The words penned by the Rev. Albertus C. Van Raalte when establishing the Pioneer School from which Hope grew are among the college’s most foundational: education as an “anchor of hope” for the future. Through all the decades since, that promise has been shepherded by generations of faculty mentors who have not only been at Hope, but in a real sense have been and are Hope. Across campus — in the classroom, in the laboratory, on the stage, on the playing field and in countless ways between and beyond — for a combined 205 years, the eight faculty retirees honored here have embodied and helped realize the vision of transforming tomorrow by shaping young lives today.

The retirees are listed below. Please follow the links for stories about each.

Tom Bultman

Dr. Tom BultmanDr. Tom Bultman ’78
Professor of Biology

As a Hope College biology major, Tom Bultman ’78 assisted one of his professors with research on spiders. When he joined the Hope faculty in 2001 after earning his Ph.D. at Arizona State University and teaching for 13 years (and earning tenure) at Truman State University in Missouri, he paid it forward. For more than two decades, he has invited numerous Hope biology students to assist with his research — as many as six at a time some summers. 

Dr. Bultman researches the interactions of plants, insects and fungi — in particular, a fungus in the genus Epichloe, which lives inside grasses. When you study grasses, you have to go where they grow. That’s been great news for Hope students who are interested in the relationships between tiny organisms in the natural world, and also eager for world travel. Dr. Bultman took groups of students with him to New Zealand, France, Poland and England for fieldwork. 

“The most meaningful activities I've had with students have been in my research collaboration,” he says.

Bultman retired at the close of 2023. His courses included upper-level electives in his specialty area: Invertebrate Zoology and Biology of Insects. For the past decade he also taught General Bio 1, and for years, he managed the Department of Biology’s greenhouse on the sunny south side of the A. Paul Schaap Science Center.

In 2023, Bultman took 13 students to Costa Rica for a May Term class on coffee cultivation, and he’ll repeat the travel-study experience this May (and continue to for a while as a retired faculty member). In preparation, he has students experiment on campus with grinding, brewing and other manipulation of coffee. In Costa Rica this May they’ll visit coffee plantations (including Starbucks’ only research farm) and learn firsthand about tropical ecology in Costa Rica’s cloud forest, mountains, beaches, and on hikes up volcanos. 

A major practical application of Bultman’s research is to inform the work of agronomic biologists tasked with improving hybridized forage grasses — those that farmers plant where they put their livestock out to pasture. A fungus that protects a grass from insects can promote lush growth, but it may be detrimental to animals that ingest it. The fungi Bultman studies produces potent chemicals — alkaloids in the ergot alkaloid family, which includes LSD. 

To do hands-on research with that fungus, on two sabbaticals and several other research trips he spent time on New Zealand’s south island, where the fungus grows in a specific grass on which pasture-fed sheep there feed. Consequently, scientists in New Zealand have been studying that grass’s interaction with insects and fungus since the early 1980s.

Those trips were not a chore. “Oh, man, it’s beautiful, and cycling there is phenomenal,” says Bultman, an avid cyclist. He always took his bike. Make that “takes” — he and his wife, Judy Bultman (who taught biology part-time at Hope and retired in May 2020), plan to return to New Zealand, and are kicking off retirement travel this spring with a trip to Croatia. 

He looks forward to cycling whenever he wants in retirement, and volunteering more, too. He plans to write a textbook and lab manual materials so professors at other schools could launch travel-study courses like his Costa Rica May Term. And his study of the interactions between plants, fungus and insects will continue; he has applied for a Fulbright to conduct research in Finland. 

(Story by Ann Sierks Smith)

Dawn DeWitt-Brink

Dawn DeWitt-BrinksDawn DeWitt-Brinks ’84
Assistant Professor of Communication

Dawn DeWitt-Brinks ’84 discovered her affinity for public speaking as a high school student. She credits that to a speech teacher who nudged her to get involved in forensics and debating. “It was a teacher encouraging me to notice my gifts and talents. That's what I've tried to do during my career at Hope. Sometimes students simply need a mentor to walk alongside them, helping them to discover who they are and what they are good at,” she says.

The assistant professor of communication retired in May 2023. She’d taught at Hope for 34 years — multiple sections every semester of her bread-and-butter course, Public Presentations, plus a First-Year Seminar. She called it Choosing Happiness. 

