Striving for Excellence: The Story of Ernest Haight

black and white portrait from Hope College in 1951
Portrait of Ernest Haight taken at Hope College in 1951.

Ernest Haight ‘51 (August 5, 1924 – June 1, 2018) was born in the midst of the Great Depression. Having joined the Army in 1945, he served with the post-World War II troops in Tokyo, Japan and always aimed for excellence. His expectation for himself, as well as others, was this: Do the best that you can with what you have been given. And that he did.  

Born to Bill, a welder, and Marge, a bank teller, Ernie utilized his GI Bill from the military to attend Hope College in 1947. While at Hope, he not only earned a degree in mathematics, but he also met his future wife, Kathleen Hagstron ‘51 Haight. They married in Dimnent Chapel. He then went on to earn his master’s degree in advanced mathematics from the University of Nebraska. 

Excellence. 

Already, being the only member in his family to earn any degree, let alone an advanced one, showed Ernie’s will to excel in life.

He went on to spend the entirety of his adulthood working in the aerospace industry — a stressful job, one that wasn’t always enjoyable, but Ernie persisted. He ended up being part of a seven-man team to design the heat shields for the Project Mercury and Project Gemini space capsules.

Ernie believed that a good worker should be able to not only design a product but also — and more importantly — get that product to actually work in the real world. And work they did. Those shields sustained the lives of each astronaut during their missions. They helped the projects succeed. 

Ernie always regarded his education — both from Hope College and from the University of Nebraska — to be the foundation for all that he was able to achieve in his professional life. His final gift, which represents his total salary from nearly three years of his working life, has established the Ernest Haight ‘51 Summer Research in Engineering Fund. It also provided the resources necessary for the Engineering Lab Renovation Fund. 

His heart for Hope College has been beautifully reflected through this generous gift. 

At age 93, Ernest Haight was asked to look back on his life, to which he responded, “For a kid who grew up during the Great Depression, with a welder for a father and a bank teller for a mother, I far exceeded all expectations — even my own. I did the best that I could with what I had.” 

May we all strive to do the best that we can with what we have been given!

Join us for The Hope College Connection Live! Virtual Events

The Office of Alumni & Family Engagement and The Boerigter Center for Calling & Career will launch this year’s Hope College Connection LIVE program with three exciting events in October. This program, once known as “Living & Working In,” was a series of live events in various cities that focused on networking between alumni and students. We are excited to be expanding the newly rebranded “Hope College Connection LIVE” program to include various events with different topics of focus. This program is designed to create a variety of unique interactive opportunities for professional connections for alumni with current students and each other. We know our alumni have experiences and expertise that can benefit the Hope community and we invite you to take part to both share and learn! This year, all events will be hosted virtually, which means we are hoping to include alumni from all over the world who may not have been able to attend in the past.

Join us virtually each Tuesday in October:

October 13 | 11-11:50 am | Onboarding & Negotiation
So you’ve been offered the job – now what? What questions do you ask from the start? What should you look out for? How can you set yourself up for success within your new role? Join us as alumni HR professionals provide guidance and advice regarding the process of accepting and starting a new job. If you might also have some advice to share with fellow alumni or current students regarding this topic, we’d love to have you there! Register today.

October 20 | 7-8:30 pm | Industry Focus: International Relations & Diplomacy
One of the goals of Hope College is to “grow world Christians in the soil of Hope”. Many of our alumni have made a career of working to create a better world by reaching past borders. Whether you are currently working within this exciting industry, looking to break into it, or simply want to learn more, we invite you to take part in this event! Alumni panelists will share their experiences working in our global community, particularly during these unique times. Register today!

October 27 | 4-5:30 pm | Industry Focus: The Arts
Creating art for the enjoyment and improvement of the world is never easy – and we know a global pandemic hasn’t made it any easier. During this time we are so happy to be able to have a Hope College Connection: Live! event devoted to building up a network of current Hope College students and Hope alumni in the different arts fields. Register today!

With alumni and students attending from all across the spectrum of the arts, from studio art and theatre to dance and music, this event is an opportunity for connections to be created as Hope students to ask questions and alumni share their experiences and advice.

It is our goal to continue to offer opportunities for students and alumni to engage with the campus community in meaningful ways. Please give consideration to the personal role that you can have in making these events successful. 

Questions? Email us anytime alumni@hope.edu or careers@hope.edu.

