This Saturday, Nykerk season comes to a close as the ’22 and ’23 classes go head to head in a showdown involving song, play, and oration. Nykerk has been well-loved by generations of Hope College students, and this year is sure to be an interesting night with Even Year defending last year’s win, and Odd Year working to take back the cup. In this vein, it seemed prudent to interview someone who really gets Nykerk and understands the competition better than anyone. Taking a stroll over across campus, the Anchor sat down with John B. Nykerk, the founder of the competition and resident ghost of Voorhees Hall to talk about tradition, Nykerk love and the importance of friendly competition.
So John, why did you start Nykerk?
“Well, the freshmen and sophomore women of the college wanted to have their own Pull sort of thing, and I thought that was silly. I never liked the Pull, so I wasn’t about to let them start a whole new one. I had this silver cup in my basement for some reason, so I told the girls that if they did a competition that had the freshmen and sophomores girls compete in song, play and oration instead, that I would give the winners the cup.”
Interesting, so why did you chose song, play, and oration as the categories?
“Firstly, because I wanted to see if I could get people to stop doing the Pull. I, personally, hate all sports and physical activities and think that they’re a waste of time. I thought by creating a new thing that less people would do the Pull and that it would die. Secondly, I like watching people do funny things for no reason, so I put all these stipulations on the contest so that it would end up looking as ridiculous as possible.”
Wait, so what about the traditions that the girls do? Did you come up with those?
“Well, I came up with most of the weird stuff that Play has to do, like the exaggerated hand motions and the wacky make-up. I also came up with the whole idea about the Nunfits that the song girls wear. I just thought, ‘What is the most uncomfortable clothing option for performing?’ And then I made them wear that. Let me tell ya, that first Nykerk was absolutely hilarious. I was cry-laughing the whole time.”
You’re telling me that there’s no actual reason behind any of the traditions?
“No, not really. I just picked things to make the girls do that I thought would be funny. Honestly, I’m surprised that those things stuck around. They definitely could’ve made some changes and I wouldn’t have cared. To be fair, after those first couple of years the competition kind of got away from me. I wasn’t able to give a lot of input into the event once I died. It just gets kind of tricky to communicate when you don’t have an actual mouth or body. You can’t imagine how hard it is to get around in this place without being able to grab onto a doorknob.”
Speaking of which, why do you live here in Voorhees?
“During my time as a professor here, I actually lived in this building when it was an all-girls dorm. Originally, there weren’t enough people to fill the rooms so it wasn’t a big deal that I was living there. However, people started to get really mad at me once the hall filled up with girls. They wanted me to move out so bad, so obviously I couldn’t do that. Like it started out as a convenience, but now it’s a thing. If I had moved out everyone else would have won. That’s why I stayed here until the day I died, and why I’m still here now.”
Interesting, I respect that. Last question. What is something that you would like to tell the Hope College students of today?
“Hmmm, I suppose that I would tell them that they need to start focusing less on sports and more on classical music and literature. When I was the head of both the music and English departments, I only let my students read and play the classics. Modern things are evil, so I think it’s important that we only learn from things that old and good. When people are progressive it always ends badly, so we need to keep things the way they have always been.”
The next time you’re in Voorhees, don’t hesitate to say hello to John Nykerk, and make sure to stop by the Nykerk Cup Competition this Saturday at 7 p.m.