In Public Presentations, her students learned the nuts and bolts of giving effective speeches — research, understanding one’s audience, and everything from how to make eye contact to how to make outlines. In Choosing Happiness, DeWitt-Brinks guided conversations about how to make the most of college, always with vocation and calling as the subtext.  

“It’s great to have a class where it’s only first-year students — kind of a safe space. They can ask questions. They’ve thought about why they’re at college, but not about liberal arts,” DeWitt-Brinks says. “We would focus on what it means to be a college student. What are some of the differences between high school and college learning? Why are you here? You have to be intentional and strategic about the next four years; what do you want to spend your time on?” 

Her premise was that striving to reach one’s full potential is the route to joy. Her reference point was social scientific research about what engenders happiness, including work by Hope psychologist Dr. David Myers. That surprised some students; it took time to wrap their minds around the idea that happiness isn’t just about popular culture.

Teaching Public Presentations brought diverse students into DeWitt-Brinks’ classroom. Because public speaking courses are required for some state certification and admission to some graduate programs, some pre-health majors and all accounting majors — students preparing for careers that involve crucial communication with clients — took it alongside communication majors and others. “The mix I had in that class of different majors and backgrounds was so interesting. That’s why I was never bored in my teaching. The topics that students pick to talk about are so wide-ranging,” she says. 

In recent years a new challenge was social media’s impact on students’ comfort level with public speaking. Fear has increased, DeWitt-Brinks attests.

“Students are so used to communicating by text — and prefer to,” she says. “In class, they’d rather write a paragraph than stand up in front and express themselves in front of their peers. They have to get over that hurdle. After taking my class, students say they become more comfortable speaking in small group settings or in other classes.”

Back in high school, DeWitt-Brinks already had her eye on becoming a teacher. At Hope, she double majored in communication and education. After college, she took a job in sales and marketing instead, but before long looped back to Plan A. In 1989, she received a master’s degree in communication at Western Michigan University and joined the Hope faculty.

Since she retired, she and her husband, who’s also a recently retired educator, have been finding some happiness of their own by traveling in seasons other than summer. They like to hike, and took their children to most of the 61 national parks when they were young — omitting just a few, including those in Hawaii. That state and the Galapagos are at the top of their planning list. “There are so many exciting places to travel around the world,” DeWitt-Brinks says, “and we want to hike, explore and meet new people during this next phase of our lives.” 

(Story by Ann Sierks Smith)

Stu Fritz

Stu FritzStu Fritz
Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Head Baseball Coach

This story was originally posted on the Hope College Athletics website on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, before the start of the current baseball season.

Stu Fritz, the winningest and longest-tenured coach in Hope College baseball history, has announced that he will retire following the 2024 season.

Fritz has guided the Flying Dutchmen on the diamond since 1994. Over 31 seasons and 1,124 games, Hope has won 652 games, earned 10 MIAA championships and made four NCAA Division III Tournament appearances.

During his tenure, Fritz also served as assistant football coach for 17 seasons and as an associate professor of kinesiology with a specialty in assessing Hope’s future physical educators. He was president of the American Baseball Coaches Association for one year.

“My journey has been indescribable, not only from the coaching side, but also from the instructional side. From my point of view, there is just nothing better than being able to mentor young people during their college years,” Fritz said. “To my department colleagues and Physical Plant friends, thank you. My heart is full. I leave at this time having had the honor to coach at an incredible institution and walk alongside so many fantastic young men through our baseball and football programs, specifically. Victories on the field have been fulfilling, but more importantly, seeing players victorious in their lives as men has been my wife Carol’s and my biggest blessing. We have made this a way of life and to have her love and support has been a difference-maker for me and our student athletes. It truly brings me great pride to see how they represent our program and institution daily in the lives they lead. I’m looking forward to continuing to tell the Hope story and supporting Hope College for many years to come. Thank you to all who have contributed to my journey and added to my story, most importantly the numerous players and coaches. You truly are and will be my greatest joy in this profession.”

Relationship Builder

Director of Athletics Tim Schoonveld ’96 said Fritz has been a transformational force on campus as a coach, professor, colleague and friend.

