him “Doc,” which stuck.
In Vienna, Hemenway teaches and helps Hope students process everything from opera to visits to concentration camps, sometimes over drinks at Freud’s favorite coffeehouse. On weekends, he takes them to places like Prague and Budapest and a Cold War-era salt mine. 2022 was the first year he begged off trekking the annual five-hour hike up the Alps.
This summer, he’ll teach Values in Transition, which culminates in students’ papers about their own philosophies of life. He brings in speakers daily who expand students’ understanding of European history, politics and culture, including artists and diplomats and WWII vets and recent refugees. Last year, they heard from an American working at an Estonian orphanage for children abandoned by their parents. (“Just getting people like that to talk with the students!” he exclaimed.)
In courses on both continents, he sometimes prompts expression that’s out-of-the-ordinary for an English class. His office walls are hung with students’ paintings (which he sometimes carries to class), and one desk drawer is stuffed with cassette tapes of music his students wrote and recorded — their takes on the soundscape of Dante’s nine circles of hell.
The Vienna Program was launched in 1956 by Hope historian Dr. Paul Fried ’46. Hemenway’s 2014 biography of Fried was reissued in 2022 by Van Raalte Press, the publishing arm of Hope’s Van Raalte Institute.
DHemenway majored in English at the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.A. at Boston College. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. He is the author of The Novel of India, which was published in two volumes in 1975 and 1976. He taught for one year in Jamaica and for another year in India.
In 1992, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education named him Michigan Professor of the Year. In 1999, he was the first recipient of the college’s Vanderbush-Weller Award, which goes each year to a Hope employee for extraordinary contributions to students’ lives. Other honors have included the Hope Outstanding Professor Educator (H.O.P.E.) Award (1977) and Provost’s Award for Service to the Academic Program (2015). The college also honored Hemenway and Fried together by naming an auditorium for them in the Martha Miller for Global Communication when it opened in 2005. He was selected to deliver the college’s Commencement address in 1981, and to be the Baccalaureate speaker this May.
(story by Ann Sierks Smith)
- Vicki Isola
Vicki Isola, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology Instruction
If you were taking Dr. Vicki Isola’s microbiology course, when the assignment to visit an industrial setting rolled around, what would you pick? A distillery? Poultry processing plant? Sewage treatment plant? Her students have explored all of those, and more.
Most of Isola’s students plan to go into health professions, but the Department of Biology is committed to giving students a broad base in the subject. In another assignment that gives them a taste of what some microbiologists do outside the health professions, Isola has students design their own testing procedures to assess the effectiveness of antimicrobial products available at grocery stores, employing various scientific tests — think of it as Consumer Reports meets Hope College. (Her advice, informed by many semesters of this lab: soap is plenty for washing hands, but when you need a disinfectant, look for products containing benzalkonium chloride.)
Isola is retiring this spring after teaching microbiology, cell biology and immunology to Hope College students since 1988, and sometimes the Department of Biology’s introductory course. With a hiatus when her children were small, she logged 22 academic years at Hope.
Recently, she has taught the biology courses that nursing majors must take. She fine-tuned ways to teach cell biology and microbiology so they will be accessible both to nursing students and to students majoring in other science fields, and challenge and serve both groups well. Before “flipping the classroom” was in vogue, she injected active learning into her classes, having students make notes on homework prior to a class on a given topic, and then pausing her lecture to have students work problems while she was there to help.
It’s the rare teenager who decides in high school that immunology’s the career for them, but that’s Isola’s story. As one of just 17 teenagers nationwide selected for a summer research program between her junior and senior years, she assisted with cancer research at Jackson Laboratory, a biomedical research institution in Maine. “I just loved every minute of it. I found out I really liked science and research,” she recalled.
And the right college professor can drive a choice home. For Isola, it was Dr. Bert Whitten at Michigan Technological University. As an undergraduate there, she assisted with his research and took every course he taught. “In cell bio, Dr. Whitten told us how proteins are made, how ribosomes work, and I thought: There is a God, and he’s super smart, and he’s super cool, and he’s got all these things for us to figure out,” Isola said. “We have this system set up inside of us to heal ourselves. It’s wonderfully complex and amazing.”
