Presidential Perspective

Summer 2017

Dear Alumni, Parents and Friends of Hope College,

This is my final letter to you as president of Hope College. As you may know, Kelly and I will conclude our service to the college this summer and move to Pennsylvania, where I have accepted the presidency of Washington & Jefferson College. Since sharing this news in April, we have been humbled by countless expressions of kindness, support and good wishes from the extended Hope family. It has been our privilege to lead and serve with so many of you who share a commitment to this college’s mission of preparing young adults to be agents of hope in the world.

In June, the Board of Trustees selected the Rev. Dr. Dennis N. Voskuil to serve as the interim president of Hope for up to two years. Like so many of you, I was delighted by the board’s decision. As Board Chair Karl Droppers wrote in a recent email, “Dennis’s love for Hope College is boundless.” With his appointment, the campus community gains the wisdom and experience of a leader who faithfully served as a member of Hope’s religion faculty for 17 years and as president of Western Theological Seminary for 14 years. Most recently, Dennis has been director of our A.C. Van Raalte Institute.

Dennis and I are working closely together this summer to ensure a seamless transition in leadership. I’m sure you will welcome Dennis as president and support him in the days ahead. He is blessed to lead a team that includes our new provost, Dr. Cady Short-Thompson, as well as an experienced Administrative Council and Deans Council, which includes Dr. Sandra Visser, our new dean of arts and humanities. Hope College has never been stronger, and these talented leaders will maintain the momentum on all fronts, including implementation of our strategic plan.

The best value: beyond tuition dollars

Since 2015, I have used this letter to tell you about the goals and objectives of our strategic plan, Hope for the World: 2025. In this letter, I am pleased to conclude with the last pillar of the plan, Goal Six:

Hope College will be the best value among leading liberal arts colleges by providing an unsurpassed educational experience through faithful stewardship and development of resources.

I’ve spoken to many of you about the increasingly competitive market for higher education at a time when the number of U.S. high school graduates is declining annually. In addition, affordability is a top concern — and sometimes the top concern — of students and families when selecting a college. When our Board of Trustees adopted a plan asserting that Hope College will be “the best value,” it understood the importance of keeping the college as affordable as possible while also delivering a second-to-none educational experience. This is a bold commitment, and one that requires the support of the larger hope community of alumni, families and friends. Our value proposition calls us to invest in first-rate faculty, staff, facilities and learning resources, yet challenges us to make these investments without over-burdening our students with the cost of tuition, room and board.

We are pleased that Hope is more affordable than our peers of comparable quality, but tuition revenues do not begin to cover all of our costs. A significant portion of the cost of each student’s education is covered by donations that fund scholarships, professorships, programs, facilities, buildings and more. Imagine our campus without the DeVos Fieldhouse, the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts, the Haworth Engineering Center, the Kruizenga Art Museum, the Van Andel Soccer Stadium or the new Bultman Student Center, to name but a few facilities that were built with donor support, not tuition dollars. We are blessed by the generosity of friends and alumni who love this college and continue to support our students through their personal philanthropy.

Of our many fundraising priorities, student scholarships remain a primary focus. Approximately one-third of our students benefit from one of more than 700 endowed scholarships. We recently repurposed the Hope Fund, shifting it from a general-purpose fund to one dedicated exclusively to scholarships. Now you can be assured that your annual Hope Fund gift will help close the financial gap for students who might otherwise find a Hope education out of reach.

Diligent Stewardship: Caring for Our Resources

The sixth goal of our strategic plan also calls for “diligent stewardship” of our resources. This is not a new commitment, as Hope has ended every year with a balanced budget for more than five decades. U.S. News & World Report has recognized Hope as the nation’s most efficiently managed college for two years in a row. And last year, we were pleased when Standard & Poor’s increased our institutional credit rating by two steps, from B+ to A. During the 2016–17 academic year, under the guidance of Vice President for Admissions and Retention Bill Vanderbilt, we conducted a market study that included an analysis of our pricing and other factors that influence students’ decisions when choosing a college. This work continues in concert with our Board of Trustees, but has already led to new innovation pathways, including the exploration of possible new degree offerings.