“Today is bittersweet for the athletic department and the college. We are so grateful to Stu and celebrate his amazing career. He has had a transformational impact on thousands of lives during his time at Hope,” Schoonveld said. “While he has had a tremendous impact on the field, the real beauty of his career has been his ability to develop deep and meaningful relationships with those from all walks of life. Baseball players, students in his classes, colleagues across the country in the baseball world, and all of his colleagues at Hope have had their lives positively impacted through their relationship with Stu. I am so thankful for the legacy he is leaving behind within our program and campus,” Schoonveld said. “He is a friend who has helped me in my role, has been a leader in our department, and can share the story of Hope and Hope athletics as well as anyone at the college. The impact of Stu and Carol on the lives of student-athletes at Hope will be felt for years to come. We look forward to enjoying this season with them and thank them for all they have done and are doing.”

A search for a new head coach will begin this spring, Schoonveld said. 

Fritz’s overall record heading into the 2024 season is 652-468-2, a winning percentage of .575. He reached the 600-win mark on May 7, 2021, with a 6-4 victory at Boeve Stadium in Game 1 of a doubleheader vs. Trine University.

Fritz’s teams have won nearly two-thirds of their MIAA games (444-246, .643). His 10 MIAA titles are the second-most in league history.

Hope claimed MIAA regular-season championships in 2022, 2013, 2007, 2006, 2003, 2001, 1999, 1998, 1997 and 1994. The Flying Dutchmen appeared in the NCAA Division III Baseball Championships in 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2007.

 “Unbelievable Mentor”

Associate head coach Chad Ruby ’98 has coached with Fritz for 25 years and played for him on Hope’s MIAA championship teams in 1997 and 1998.  Ruby called their connection through baseball for 30 years a blessing.

“I have been able to witness a guy who truly cares about the sport, his players and his college. He’s been an unbelievable mentor but an even better friend during those years we’ve spent together, and I will really miss being on the diamond with him,” Ruby said. “He’s been the skipper of a successful program for just north of three decades and has been a genuine ambassador of the game. He has taught so many young men the nuances of the game but, more importantly, how it should be played, and how you should represent and respect yourself and the program on and off the field.”

Pitching coach Rick Huisman rejoined Fritz’s staff for the upcoming 2024 season after taking time to coach his own sons. He previously coached with Fritz for 12 seasons at Hope following his own professional baseball career, which included two seasons with the Kansas City Royals in 1995 and 1996.

Huisman reached out to Fritz when he landed in Holland in 1996 during an offseason and needed to find a catcher to prepare for spring training. A friendship started that led Huisman to become Hope’s pitching coach after he retired as a baseball player.

“As someone who had spent many years of my life surrounded by coaches, watching the way Stu guided his teams through the successes and challenges that are a part of baseball is something I will never forget,” Huisman said. “Of course, there is the winning record and the MIAA championships, but what I admire most about Stu is his ability to know who he needed to be to each player in each moment. Sometimes all he needed to be was ‘Coach’. Other times he needed to be ‘Dad’ or ‘Big Brother’. Trust me when I say, that is not a skill someone learns. It is something someone is, and that is Stu.”

 "Grateful" to Be Led to Hope

Fritz said he is grateful for a chance meeting that started a journey to Hope College for a native of Postville, Iowa.

“No one knows what their journey holds and I certainly didn’t as a 25-year-old visiting a former coach at St. Olaf College in the fall of 1992, 31 years ago. It was there that I met Glenn Van Wieren, who quickly started introducing me to Hope College,” Fritz said. “Looking back, I could have never begun to know the impact Glenn, Ray Smith, George Kraft, Nancy Miller, Jim Bekkering and Jack Nienhuis would have on my life. I can’t thank them enough for taking a chance on me.”

From 1993 through 2009, Fritz served as assistant football coach for the Flying Dutchmen.

During the summers from 1996 to 1998, Fritz coached a youth team through the Roberto Clemente All-Stars program in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In the summer of 2001, he coached a U.S. youth all-star team in Australia.

In 2007, he coached the Hope baseball team that played in the 26th annual “Prague Baseball Week” tournament in the Czech Republic. He also spent a week in Switzerland working with the Swiss Baseball Federation on two separate occasions.

In 2020, Fritz became president of the American Baseball Coaches Association after serving several terms as a vice president. He has also chaired the NCAA Baseball Championships national committee.

Before coming to Hope, Fritz taught in the Humboldt, Iowa, school system. He was an elementary physical education teacher, the high school baseball coach and the offensive coordinator for the high school football team. He led the Humboldt High School baseball team to a 72-30 record over four seasons, including a trip to the state semifinals in 1990.

