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Nykerk Cup Competition

Song. Play. Oration. 80+ years of fierce competition, dazzling performances and Nykerk Love.

Nykerk is a competition between freshmen and sophomore women in three different arenas: song, play and oration. Junior and senior coaches arrange the music, write the plays and guide the orators as they craft seven-minute monologues.

After 21 days of practice and group bonding, Nykerk night arrives. Nine judges critique each performance and ultimately bestow the Nykerk cup upon either odd or even year.


The Nykerk Cup Competition originated in 1935. Dr. John Nykerk, Hope professor and founder of the college’s music department, believed that women should have their own, distinct competition. Dr. Nykerk had three founding principles in mind:

  • Involvement for new students
  • Leadership for upper-class students
  • A showcase of talent within an even-odd year tradition

In it's first iteration, the freshmen women challenged the sophomore women to a "match of muscles" across a creek, much like the Pull. The concept was changed when Dr. Nykerk offered to present a silver cup to the victor, if the contest would contain one oratorical number, one musical selection and the enactment of a one-act play. The freshman class of 1936 won the contest and had their class name engraved on the cup.

The Nykerk Cup Competition was held in February–March for the first four years, after which it was scheduled to be held in November to coincide with Hope’s Parent’s Weekend activities. The Nykerk tradition continues to flourish to this day, with the victors' class year added annually to the silver cup.

Men were introduced to the competition in 1939, as they took on roles of stage and property managers. Men were officially designated as "morale" in the early 1970s. Today, "Morale Boys" play a crucial role in the success of the Nykerk Cup Competition. They encourage and support each female competitor, while also building sets and coordinating scene changes. 
Nykerk has several traditional events, concurrent with the competition itself. The first is the Nykerk Rally, generating interest and drawing in participants. A candlelight service happens the week prior to the competition and includes a candlelit walk through campus with a stop at the President’s house. The Nykerk breakfast takes place the morning after the competition. The breakfast is a celebration and venue for the upcoming leadership to be announced. 

The Nykerk Executive Board and Coaches play an essential role in making this event a reality. Women apply for each position on the board:

  • Chair
  • Chair Elect
  • Junior and Senior Treasurer
  • Junior and Senior Secretary
  • Junior and Senior Production
  • Junior and Senior Publicity

Each area of competition also appoints highly skilled coaches and morale leaders. Without their enthusiasm, dedication and time, Nykerk would not be possible.