10 Under 10 Award Recipients 2020

Four years ago, when the idea to convert the Young Alumni Awards, which honored two recent Hope graduates, into the 10 Under 10 Awards, increasing the number of yearly recipients considerably, one of the concerns brought forth was the rate at which we would deplete the nomination pool. Despite the risk, we decided to have faith that we’d be able to find enough recipients every year based on our knowledge of the quality graduates that Hope produces. Now, three years into the program, I look back on our initial concerns and laugh. While we are constantly working to encourage nominations, finding phenomenal candidates for this award has certainly not been a problem! In fact, I continue to be absolutely amazed and even a little overwhelmed at the accomplishments, attributes and aspirations of our youngest alumni.

Our nominations come from spouses, parents, best friends, former teammates, staff members, faculty members and even community members. The people of Hope are masters at elevating each other, shining the spotlight on each other. It is a privilege to read the nominations, a thrill to sit in on the selection committee meetings, and an honor to get to know the recipients each year and we work to tell their story and connect them to current students and fellow alumni.

The selection process is extensive. Representatives from all over campus – student life, admissions, each academic division, and the alumni board come together to read each nomination and thoughtfully select ten recipients, with the full Alumni Board approving the slate at their semi-annual meeting. It is an invigorating experience for everyone involved – what a joy it is to see all the places recent grads have taken their skills, their passions and their hope! Each recipient uniquely fulfills the criteria of the award:

  • Emerging leader making a significant contribution by living out their calling
  • Engaged in the local or global community through professional and/or volunteer involvement
  • Serves as an outstanding young role model for current and future students and alumni by showcasing the attributes of a graduate anchored in Hope

The 2020 10 Under 10 Award recipients will be honored this year via a virtual ceremony taking place on Friday, October 16 at 7 pm as part of One Big Virtual Weekend: Homecoming & Family Weekend. We look forward to an evening of memories and inspiration and invite the entire Hope community to attend. While this year will be different, the celebration will be as heartfelt as the recipients are deserving.

While we may have worried four years ago that ten might be too many, after three cycles of recipients, I can confidently say that ten will never be enough. While we delight in honoring these ten individuals, we recognize that there are many more young alumni who also shine bright. Our desire is that this award does not overshadow any other alum, but instead places a spotlight on what all our Hope graduates are doing with their education and unique gifts.

Congratulations to this year’s Hope College 10 Under 10 Award recipients!

From Mentor and Student to Grad-School Peers

At Hope, Ellen Tanis ’90 Awad and Nancy Benda ’17 were mentor and student. Three years later, they have each completed graduate studies at the University of Georgia as friends and peers.
Both pursued advanced degrees in student affairs at the Mary Frances Early College of Education of the University of Georgia at Athens. Awad earned her Doctor of Education degree in student affairs leadership while continuing in her role as associate dean of student life at Hope, where she has been on the staff since 1995. Benda earned her Master of Education degree in student affairs administration while holding a graduate assistantship in UGA’s Career Center.

They had started their studies at different times, but their journeys concluded simultaneously with the college of education’s celebration on April 29 for graduates of all of its programs (which because of the COVID-19 pandemic was held via Zoom). In addition, Awad and Benda were each chosen by their respective cohorts’ classmates to be the featured student speakers for the Ed.D. and M.Ed. programs during the event. “I just think that speaks so highly of a Hope education,” Awad said. Awad also received the Diane L. Cooper Award, which recognizes an outstanding student in the student affairs leadership program for commitment to learning as demonstrated by academic performance, scholarly practice and leadership in student affairs, and strong relationships with faculty, students and colleagues.

Awad is continuing in her leadership role in student life at Hope, while Benda hopes to move west and continue to work in higher education serving students. Benda’s career arc comes as no surprise to Awad, who worked closely with her while Benda was at Hope.

Ellen Tanis ’90 Awad and Nancy Benda ’17

“Nancy was an involved student. She was a star tennis player, but also a SAC leader, Nykerk play coach, and an orientation director,” she said. “I got to know her best when she was the orientation director for August 2016. Nancy was impressive in the role and such a joy to work with. She brought a contagious enthusiasm to work and left things better than she found them. I am so grateful to know her and cannot wait to see what a difference she makes through her career path.”

Benda, in turn, credits Awad and her Hope experience for inspiring her path.
“Ellen is a mentor and friend of mine, and it has been amazing to look up to her as she worked toward her doctorate,” she said. “It is special that we are both Hope alumni graduating from the same department at the University of Georgia at the same time. I continue to be inspired by Ellen and the entire Hope community.

“As an active student at Hope, I experienced so much growth and development through my involvement outside the classroom and it inspired me to commit my career to helping other students have similar opportunities to lead and grow,” Benda said. “College is such a pivotal time where you get to learn about yourself and who you want to be. At Hope, my relationships with other students, faculty, and student life administrators were invaluable in shaping my career goals. As I start my career in higher education, I look forward to helping students figure out who they are and what their next steps might be.”

