On Tuesday, Nov. 13, a bronze bust and plaque commemorating 1905 Hope College graduate A.J. Muste, an internationally renowned peace activist, was dedicated during a brief ceremony on the second floor of Van Wylen library. Participants included the Rev. Dr. Dennis N. Voskuil, president of Hope College, Dr. Sandra Visser, Dean for the Arts and Humanities, Dr. Ryan Dodde, who sculpted the bust and is a 1989 Hope graduate and plastic surgeon in Holland, and Dr. John Cox, who was the DuMez Professor Emeritus of English at Hope and has led the project.
Muste graduated from Hope in 1905 with degrees from both the Reformed Church in America’s New Brunswick Theological Seminary and the non-denominational Union Theological Seminary. One of the most well- known and influential peace activists in the United States, he worked for many years as the executive director of the Fellowship for Reconciliation, an interfaith pacifist organization. He also worked extensively in labor unions, himself being a member of one in the early 1900s. He and others fought for compensation. Most memorably, he participated in a 16-week-long textile strike in Massachusetts. The workers, many of whom were new immigrants who spoke English poorly or not at all, were without effective leadership to express their demands. So Muste and two other radical ministers, with whom he had formed a close friendship, became involved.
Muste spoke to assembled workers and assured them that he would lend whatever help he could in raising money for the relief of strikers and their families. He eventually became the spokesman for some 30,000 striking workers from more than 20 countries. Despite the efforts of agents and provocateurs to inspire violence, Muste and the strike committee were able to avoid the outbreak of violence. The strike was eventually settled after 16 weeks, when both sides neared exhaustion and became willing to compromise.
Later in life, Muste spoke out against the nation’s involvement in every war from World War I through the Vietnam War. The bust and plaque were installed in the library’s A.J. Muste Alcove, which was named in Muste’s honor in 1988, the year that the library opened.
Muste is also honored through the college’s annual A.J. Muste Memorial Lecture Series that began in 1985, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of his birth. Currently, a film on Muste is being developed by Dr. David Schock, who is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and former member of the Hope communication and English faculty and Dr. Kathleen Verduin, who is a professor of English and chair of the A.J. Muste Memorial Lecture Committee. Those interested in supporting the documentary should contact Verduin at email@example.com. Muste is a integral figure in peace activism, and his participation in many events during the mid-20th century has directly influenced the world. Go and check out his bust at the library and marvel at his accomplishments, not just at Hope, but around the world.