Fritz graduated from Wartburg College (Iowa) in 1988 after lettering in baseball and football. He received a master’s degree in sports administration from the University of Northern Colorado in 1992. He was named Wartburg's Alumni Coach of the Year in 1998.

(Story by Alan Babbitt)

Vicki-Lynn Holmes

Dr. Vicki-Lynn HolmesDr. Vicki-Lynn Holmes
Associate Professor of Mathematics and Education

For some prospective Hope students, it’s the first time on campus that cements their decision to join the college family.  “I just knew,” they’ll recall.

Sometimes it works that way for professors, too.  Even if they don’t expect that it will.

It was early in 2008, and Dr. Vicki-Lynn Holmes was well on her way to obtaining a position at a Division I school when she met Dr. Rich Ray, who at the time was dean of social sciences, while he was recruiting at a conference she was attending.  She enjoyed their conversations and decided that it couldn’t hurt to accept his invitation to visit Hope.

In the spring and summer, West Michigan is a garden spot.  In the winter, when Holmes arrived…  well, sometimes not as much, particularly when lake-effect weather kicks in.  To her, the snow felt like blizzard conditions, she recalled. She was ready to return to warmer climates.

But then, it happened.

“I got out of the Haworth Hotel and went across to Hope College proper. As I'm walking along, God clearly says, ‘You’re going to be here,’” she recalled.

The next fall, she was on the Hope faculty.

Holmes was no stranger to adjusting her plans with an unexpected call to change direction. It’s even why she became a college-educator mathematician with an emphasis on training teachers.

Following her childhood in Washington, D.C., she pursued a bachelor’s degree in linguistics at the College of William and Mary, and she began her career teaching English, first at a high school and next at a middle school.  It happened, though, that the middle school’s mathematics teacher resigned at the beginning of the year, and with no permanent replacement available the school hired a series of substitutes.  The result was that by November the students were falling behind.  Even though Holmes was teaching British Literature at the time, she became their advocate, going to the principal to request she teach  them: “Listen, I can teach; I could be one chapter ahead of them and I can teach them math.”

Her heart went out especially to those who already by eighth grade were on a trajectory that eliminated college as a possibility.

“Everyone who's going to college has done pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, algebra 2 by their senior year, but if you're in eighth grade taking general math, you don't get pre-algebra until ninth,” she said. “You’re behind the eight ball to start.”

With her background in the humanities, she took an unconventional approach.  “I teach math from an English perspective,” she said. “Developing understanding through connecting themes and telling stories.”  Holmes realized she had to get her students up to speed, so she met them where they were. 

“I used boxes and triangles instead of X and Y,” Holmes said, “introducing algebra in a non-threatening way.  They're used to boxes and triangles being different numbers depending on the equation.” And then halfway through, she switched to X's and Y's, “and then they just flowed into it. So, I taught algebra to the general-math students so they’d be ready.”

In doing so, she fell in love with the language of mathematics.

Her path shifted again while she visited a friend who was a professor at the University of Louisville.  While taking a break from touring the large campus, she struck up a conversation about education with an apparently random staff member.  He turned out to be the head of mathematics and science at the university, and he was so impressed with her that he offered her a full ride in the graduate program in mathematics if she passed the GRE.

One successful exam later, and she was pursuing her master’s and then doctorate.

For good measure, Holmes was also actively exploring the role of the Christian faith in her life.  Her family hadn’t been religious while she was growing up, but she and her twin brother had a spiritual hunger that often led the two of them to attend early-morning worship services across the street at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

“You know how kids sneak out at night to go to parties or something? My brother and I would sneak out to go to church,” she said.

  It was, she noted, an engaging, ecumenical way to meet Christ, since the services were led by young ministers (“Who else is going to get that early, 6 a.m. stint?”) from a variety of denominations who were excited about sharing the message of Jesus.  She was so energized that she pursued formal studies in theology, completing a Ph.D. in religion at Grace Bible College in addition to her graduate degrees in mathematics.

And so passed the years preceding her arrival at Hope.  Along the way she also founded Wilson Academy, a school in Atlanta for boys who had fallen through the cracks; served as a principal and a teacher of English and of mathematics at public and private schools in California and Georgia in addition to her initial service in Maryland; and, while completing her doctoral studies, was an adjunct instructor at Brown Mackie College and DeVry University.