Welcome New Alumni Board Members and Officers

The Hope College Alumni Association Board of Directors appointed four new members and elected two new officers in May.

The Alumni Board on campus in the Fall of 2019.

The board’s new members are: Toni Gordon, a 2009 graduate from Perrysburg, Ohio; Mary Kempker, a 1960 graduate from Zeeland; Dr. Kiersten Krause, a 1997 graduate from Holland; and Grace Purdue, a junior from Grand Rapids.

Newly elected as president is Jonathan Liepe, a 1991 graduate from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Continuing as vice president is Scott Watson, a 1986 graduate from Indianapolis, Indiana; and continuing as secretary is Tish Boerigter, a 1982 graduate from Portage.

Chandler Alberda of Austin, Texas, formerly Senior Class Representative, was appointed representative of the most recent graduating class. Terrell Solberg of Traverse City, formerly Junior Class Representative, was appointed Senior Class Representative.

The board members who have completed their service are: Alec Nelson, a 2019 graduate from Bon Air, Virginia; Brad Norden, a 2004 graduate from Holland; Barb Mackey, a 1969 graduate from Urbana, Ohio; and Sam Tzou, a 2013 graduate from Holland.

Toni Gordon ’09

Toni Gordon earned a master’s degree from The University of Pennsylvania in Higher Education Administration after graduating from Hope with majors in psychology and sociology. Her career has taken her to several colleges and universities, including Hope College as a residential life coordinator for Kollen Hall. While at Hope professionally, she also taught a First-Year Seminar, advised the Black Student Union (a group she was also involved with as a student) and spoke at Chapel.

After leaving Hope, she went on to work at Purdue University and Bowling Green State University, where she now serves as assistant director of diversity education and Retention Initiatives. She develops and delivers cultural competency programs, teaches first-year seminar for students of color and serves on numerous committees such as Title IX and retention committees on campus as well as for the State of Ohio.

Along the way, she has developed a passion for community work and social advocacy, often with Cornerstone Church in Toledo, where she worships and teaches youth ministry. Also serving the community of Toledo with her sorority that she joined at Hope College, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. She has stayed involved and up to date with student organizations with which she was involved while a student at Hope, including the Phelps Scholars Program and Black Student Union.

Mary Kempker ’60

Mary Kempker graduated from Hope with majors in psychology and sociology. She went on to be a kindergarten teacher at Holland Public Schools; a conference services director at Hope College; and a small business administration (SBA) loan program director, a program affiliated with the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce (now the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce)

She has been even more active in retirement. She volunteers at Calvary on 8th Reformed Church, Holland Duplicate Bridge Club and Holland Hospital, and previously served on the board of the Holland Junior Welfare League and the Tulip Time Board of Directors. She has also cruised to every continent except Antarctica.

Kempker and her family are deeply connected to Hope College. Her late spouse, David L. Kempker, graduated in 1954. Her daughter, Susan Kempker Westrate, also now deceased, graduated in 1987. Her sons, David J. Kempker and Daniel J. Kempker graduated in 1983 and 1984 respectively. She received a Meritorious Service Award from Hope College in 1993 and has established the David and Mary Lammers Kempker Scholarship Fund at the college.

Kiersten Krause ’97

Kiersten Krause majored in psychology and minored in biochemistry at Hope, where her co-curricular activities included the Nykerk Cup competition, for which she was selected as a directing song coach, and residential life. Following graduation, she attended medical school at Des Moines University, after which she completed her internship at Botsford Hospital and her OB/GYN residency at Spectrum Health and St. Mary’s Hospital. She joined OB/GYN Associates of Holland in 2008 and became a partner in 2009.

While maintaining a full-time practice, she staffs the Hope College Health Center GYN clinic and sits on the Medical Staff Performance Committee at Holland Hospital. Her activities also include being a member at Valeo Training with other Hope graduates.

Grace Purdue ’22

Grace Purdue is studying chemistry and interested in becoming a science communicator or researcher. She has been involved in numerous co-curricular activities at Hope. She has served as a class representative to Student Congress, where she chaired the Administrative Affairs Task Force. She participated in the Nykerk Cup competition as a freshman and sophomore, and will continue to be involved this coming fall, serving as the junior secretary. She has also served as an assistant director for New Student Orientation, and has participated in Campus Ministries-organized Bible study, intramural sports and the student-organized Dance Marathon held on behalf of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, and works in the Hope College Ticket Office. She is a 2018 graduate of Forest Hills Northern High School.