She earned her Ph.D. in immunology at the University of Pennsylvania and then began teaching at Hope. She has partnered with several Hope colleagues in research, most recently participating in Dr. Maria Burnatowska-Hledin’s cancer research, and occasionally mentored students doing research in microbiology and immunology.
Isola’s published work includes encyclopedia entries on a range of diseases including cholera in marine plankton, leprosy, tetanus and swine flu. With co-authors she published articles in the journals Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis, Journal of Virology and Environmental Health Perspectives.
For years, Isola and her husband coached the Science Olympiad team at the high school near Holland where he taught science. In retirement she plans to find other ways to give back to the community, and they’ll have more time for their side gig of buying and fixing up homes to resell. “We never flip them. We slowly roll them,” she joked. She also plans to polish a young adult novel she has been writing off and on for years.
(story by Ann Sierks Smith)
- Kelly Jacobsma
Kelly Jacobsma, MILS
Genevra Thome Begg Dean of Libraries
On Dean Kelly Jacobsma’s first day as a Hope College employee, late in the summer of 1988, she was asked to critique presentations by faculty she had never met on the topic of how they would incorporate information literacy into their courses and encourage students to use the library. The Van Wylen Library had just opened.
“[T]here was a pretty heartfelt belief on the part of the provost and the faculty that the library was absolutely a critical part of students’ education,” Jacobsma said. “I fervently believe that is still the case. What students access has changed, but I think it’s incumbent on faculty to help students understand how the library is an important, critical part of their education, especially in today’s information environment.”
Jacobsma retired this spring after 35 years at Van Wylen Library. She began as a reference and instruction librarian. From 1990 through 2008, she was head of public services. Her responsibilities included coordinating all public-facing activities, including reference and instruction, leading collection development projects, statistical reporting, copyright and E-reserves administration, and liaison with individual departments including education and nursing.
In 2008, she became the Genevra Thome Begg Director of Libraries; in 2015 that position was renamed Dean of Libraries. As director and dean, she has led the professional staff, which now stands at 21, and has been responsible for all aspects of the library, the archives and the rare book collection. Administration of and teaching about rare books developed into somewhat of a passion, and in 2015 Jacobsma taught a First-Year Seminar titled “The Book is Dead, Long Live the Book,” which covered the history of printing as a transmission of knowledge as well as print versus digital reading today. As a member of the Dean’s Council, she has participated in decision making for the academic program and integration of campus services and programs. In recognition of her impact across her three-and-a-half decades at the college, Hope presented her with the Provost’s Award for Service to the Academic Program in January.
Professional travel is among the Hope College career highlights for which she is grateful. With a colleague and two students she spent three weeks at the American Library in Paris, and with a psychology professor she traveled to India to visit Union Christian College.
Among the career accomplishments of which Jacobsma is particularly proud are Van Wylen Library’s excellent staff, a strong commitment to customer service and to relationships with departments across campus, and the library’s instruction program. The library was also an early adopter of technology and a faculty open-access policy — that is, supporting faculty authors who want to publish their work in openly accessible journals. “Publishers make most of their money from academic libraries,” she noted. “Faculty submit their research for free — or pay — to have an article published. Then the publisher sells that journal to libraries for an astronomical price. We’ve been trying to flip that model for over 10 years.”
Jacobsma enjoys gardening, cooking, hiking, and reading (or listening to) historical nonfiction, historical and contemporary fiction, and books about the science of healthy eating and nutrition. She is passionate about yoga and recently read the Bhagavad Gita (with a book group).
She majored in sociology at Northern Michigan University and earned her master’s degree in information and library science at the University of Michigan. Before joining Hope College, she served for six years on the library staff of Central Michigan University.
(story by Ann Sierks Smith)
- Nancy Scholten ’82 Kamstra
Nancy Scholten ’82 Kamstra, M.Ed.
Associate Professor of Kinesiology Instruction
Developing the health minor required by the state of Michigan was a major focal point for Professor Nancy Scholten ’82 Kamstra when she joined the Hope faculty in 2010. Building personal relationships with students has been a priority ever since. She feels honored to be able to be part of her students’ journey at Hope.