Since joining the faculty, she’s pursued a passion for education reform to enable all children to learn and excel in mathematics.  Her research focuses on the pedagogy of teaching mathematics and the statistical underpinnings that allow research to drive instruction. That of course informed her teaching at Hope, but it’s extended beyond the college as well.  Holmes has received several awards for her research, including a JRST innovative peer reviewed journal award and Christian Book award

She has served as the regional director of Michigan’s National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM), conducted Teaching Algebra Concepts through Technology (TACT2) workshops for the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, spoken at both regional and national conferences and has written five books, two algebra textbooks and numerous peer-reviewed journal articles. Holmes was also on the team that wrote the newly adopted State of Michigan mathematics standards for teachers. She has been on sabbatical this semester, writing a book on pedagogy to help new generations of future teachers.

Holmes has also been active in the community, with a particular emphasis on enhancing understanding and inclusion.  Among other service through the years, she has chaired Holland’s Human Relations Commission, been an elder at her church, and worked with the Women’s Shelter, Westcore Neighborhood and various charitable organizations.  In recognition of her efforts on campus, she received the Diversity, Service and Leadership Award from Hope’s GROW Council in 2015, and the college’s GROW Diversity and Inclusion Award in 2018.  

Reflecting on her time here, Holmes said, “I know God put me here, and I hope I’ve made my mark, not simply teaching, but in showing Christ.

Holmes will conclude her final spring semester at Hope speaking to her largest class ever at the college — and in one of the most beloved and historic campus venues:  She will present the Baccalaureate sermon to the graduating seniors and their families and friends on Sunday, May 5, in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.

She’ll be encouraging the graduates to be mindful of God’s call in their lives as well.

“If you’re in your own strength trying to navigate the future that’s blind to you but clear as a bell to God, you’re going to fall,” she said. “But if you stay with Him the whole way, you will soar.

“And that’s kind of the basis of what I'll tell them,” Holmes said. “You have a plan, but He also has a plan and a purpose for you -- each and every one of you.”

“This is just a starting point. This is the end of one chapter and the starting point of another.”


Story by Greg Olgers ’87 

Laura Pardo

Dr. Laura PardoDr. Laura Pardo
the Evert J. and Hattie E. Blekkink Professor of Education

Helping future teachers hone their sense of who they are has been a theme of Dr. Laura Pardo’s work with Hope College education majors. 

“You need to be intentional about your teaching identity. Because if you’re putting on an act every day, you’re not going to enjoy your work,” she says. 

Pardo will retire in June after 19 years at Hope. Earlier, she taught at the K-12 level for 14 years — first math, then language arts. She says she felt called to work with inner-city kids, “not to save them but just to be a stable person in their lives.”

“I’m always sharing that story with my students,” she continues. “Some come in thinking they can fix everything, and save the world, and be this superhero in the lives of their students. And I tell them, ‘That’s not what God’s called you to do. He’s called you to teach, to be a witness, to show Christ through you. You’re working with your students: you’re loving on them, you’re accepting them, you’re pushing them forward, you’re not giving up on them.’“

Pardo is retiring earlier than she’d envisioned, to continue to manage a medical disorder that forced her to step away from her work at Hope for three semesters and parts of two others. She resumed teaching in January 2022. 

She’s grateful to colleagues who did everything from covering her classes to bringing meals during her absence. It mirrored the support and encouragement she appreciated years earlier when a family member’s medical crisis called her away for months. “The warmth of my colleagues across campus, not just people in my department — I couldn’t have had this anywhere else,” she says.

The COVID-19 pandemic coincided with some of the hardest stretches of Pardo’s illness.  Isolated at home, she began to write about it. She found it healing to document what she was feeling, and the drawn-out, difficult processes of her diagnosis and treatment. People often told her she was brave. She didn’t feel that way, and over time another purpose for her writing came into focus. In 2023 she published a short book about her experience, I Can Do Hard Things.

“I was trying to get people to see that when something comes, you just deal with it, day by day, moment by moment. I wanted to write to show people that people can do hard things,” she says. “It isn’t like you wake up one morning and think, ‘I know I’m going to embark on a really difficult journey.’ It is what it is. I just had the sense that God’s with me, and this is what I’m going to do.”    

Pardo was the first member of her family to attend college. She majored in math education at Central Michigan University. At Michigan State, she earned an M.Ed. in literacy and a Ph.D. in teaching, curriculum, and educational psychology.