We strive, as well, to be good stewards of the people who devote their lives to this special place. Since 2015, we have invested in a number of new initiatives to ensure that Hope is a place where all members of our faculty and staff can realize their full, God-given potential. These include campus-wide leadership development programs coupled with new professional development opportunities, such as our “Pro-Dev Day” of learning. Support for faculty development and scholarship has also grown, thanks to an increase in the Nyenhuis Funds and new grants from private foundations. These investments in people are resulting in greater collaboration between departments on campus. Notably, the Hope community provided unprecedented support to our Admissions team this year to bring in a robust class of incoming students.

Finally, Goal Six calls for the creation of the first campus master plan since the 1980s. This plan, now nearing completion, includes a comprehensive analysis of space utilization to maximize efficiency and productivity, as well as a prioritization of the capital projects likely to be developed over the coming decade. In May, the Board of Trustees reviewed and approved the first phase of the plan, which includes goals and objectives, planning principles, a strategic framework for decision-making and proposed areas of future change to our physical plant.

A Memorable Year

The 2016-17 academic year was filled with many notable accomplishments. Here are just of few highlights for which we are thankful:

  • We completed construction of the Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center. Earlier this summer, staff moved into their offices in the Bultman Student Center, and they now stand ready to welcome students into the beautiful building this fall.
  • Progress continued on the development of the Boerigter Institute, a college-wide initiative funded by George and Sibilla Boerigter to re-envision how students prepare for success after college through vocational discernment, experiential learning, advising and active engagement with our alumni.
  • The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded Hope an $800,000 grant to establish the “Mellon Grand Challenges Initiative.” With this grant, Hope will develop linked “convergent” courses across the disciplines and establish faculty-student research opportunities to explore the important issues facing the world in which our students are preparing to live and work.
  • The national office for the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) office moved from Calvin College to Hope College, with Dr. David Cunningham taking on the role of director. NetVUE is a nationwide network of more than 200 colleges and universities that have found vocational exploration and discernment to be a promising element of undergraduate education.
  • We formally launched a faith formation micro-campaign, which generated a $2 million challenge grant from donors to help catalyze a $5.5 million effort to relocate Campus Ministries into a new multi-purpose ministry facility that will promote better outreach, visibility and partnerships on campus and in surrounding communities.
  • The Lilly Endowment awarded Hope a grant of $458,502 for “Generation Spark: Mentoring Tomorrow’s Church Leaders,” an initiative from Hope’s Center for Leadership to address the steep decline in church attendance and religious affiliation among millennials and other adults who no longer affiliate with a church.
  • We successfully completed our first crowdfunding effort in support of sending Hope’s H2 Dance Company to the prestigious Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world. This effort, led by dance faculty Matthew Farmer and Crystal Frazier, was an unprecedented opportunity for Hope College to be represented in front of thousands on an international stage.
  • Athletics celebrated two national champions: Josh Gibson, who claimed the individual title in golf, and Erin Herrmann, who won the 3,000-meter steeplechase. (With the 2014 volleyball team, that makes three national championships in less than three years!) This spring, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams made the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Division III tournament. And, Hope earned its second-highest finish in the NCAA Learfield Directors’ Cup, placing 19th in the country among all Division III institutions.
  • We benefited tremendously from the generosity of our alumni and friends, as our Development and Alumni Engagement team led us to one of our most successful fundraising years on record. To all our donors: Thank you for your generous support of the college, which helps make our vision for being “the best value” a reality for students and their families.

Kelly and I count it a blessing to have been a part of the Hope community since 2013. Though we will soon depart, we will continue to be proud Hope College parents, as our son, Ron, will remain at Hope for another three years to complete his undergraduate education. We couldn’t be more delighted, for he is experiencing the transformative power of a Hope education.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for the opportunity to serve the Hope community. We are grateful for all you do to support Hope and make it indeed the best value.

John C. Knapp, Ph.D.
President and Professor
Summer 2017