All About Moving Forward

In response to the current situation, Congress recently enacted several tax law changes. Hope College is here to help you with your philanthropic goals and to offer some ideas for you to consider if you are thinking about making a gift in support of our mission during this time.

The CARES ACT
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a recently passed law that includes several charitable tax provisions to encourage giving. These include:

  • A new deduction for charitable donors who do not itemize when filing their tax returns. If you do not itemize but make a gift to charity, you will be allowed to take a special tax deduction, up to $300, to reduce your tax liability. 
  • An increase in the deduction limit up to 100% of a donor’s annual income for cash gifts (previously the deduction was capped at 60% of annual income). If you make a gift, you will be able to deduct more this year.

Donor Advised Funds
If you have a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) and wish to help us this year, you can make a gift from your DAF to support our work without affecting your personal financial security.

Charitable Gift Annuity 
If you are concerned about your financial security given the ups and downs of the stock market, you may want to consider making a gift to fund a charitable gift annuity. You might be surprised by the benefits. You can exchange your low-performing stock, CDs or cash for guaranteed, lifetime fixed payments. If you make a gift of an appreciated asset, you will not have to pay capital gains when you fund the annuity. You may also benefit from a tax deduction this year and a portion of your payments could be tax-free. 

Visit hope.edu/advisor to connect with Hope and learn more.

Presidential Vision

We can all agree that the cost of higher education is not only steadily rising but actually climbing faster than inflation. While an education is priceless, it is also simply too expensive. President Matthew Scogin imagines a Hope College where students Pay It Forward and the scholarship endowment can fully fund each student’s tuition for all four years on campus. To get this model up and running will require more than $1 billion dollars in endowed scholarship funds. Doing so will shift our tuition model from a pay-as-you-go structure to a Pay It Forward model. How would it work? The concept is simple: Students invest after, not before, they receive their Hope education. 

  1. Students come to Hope with their tuition fully-funded.
  2. Students pledge to give a small percentage of their income back to Hope after graduation.
  3. Students Pay It Forward to help future Hope College students enjoy the same experience.

Strategic Advantages to the Pay It Forward Model
There are many strategic advantages to changing the tuition model for Hope College. Listed below are the top five.

  1. It will change our relationship with students from being transactional to one based on generosity and gratitude.
  2. It would give Hope College national recognition as one of the few private liberal arts colleges in the U.S. with a different tuition model. 
  3. It’s a chance to impact the world by giving Hope the ability to recruit the most talented students from across the nation and globe, regardless of their financial capability, exposing them to a vibrant Christian community and rigorous academics.
  4. It is an opportunity to show leadership in public discourse. While the whole world is trying to figure out why higher education is so expensive, Hope can lead the way in changing the status quo.
  5. It will make Hope College financially sustainable for the indefinite future.

If you share in the excitement of this vision and want to learn more about it and how we can help you make a strategic gift in the current tax environment, then please let us know!

Alumni of Color Town Hall

We are living in tragic and turbulent times. In the midst of a pandemic of both COVID-19 and racism, we want to make space for important dialogue that can help us to direct actions. You have an important voice as a member of the Hope College community and are invited to join an Alumni of Color Town Hall hosted by Hope College Alumni Board Representative, Toni Gordon ’09 and Hope College President, Matt Scogin ’02.

The purpose of the event is to share stories, learn about diversity, equity and inclusion at Hope and advocate for continuous change. We plan to have an open platform for you to share your experiences and ideas as well as a chance for dialogue with leaders on campus.

Alumni of Color Town Hall
Monday, June 22
7:00 – 8:30 PM ET

The meeting will be hosted virtually using Zoom. A meeting link will be emailed prior to the event to those that RSVP. Please feel free to share this RSVP link with alumni you know that may be interested in joining us. If you have questions about this event, please contact alumni@hope.edu.

We look forward to hearing from you and having this important conversation.

#KeepingHope Food Pantry

As a freshman at Hope, I was told about how beautiful the summers are in Holland. I would hear everywhere about how nice the beach is and how incredible the skies look. In January, I made the decision to stay on campus and not go back home to Honduras during the summer. I found a job, and I asked my best friend to be my roommate over the summer. Then everything changed. Instead of moving into my summer housing on May 1, I moved on May 22; and my best friend was stuck in Midland, unable to move back to campus. Although the fact that my best friend and I are not able to room together anymore is not great, I am actually very happy with my new housemates. They are all Spanish speakers, and two of them are from Honduras. My days are incredible — full of laughter, good food and good music.