Early in her years at Hope, she taught the content area literacy class for students preparing to teach middle school and high school. Since 2011, when she started a four-year stint as department chair, she’s taught the bookends of the education curriculum: Foundations of Education (the gateway to the major), and the capstone class for seniors. 

With a department colleague she led a revision of the elementary education curriculum. With a previous provost and a philosophy professor, she led the redesign of how Hope integrates new faculty, shaping the two-year program now called Initium. Eight times over 11 years, she co-led the Liverpool May/June Term travel-study course for education students; she plans to go this year as well. 

Her research on the teaching of reading resulted in published articles and two books, Question Answer Relationships: Comprehension Strategy Lessons for Grades 4 and 5 (2011) and Standing for Powerful Literacy: Teaching in the Context of Change (2012). Recently she examined alternative high schools, and a student who assisted with that research now teaches in one. 

Pardo was appointed in 2014 to an endowed chair as Evert J. and Hattie E. Blekkink Professor of Education (an honor she remembers as a complete shock and very special moment). In 2021 she received the college’s Janet Andersen Excellence in Teaching Award. 

On break for the summer in 2023, she hosted weeklong “grandma camps” for her grandchildren, with a different game plan for each child or pair of kids: the beach, the zoo, museums, movie nights. Time with them (and with her two children, parents and brothers) is a priority for her retirement.

“Only in hindsight have I realized that there were probably opportunities I could have had with my children and my grandchildren when I chose to do something else,” Pardo shares. “It dawned on me that the things that matter are not a career; overall, what matters is families and relationships and spiritual growth. I’ve been a Christian since I was a little girl, but when the chips are down, that’s when you really feel God. His presence, and my ability to rely on prayers and affirmations that he’s promised us, are what has sustained me.”   

(Story by Ann Sierks Smith)

R. Richard Ray

Dr. R. Richard RayDr. R. Richard Ray
Professor of Kinesiology

Dr. Rich Ray has hit for the cycle during his career at Hope — and then some. 

His four decades at the college have included interconnected but distinctly different roles: in his department, in key campus-wide positions, and as a leader of a prison education joint venture with Western Theological Seminary.  

“Institutions of this size can pigeonhole people,” he says. “I’ve always been grateful that the people I worked with at the college never acted in that way. Opportunities presented were really opportunities for personal growth for me. To everybody out there who said yes, thank you.”

Ray retired from teaching in mid-2022. This June he will retire from his prison education position, too. 

He came to Hope in 1982 as the head athletic trainer and a professor in what was then the Department of Physical Education. In the 1990s, he chaired that department for five years. 

He developed Hope’s academic program in athletic training (and later led its expansion to a major). When that and other realignments of his department’s curriculum were implemented, he was dean of social sciences (2008-10) and participated in its transition to the Department of Kinesiology. “It was a more expansive vision,” he explains. “The academic programs transitioned from a school-based physical education model to more of a sport science, health and wellness research-based model.” 

From 2010 to 2016, Ray served as provost — the college’s chief academic officer. Among many initiatives in those years, one that stands out to him was redesigning the orientation program for new faculty. The two-year program is called Initium. “I wanted to help faculty who were brand new to the college learn to yoke all their professional activity on campus to the beating heart of the college's mission,” he says. 

Early in his career at Hope, Ray’s courses, research, writing and speaking focused exclusively on the athletic training profession. Later, he added First-Year and Senior seminars for students from a range of majors. His goal was to prompt students to think about who they are, what they want from life, and what vocation they are called to. A month-long walk with a friend along the Camino de Santiago in Spain, a route for Christian pilgrims for more than a thousand years, inspired him to integrate the dimension of pilgrimage. 

“All education is formation — all education,” he says.

This focus on purpose led Ray to become co-director of the Hope-Western Prison Education Program, which began in 2019 with a pilot program. Since 2021, the college courses Hope and Western professors teach to students incarcerated at the Muskegon Correctional Facility can build to a Hope College bachelor’s degree with standards as rigorous as those expected of students on campus.

“I was reluctant to engage at first, but then realized after I saw some examples how wonderful it was — and how eager, thirsty, starving for what a college education could provide these guys in prison were. Teaching traditional age undergraduates is a wonderful privilege. It's been such good fun. I love college students — I would walk a long, hard mile for them. But these guys in prison are so engaged and energized that you can see them changing week to week. It's like meeting a dying person in the desert and giving them a little water and some shade and watching them come back to life,” Ray says. His 2023 TEDx talk gives a richer picture of the undertaking than there’s room for here.

