John YeldingJohn Yelding

This year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Lecture at Hope College will include national as well as local perspective. Hope Professor Emeritus John Yelding, a specialist in diversity in education who continues to be active at the college as a teacher and mentor, will present “Reflections on MLK, Civil Rights, and DEI at Hope College” on Monday, Jan. 15, at 2 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

The lecture will examine King’s legacy in his efforts to attain dignity for all people, provide a brief overview of civil rights movements in the history of the United States, and take the audience on a historical tour of the work and achievements of Hope’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion in honor of the 40th anniversary of its creation.  A reception will follow from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the college’s van Andel Huys der Hope.  The presentation is one of multiple events taking place during Civil Rights Celebration Week at Hope, and is also launching a year-long commemoration of CDI’s anniversary that will include several events across the spring and fall semesters in 2024.

“Our theme for this time of celebration and reflection will be ‘40 years of Belonging and Growing Together: 1984-2024,’” said Jevon Willis, director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.  “Utilizing CDI’s distinctive diversity spring and fall lecture series, each lecture will focus on the legacy of work and personal experiences connected with past and present leaders of CDI at Hope College.”


About John Yelding

Yelding, who retired in 2019, joined the Hope faculty in 1994 after serving as a teacher and administrator in K-12 education for 25 years.  His teaching specializations are in secondary education, diversity, rural education and urban education.  In 2013, he helped establish the Hope Comes to Watts May Term, which he continues to co-direct with his colleagues in the education department.

In addition to teaching in the education department, he has been part of the team teaching the First-Year Seminar for students participating in the Phelps Scholars Program and directed the American Ethnic Studies minor and Encounter with Cultures program.  Among other involvements at the college, he has also served on the advisory boards of the Phelps Scholars Program and the Hope College TRIO Upward Bound Program for area high school students, and led sessions during the college’s Critical Issues Symposium and Winter Happening events.

Yelding is also a past member of the West Ottawa Public Schools Board of Education, which he also served as president.

He was appointed the first recipient of the college’s Susan M. and Glenn G. Cherup Professorship in Education in 2013.  In 2003, he received a Michigan Campus Compact “Faculty/Staff Community Service-Learning Award.”  He received the college’s “Provost’s Award for Service to the Academic Program” in 2009, the “Vanderbush-Weller Development Fund” award for strong, positive impact on students in 2011, and “Motoichiro Oghimi Global Courage Award” in 2016.  He has also been recognized with several awards presented by student organizations on the Hope College campus.  

Prior to joining the Hope faculty, Yelding held teaching positions in Covert and South Haven, was a middle school and junior high school principal in Coloma, was a teacher and administrator in the Van Buren County Migrant Program for 16 summers, was principal of South Haven High School, and served as interim superintendent of the South Haven Public Schools.  

He earned his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in 1969, a master’s degree in educational leadership from Western Michigan University in 1981, and has completed extensive studies in educational leadership, diversity education, and communication at Western Michigan University.

Yelding’s current work and activities include teaching Encounter with Cultures, co-directing the Hope Comes to Watts Program, mentoring Holland High School students in the education department’s Early College Program, serving on scholarship selection and hiring committees, and serving on the Watts Learning Center Board of Directors.


About the Center for Diversity and Inclusion

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion supports the college’s ongoing 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 My Truth student testimonials and graduation stole ceremony for the college’s several multicultural student organizations (MSOs); organizing workshops for students, faculty and staff; and serving as a liaison with other area organizations like the the I Am Academy, the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, Latin Americans United for Progress and Out on the Lakeshore.  The center also works closely with the college’s MSOs in developing programming and providing a support network.

CDI traces its origin to 1984, when Alfredo Gonzales, who was director of the college’s TRIO Upward Bound program for high school students, was appointed to the newly established position of director of minority affairs.  Other directors have followed Gonzales, but he continued to hold overall administrative responsibility for the program until his retirement in 2016, including, successively, as assistant dean, assistant provost, associate provost, and associate provost and dean. The program has grown in scope and broadened its focus across the past four decades, particularly under the leadership of former director and dean Vanessa Green from 2003 to 2020, its name changing first to the Office of Multicultural Life and then Multicultural Education en route to becoming CDI.  

The program was originally housed within the Student Development offices in the DeWitt Center, adding a two-room multicultural center in Phelps Hall in 2000 for students.  The offices and lounge space moved to the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication when it opened in 2005, and to the newly completed Jim and Martie Bultman Center in 2017.  In 2020, the center relocated to its current, and larger, quarters in the college’s landmark Keppel House, which includes programmatic and gathering space, and office space for the staff as well as the MSOs.

The staff today consists of a director, assistant director, program coordinator and office assistant.  The student organizations that work directly with CDI include the Asian Student Union, Black Student Union, Hope Advocates for Invisible Conditions, Latino Student Organization, Pan African Student Association, Prism for LGBTQ-identifying individuals, and Women of Color United.


Other Activities During Civil Rights Celebration Week

The center’s 40th-anniversary celebration will continue through presentations scheduled across 2024, including most immediately the college’s Black History Month Lecture on Feb. 15.

The Jan. 15 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Lecture is among multiple events taking place during the college’s Civil Rights Celebration Week.  Additional activities include a multi-session leadership summit on Jan. 15 that will feature the theme “History in the Making: Behind the Dream” that will include two sets of concurrent breakout sessions at 9:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.; a Racial Healing Circle on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 11 a.m.; a screening of the film “Black Man” and panel discussion on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 6 p.m.; and the exhibition “Deep Roots, New Shoots: Modern and Contemporary Art from the KAM Collection,” showing 40 African artworks created between the 1960s and the early 2020s, running at the Kruizenga Art Museum from Friday, Jan. 12, through Saturday, May 18.  Additional information about the week’s events is available online.

Along with the week’s public events, Hope students will engage in service projects throughout the area during the morning of Saturday, Jan. 20, through the college’s “Hope Serves” program.  In addition to the college’s events, the Holland-based I AM Academy will hold its Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Hope: on Monday, Jan. 15, at the Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse.

To inquire about accessibility or if you need accommodations to fully participate in the event, please email  Updates related to events are posted when available at in the individual listings.

Dimnent Memorial Chapel is located at 277 College Ave., at the corner of College Avenue and 12th Street.

The van Andel Huys der Hope is located at 110 E. 12th St., in the central campus along the former 12th Street between College and Columbia avenues.