But as you can imagine, most of my housemates’ plans were also canceled or changed. Going to the grocery store is still not easy because the shuttle runs only once a week, and sometimes we just can’t make it.

A few weeks ago, we got an email about a possible food pantry, and a few days ago we got an email saying the Food Pantry was ready for us to go. It warms my heart to see how many people from Holland are willing to help us and give us so many things! More than fifty students (domestic and international) are staying on campus and are benefiting from this community-wide initiative. With everything that’s happening around the world, it is so important for us, as international students, to know that there are people out there looking after us and supporting us in every way possible. I remember looking at the pictures uploaded to social media of people who gave to the Food Pantry. I remember looking at families and little children smiling and giving food and kitchen supplies away. It is important for us to know that the next generations are being taught to be kind and to think about others’ situations as well.

At the Food Pantry, we are able to find not only food, but also kitchen supplies, personal hygiene products and even books! I just thought to myself how caring and thoughtful people are to even think about bringing books to the Food Pantry.

I cannot put into words how grateful I am with everything Hope College is doing for me, as an international student who is not able to go home during this pandemic. Ever since the start of quarantine, Hope has been there to provide housing and food to all of the students who cannot go back home right away. We were given special treats at Phelps for Easter and the RDs have been so nice and treating us with sweets. The international students were also given summer housing for free! Currently, I wake up every day in a beautiful cottage with friends who now seem more like sisters to me, feeling grateful for the day I chose Hope as my new home.

Editor’s Note: Isabel and several other students still remain on campus. The staff at the Center for Global Engagement organized a #KeepingHope food pantry that they may access at anytime. If you are interested in ways that you can support students at Hope please visit hope.edu/give2hope.

My First Tulip Time

When you think about Holland, the first thing that comes to people’s minds are tulips! To be completely honest, when I decided to come to Hope a year ago I didn’t know about Tulip Time. It wasn’t until I came in August that I saw all the beautiful flowers around campus, and I was told that in May there is a festival called Tulip Time!

I have always been a person who loves to appreciate simple things in life, like the feeling of the wind when you roll down the windows of your car, or the feeling of the grass on your bare feet. When I was told there was a whole festival of flowers, I was blown away. All year round I would go on walks with my friends, and I would point out how much I like to see the trees without leaves, because back in Honduras that was a bit unusual, and they would say something like: “Just wait until May!” or “Tulip Time is amazing!” Then, March came along and we all know the rest – quarantine.

Tulip Time is a celebration of Dutch heritage, and it is very important for the people of Holland. People from all the 50 states and approximately 30 countries around the world come along to see the parade. This amounts to about 1 million people waiting for this celebration to come along. It’s crazy to think that, because this is my first year in Holland, and all I see are empty streets. Downtown should be filled with people, the smell of food should be filling the entire place, and the sound of the music should wake up the entire town, but as you can imagine, that is not happening. I should be sad about Tulip Time being canceled, but the thing is I still want to live believing everything is extraordinary rather than thinking life is just ordinary and that we are all stuck in places where we don’t want to be stuck. So, for the sake of the people who are not able to appreciate the tulips in Holland this year, I have walked around Holland the last few days to take pictures and videos of how beautiful everything looks.

Right now I am a bit tired of walking around, so I sat on a picnic table in front of the De Pree Art Center and I have a beautiful view of the flagpole area. It’s crazy to think about how fast time can go by. A few months ago I was sitting somewhere around here during Orientation Week. I remember how frightened I was about starting college, and I thought about how this place could never be a home for me. Now, Holland has a very special place in my heart, and I truly can’t think of a better place to go to college. Thinking about this makes me reflect on the times we are living right now, and it all comes down to this – it will get better. As I said before, I would rather live in a world believing everything is extraordinary, including these unusual and scary times. If we think about it, families are now spending more time together, our environment is taking a break from all the pollution we all create, and so many other good things are happening too. As for someone like me, who’s spending this quarantine basically on their own, it is not that bad. I get time to reflect, to do some of my favorite hobbies or to just go outside and appreciate the beauty of blooming flowers. I think that right now, after walking around Holland in search of tulips for you all to see, I can conclude that my favorite colors of tulips are yellow. Curious thing is, after doing a little research on tulips, yellow tulips are the representation of cheerful thoughts and hope. Think about it, all these tulips are still standing tall, strong and beautiful. We could all be tulips, standing through it all with a hopeful mind. We have Hope.

Editor’s Note: Isabel and several other students still remain on campus. The staff at the Center for Global Engagement organized a #KeepingHope food pantry that they may access at anytime. If you are interested in ways that you can support students at Hope please visit hope.edu/give2hope.