Ray majored in physical education at the University of Michigan and earned his master’s degree in athletic training and doctorate in educational leadership at Western Michigan University. 

His publications include three books on sports medicine and athletic training; his textbook with Jeff Konin, Management Strategies in Athletic Training, is in its fifth edition. He also wrote two books about his pilgrimage journeys, The Shape of My Heart and Walking Gratefully (both released in 2022).

Ray was honored by Hope College in 2000 with the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. He also is recognized as a leader on his profession’s national stage. He has been president of the Great Lakes Trainers Association (GLATA) and the Michigan Athletic Trainers’ Society (MATS) and is a past editor of the journal Athletic Therapy Today. From 2011 through 2021 he served on the board of the Research and Education Foundation of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA). NATA and GLATA have honored him as an outstanding educator; MATS and NATA honored him as a distinguished athletic trainer and inducted him into their Halls of Fame; and in 2020 he received NATA’s highest honor, the Eve Becker-Doyle Leadership Award, for his leadership within the association. 

(Story by Ann Sierks Smith)

Daina Robins

Dr. Daina RobinsDr. Daina Robins
Professor of Theatre

Dr. Daina Robins’ taste in plays runs to those that ask tough questions — “plays that are somehow, on some level, symbolic, metaphoric, abstract,” she says. “I find myself also drawn to plays that are not competing with the kind of photographic realism of TV and film. What theatre does is a different kind of magic.”

For her final Hope production in October 2023, the professor of theatre chose Alabaster, a dark comedy exploring the pain of loss, the purpose of art and the struggle of those who seek to create it. 

Earlier, to cherry-pick just two, there were The Laramie Project (Moisés Kaufman’s play prompted by the murder of a young gay man) and Samuel Beckett’s iconic Waiting for Godot, whose characters bathed in suffering are virtual poster children for the bleak view that life is meaningless. Robins is especially drawn to modern adaptations of ancient Greek dramas.

When student actors grapple with intense plays, she sees tremendous growth. 

“You have to be physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually strong enough to do things that other people don't want to do on stage. I want to see your soul on stage. It's a challenging, risk-taking endeavor from the get-go,” she says.

Robins retired in December 2023. The following month, the college honored her with the Ruth and John Reed Faculty Achievement Award.

She joined the Hope Department of Theatre in 1991, was director of theatre from 1992 to 1997, and chaired the department from 1997 to 2019. From fall 2020 through the end of 2023, she and colleagues shared the director of theatre role. Her courses focused on theatre history, directing and acting. Her campuswide roles included service on four major campus boards (Campus Life, Administrative Affairs, Academic Affairs, and the Professional Interest Committee); she chaired or was secretary of each of them. She also advised students applying for Fulbright fellowships and was a member for 10 years of the Women’s and Gender Studies Council. 

Over 31 years, Robins directed 52 Hope College fall and spring productions, plus 21 summer Hope Repertory Theatre shows — often lighter fare. 

Students have often traveled with her and several other theatre faculty and staff to the Region III Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in which groups from five midwestern states showcase their best work. At the national festival, Robins was named Distinguished Director of a Musical for Hope’s 2012 production of Gone Missing. The production itself was honored, too. 

Of the 27 courses she taught in her 31 years at Hope and earlier part-time work at other colleges, her favorite was Acting III, in which she taught Hope students the skills, challenges and opportunities in approaching Shakespeare’s repertoire. In rehearsals, her teaching continued.

“At the undergrad level, you're doing a lot of teaching of acting when you're directing. Developing a process, a way to approach a play, is part of what students learn in acting class, and they're not necessarily masters of that when they're cast as a first- or second-year student.  You're teaching actors, in many ways, to be collaborators with directors,” she explains.

Robins earned her bachelor’s degree at Minnesota State University Moorhead, and a master’s in theatre and Ph.D. in theatre history and criticism at Tufts University. She was among the founders of a company in Boston, Double Edge Theatre, which now operates in western Massachusetts; in 2023 she acted in one of its summer productions.  

