Dr. Michael Dickinson '87 and Sarah Sanderson '03

The two Hope College graduates selected to receive Distinguished Alumni Awards this year will deliver reflections on their career journeys during presentations on Saturday, April 29, starting at 2 p.m. in the Haworth Hotel in conjunction with the college’s annual Alumni Weekend.

Dr. Michael Dickinson, a 1987 graduate who is a specialist in cardiovascular diseases and advanced heart failure and transplant with Corewell Health (formerly Spectrum Health Medical Group) in Grand Rapids, will present “Weathering the Storms of Life: Lessons Learned as an Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiologist” at 2 p.m. in room 104.

Sarah Sanderson, a 2003 graduate who is a foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State and currently posted at the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, will present “Inside a U.S. Embassy: Diplomacy, Mission and Human Connection in the Foreign Service” at 3 p.m. in room 156/158.

The public is invited to both presentations.  Admission is free.

In the evening, the Hope College Alumni Association will present Dickinson and Sanderson with Distinguished Alumni Awards during the banquet held as part of the weekend.  Advance reservations are required for the banquet, which is $25 to attend.


Dickinson majored in chemistry at Hope. He subsequently earned his medical degree from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1991 as a recipient of a U.S. Navy Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship, and completed his internship at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth 1992.  He was on active duty as an officer through 1996, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander, with his service including roles as a flight surgeon and a medical department head.

Returning to West Michigan, he conducted his residency through Blodgett and St. Mary’s Internal Medicine Residency Program.  He practiced as a primary care physician with Grand Valley Internal Medicine Specialists until 2002, when he left to pursue cardiovascular disease and advanced heart failure fellowships at Michigan State University and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, respectively.

In 2006 he joined West Michigan Heart, which became part of Spectrum Health Medical Group (now Corewell Health) in 2015.  In his roles at Spectrum Health, he helped to define a new specialty of advanced heart failure and to develop the mechanical circulatory support and heart transplant programs.  Among other responsibilities as a specialist with Spectrum Health, he is a past chair for Cardiovascular Diseases; past section chief for Advanced Heart Failure; and past medical director for Mechanical Circulatory Support, Heart Transplant and Heart Failure. His current focus is on developing outreach clinics and extending the reach of the advanced cardiac disease programs for Corewell Health.

In addition to his fellowships, the honors he has received through the years have ranged from recognition as one of Grand Rapids’ best physicians by Best Doctors in America 12 times, including annually from 2009 through 2019; to national research awards while a fellow with the Cleveland Clinic; to multiple awards within the Spectrum system including the Synergy Spirit Award and the Nurses Choice Award.  While with the U.S. Navy, he received honors including two Commendation Medals for meritorious service, and a Meritorious Unit Commendation.  He has authored or co-authored more than 60 publications, and made numerous presentations at national and international meetings.

Sanderson graduated from Hope with a biology major, and returned to the college to complete an additional major in Spanish in 2006.  She subsequently earned a master’s degree in linguistics from The Ohio State University in 2008 and in peace studies from International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan, in 2017, supported by a Rotary International Peace Fellowship.  She is currently pursuing a doctorate in TESOL (teaching English as a second language) at Anaheim University.

Immediately following her graduation from Hope, she was an AmeriCorps Education Volunteer with the Philadelphia Public Schools. After completing her master’s at Ohio State, she was the resident director and on-site manager of the university’s study-abroad program in Ecuador.  From 2009 through 2011, she taught English to undergraduates in Changzhou, China, with the Council on International Educational Exchange.

Recipient of a Fulbright English teaching assistantship and extension, she taught university students and community members, and subsequently supervised and mentored other teaching assistants, in Bahia and Para, Brazil, from 2013 through 2014.  She spent the next three years in Japan, teaching conversational English at Meisei University and written English at International Christian University, both in Tokyo, and managing an English-language-immersion skiing camp for elementary- and secondary-age students.

She transitioned to the U.S. Department of State in 2017, serving initially in Uganda as an English Language Fellow at Mbarara University of Science and Technology and the U.S. Embassy in Kampala.  For her subsequent service in China, she received recognition from the State Department including individual awards for supporting U.S. diplomats in returning to China during COVID 19 and as an acting public affairs officer, and sharing in a number of group awards, including in assisting in closing the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu.  In Sweden she serves in the consular section, where her work includes adjudicating non-immigrant and immigrant visas to the United States; assisting American citizens with births, adoptions, medical emergencies, deaths, arrests, and disasters; and assisting law enforcement with countering fraud and human trafficking.

Friday and Saturday, April 28-29, will also include reunion celebrations for the classes of 1973, 1983 and 1993; a 50-Year Circle Luncheon for the classes of 1972 and prior; and a ceremony inducting the Class of 1973 into the 50-year group.  In addition, there will be a dedication and open house on Friday, April 28, at 3:30 p.m. for the new home for the Alumni and Family Engagement team, the Boerigter Center for Calling and Career, and the Center for Leadership in the former Kletz space on the lower level of the DeWitt Center.

Additional information about the weekend, including how to register for the banquet, is available online at hope.edu/alumniweekend

The DeWitt Center is located at 141 E. 12th St., facing Columbia Avenue. The Haworth Hotel is located at 225 College Ave., facing College Avenue between 9th and 10th streets.