Kamstra will retire in May after nearly 15 years of teaching and mentoring education majors who are preparing to teach health and physical education. She spent the first 28 years of her career as a physical education and health educator in nearby Zeeland, Michigan. Throughout her career she also taught special education and enjoys the distinction of teaching every grade level except kindergarten. In all, she’s been teaching, guiding and caring for her students for 41 years.
“The wisdom gained through decades of public school instruction have truly been a gift to me and, I believe, a gift to my students,” she said. “The opportunity to teach the next generation of teachers has been the greatest gift of my career. There’s something really powerful about walking my students through what worked for me.”
It’s commitment that Kamstra’s students have appreciated. She received the college’s Vanderbush-Weller Award for strong, positive influence on students in 2018, and the Excellence in Advising award in 2020. On April 17 of this year, during the HOPEYs celebration of Hope College Athletics, she received the Bunko Service Award, which is named in honor of Norman "Bunko" Japinga and is presented by a vote of Hope student-athletes to a faculty or staff member who is connected to Hope Athletics and recognized for contributions that go above and beyond what is expected.
She describes her teaching style as “experiential,” with lots of class discussion, real world activities and plenty of laughter. Kamstra has taught foundational courses focused on health dynamics, teaching methods, research, assessment and reproductive health education.
She also taught a First-Year Seminar class simply titled “Choices” based on the central point of her master’s thesis: The choices people make in high school and college will affect their lives forever.
“The adjustment to college is significant and represents a time in our lives when so much personal growth takes place. The opportunity to attend college is a gift and my goal is to support First-Year Seminar students through the transition to college life so they can go home at Christmas and be able to say. ‘I love Hope College’,” she said. She guides her students as they figure out what to get involved in on campus because she believes that the more they identify with Hope College and its campus, the more success they will have in life.
Kamstra created the health minor in collaboration with Dr. Madeline Kukla and Doug Braschler of Hope’s Department of Education. It involved the development of seven new courses, all required to meet specific, stringent state standards. She notes that the project was both invigorating and wonderfully challenging.
- John Lunn
John Lunn, Ph.D.
Robert W. Haack Professor of Economics
A question that has intrigued Dr. John Lunn in recent years — for a long time, really — is why theologians and economists don’t see eye to eye about capitalism. Many theologians, he maintains, dislike it, unlike many economists. He’s written about this face-off during his 30-year career at Hope, and he plans to keep writing about it in retirement.
“People just don’t get the difference between personal and impersonal exchange,” Lunn declared. “You can’t have what we have, relying on a personal exchange system where everyone knows everyone. It’s just not feasible.”
Lunn is a microeconomist, which means he looks at the behavior of individual agents such as firms, households and individuals. Early in his career his research focused on the R&D activity of firms and industrial organization. Later he did research and writing about affirmative action and self employment by ethnic groups, including in a 1999 Fulbright fellowship.
Lunn joined what’s now called the Department of Economics and Business in 1992. While chair of the department from 2002 to 2008, he persuaded the administration to add another faculty position to the department, on the business side. He was chair of the college’s Academic Affairs Committee in the 1990s when the general education program was reshaped.
For many years he taught the department senior research course. Students write a major research paper. “My philosophy was that research is a process. It doesn’t always work out real well. I always let them wander around a little bit trying to figure things out; it was the process I was interested in.”
During his teaching career, Lunn took courses in law for economists at Dartmouth, and subsequently did some consulting in legal areas, particularly around affirmative action policies. He advised pre-law students at Hope, and taught the course Law and Economics.
His other courses included Intermediate Macroeconomics, Principles of Microeconomics, Financial Management and, in collaboration with colleagues in other departments, Environmental Economics.
In a Fulbright-funded semester in 1999, Lunn researched European race-preference programs and policies, and taught a class on the economics of discrimination and American affirmative action policies at the University of Göttingen, Germany. Later he traveled regularly to Germany in the summers to teach a public policy course there and enjoyed fitting some travel in around the edges.
