April 19, 2016
Like many Hope College alumni, I have been following the situation with President John Knapp and the Board of Trustees closely. It is in wake of the news that the board was indeed prepared to fire the president before the Pine Grove demonstrations on April 15 that I feel called to write to my old college paper and stand in support of President Knapp and his vision for Hope.
I write out of my love and esteem for Hope College and all it has done for me since I first arrived in the fall of 2010. Unlike many Hope students, I was not raised going to church. I went to Hope for just about everything else: its standing in the 40 Colleges That Change Lives, its liberal arts focus, its Department of Communication, WTHS and its beautiful campus were just a few of countless draws. Despite my agnostic upbringing, I respected Hope for a religiousness that was inviting but not insistent. I felt invited to explore without the fear of being judged for my unbelief. So I did explore, and two months into my first semester, a sermon from Trygve Johnson at the Gathering pierced my hardened heart and opened my eyes to God. I began my journey into Christianity that October night, and that journey reached a climax at Easter when I was baptized into the Catholic faith. None of that would have happened if I had not gone to Hope College.
My journey of faith was just one of many ways Hope changed my life. Through its professors, I learned open-mindedness with a commitment to virtue and morality. Through its extracurriculars, career resources and Washington, D.C. semester, I learned vital professional skills that helped me earn a master’s degree and a job as a radio sportscaster. Through my classmates, peers and the broader community, I learned of true love, fierce friendship and how to stand up for those you hold dear. Academically, professionally and spiritually, Hope College changed my life. I thrived during my four years in Holland because Hope welcomed and embraced me.
Of course, I also happen to be a straight, white, cisgendered man with a Dutch last name. The reality is that significant swaths of the student population who do not share those attributes are not experiencing the same Hope I did. They are not feeling welcomed and embraced. When they graduate, they will leave with a remarkably different vision of the college than I did. This hurts me. If President Knapp is working to fix that, if he is working toward extending the Hope that I knew to all of its students – and the support he has garnered from students, faculty and alumni indicates he is – I stand with him.
I am proud of our president, and I will always be proud of Hope. It is because of this pride that I have frequently contributed to the college since my graduation, including during yesterday’s Scholarship Day of Giving, and it is because of this pride that I must do my part now. If the Board of Trustees fires President Knapp next month, I will have to consider holding off on future donations.
I want to thank the Board of Trustees for making Hope College a place that changes lives, and I encourage all students, parents, faculty and alumni to write to Board members, stay diligent over the coming weeks and stand with President John Knapp and our vision for Hope.
Hope College Class of 2014