After college, her specialty in German theatre took her to Germany for two years; she returned for several sabbaticals. Travel focused on theatre became a theme. Accompanying her now retired colleague Professor John Tammi on five of his May Term travel-study courses in Ireland, she immersed Hope students in Irish theatre. When Hope’s grant-funded Portal to the World program enabled scores of Hope faculty to pursue professional research and connections abroad, she took in 50 stage productions during month-long visits to Vienna and Berlin. “I like to go to one city for a month and pretend I live there,” she says, and she plans more trips like that now that she’s retired.   

(Story by Ann Sierks Smith)

David Van Wylen

Dr. David Van WylenDr. David Van Wylen
Principal with the Office of Possibilities

As a longtime college educator and researcher who was the son of a former Hope College president, Dr. David Van Wylen had both professional and personal reasons to be well familiar with — and value — Hope when he signed on as dean of natural and applied sciences in 2015.

Van Wylen had spent more than 30 years in higher education after earning his undergraduate degree in biology at St. Olaf College and doctorate in physiology at the University of Michigan.  Immediately prior to coming to Hope, he was a professor of biology at St. Olaf, where had been on the faculty since 1994 and had also chaired the Biology Department and served two three-year terms as associate dean for natural sciences and mathematics.

“Most people associated with the natural, mathematical and applied sciences at liberal arts colleges know about Hope College, as Hope has been a leader in these areas for many years,” he said at the time of his appointment.  “So professionally, the opportunity to work with the outstanding students, faculty and staff who have positioned Hope for such excellence is extremely appealing.”

His last name reveals the familial connection to anyone who has been associated with the college at some point across the past half century.  His parents, Drs. Gordon and Margaret Van Wylen, were Hope’s first couple while Gordon served as Hope’s ninth president from 1972 until retiring in 1987, and the Van Wylen Library, which opened in 1988, bears both of their names.

“Given my family history, it was special to come to Hope. While I did not attend Hope College and had never worked here, I knew Hope fairly well since the many conversations I had with my parents over the years about issues I was facing were filtered through a Hope College lens and how things were done at Hope. I am grateful for the opportunity to come back and work here.”

Van Wylen reflects on the past nine years as consisting of two distinct chapters, both of which — in different ways — have been rewarding.

He served the first five of those years as dean, in a division that was everything — and more — that its reputation had suggested.

“I inherited a really strong division of the college with high-functioning departments and outstanding faculty and staff,” he said. “I’m just so grateful for the really, really outstanding people in that division who helped make those five years satisfying and rewarding because of the great work that they do.”

Across the most recent four years, he’s led something new, the Office of Possibilities, reflecting an institutional commitment to fostering a culture of innovation.

“The second chapter was very different, as I was working outside of the academic division and trying something entirely new. We built a team from scratch and, in my opinion, launched an effort that has impacted how Hope College does its work,” Van Wylen said.

The first challenge:  Decide how.

“It was challenging and rewarding to forge something out of nothing, without many templates of how this is done elsewhere,” he said.  Fortunately, the team formed to foster innovation embraced the concept of being innovative.

“I would point especially to Beth Trembley [’85] and Becky Schmidt [’99], Van Wylen recalled, “who were instrumental in getting us started with the teaching of human-centered design so that people are equipped with the mindsets and tools to advance their own ideas.”

Many faculty and staff across campus have participated in Office of Possibilities workshops, both to apply the principles to specific projects or to learn the process so that they can apply it more generally.  With Van Wylen’s retirement, Schmidt (in addition to her roles as associate professor of kinesiology and head volleyball coach) and others will continue this work within the new strategic initiatives office that is also coordinating institutional innovations like Hope Forward.

“This is what makes me feel good about the whole transition and succession planning that we have done,” Van Wylen said. “I know we have something ingrained in the fabric of Hope that will be continued.”

As Van Wylen and his wife, Pat Lunderberg ’80 Van Wylen (who was global travel program coordinator for Alumni and Family Engagement at Hope from 2017 to 2021) considered their transition to Hope in 2015, they were drawn not least of all by the presence of their parents:  Both pairs were living in Holland.  All four have since passed away, so for their next chapter the couple plans to focus on spending time with their own descendants.

“Our two sons live in Minneapolis — that’s where our four grandkids are — and our daughter’s in Rhode Island,” Van Wylen said.  “Over the next few years, we look forward to expanding our footprint where our kids are. And then we’ll just see where it goes.”

(Story by Greg Olgers ’87)

Dawn DeWitt-Brinks retired after the 2022-23 school year, and Tom Bultman and Daina Robins retired after the fall semester.  The others are retiring as the school year ends.