A prolific writer, he has published more than three dozen academic articles in professional journals and wrote study guides for two textbooks by others. With his department colleague Dr. Robin Klay, who retired in 2010, he published a number of papers that integrated a Christian perspective and economic thinking about topics including evangelicalism and the modern American economy, just remuneration for work, and the providence of God in relationship to market economics. He also co-authored several papers with colleague Dr. Todd Steen.
He is a past president of the Association of Christian Economists (2011-15).
Lunn majored in economics at Samford University in Alabama, and then served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. He earned his master’s degree in economics at California State University, Hayward (now Cal State East Bay) and his Ph.D. at UCLA. Before coming to Hope in 1992, he taught for three years at Miami University and for nine years at Louisiana State University.
He and his wife, Sheryl, plan to travel in retirement, and Prague, which they’ve yet to visit, is at the top of their list. He also plans to golf more.
(story by Ann Sierks Smith)
- Todd Swanson
Todd Swanson, M.A.
Associate Professor of Mathematics
Over Professor Todd Swanson’s 38-year career as a teacher of mathematics and statistics, choosing which textbook to use has become much less time-consuming.
That’s because at this point, he has written a book for everything he teaches at Hope.
Between original editions and later reworkings of them, Swanson is the co-author of 11 textbooks and three textbook supplements in areas including financial mathematics, precalculus and statistics. They ate up a lot of summers.
“That’s why I want to retire. It is like two jobs,” he said.
The avid hiker and runner plans to make up for lost time. He’s teaching his final Hope classes this spring, three sections of Introduction to Statistics. The week after classes end, he’ll head for Rocky Mountain National Park, where in May there’s still snow at high elevations. In September, Alaska. Next February, Gulf Shores, Alabama. (His wife, sociology professor Dr. Debra Harvey ’83 Swanson, will do the same. She theoretically retired a year ago from the Department of Sociology and Social Work, but stayed on last fall when her department’s faculty was short-handed.)
Statistics has been Todd Swanson’s wheelhouse through most of his career. He earned a B.A. in mathematics at Grand Valley State University (and a B.S. in crop and soil science at Michigan State University), and his Michigan State master’s degree is in mathematics, too. But his courseloads included some statistics as well. When he arrived at Hope in 1989 after teaching mathematics elsewhere at the high school and college levels, stats immediately became part of his teaching load — and eventually all of it.
Mathematics and statistics courses are quite different, he says — and the demand at Hope for statistics classes has grown. “More and more students outside the natural sciences have been doing research, and that’s where they need to know statistics,” he explained. His department’s recent addition of an actuarial track is another factor.
There’s been a sea change in instructional approaches over the decades that Swanson has been teaching statistics. Years ago, Hope stats courses kicked off with descriptive statistics that students found was an easy review of high school material. However, it then dove into probability, which laid a theoretical background for what was to come.
Swanson found that students struggled with this and many wouldn’t survive the course. Now, he starts his students out with inferential statistics using simulations. An example in one of his recent textbooks is how flipping coins can get at whether dolphins can communicate abstract ideas. Long story short: flipping a coin repeatedly and plotting how many times it comes up heads can help a student get a handle on whether the results of a reported experiment with dolphins were pure chance, or a sign that one dolphin was getting helpful hints from another one.
“Through simulations like that, you can develop theoretical models that make it much more concrete for students, and easier to understand,” he said.
Many of Swanson’s extensive publications and presentations have been on innovative ways to teach statistics and other mathematical fields. The Journal of Statistics Education has twice selected papers by Swanson and co-authors as the best paper of the year (in 2011 and 2018). (He frequently collaborates with department colleague Jill Vredevelt ’87 VanderStoep, Dr. Nathan Tintle, who taught at Hope from 2005 through 2011, and others.) In 2009, the college honored Swanson with the Janet L. Andersen Excellence in Teaching Award. He is currently engaged in a National Science Foundation-funded project with VanderStoep and six co-researchers at other institutions to investigate best practices for integrating statistical investigation, data visualization and simulation into high school statistics instruction.
(story by Ann Sierks Smith)
John Lunn retired at the end of the fall semester and Kelly Jacobsma retired at the beginning of this month. The others will retire with the conclusion of the 2022-23 school year.