For twenty-four people who visited Tunnel Park on August 26, 2023, driving by that spot again will never be the same. Those twenty-four stepped out of their cars, and back fifty years into friendships that had begun on Move-in Day at Hope College, in 1973!
While Graduation Day is a celebration of the end of a remarkable journey, these friends from Kollen Hall and Mandeville Cottage who had kept in touch since their college days, gathered there at Tunnel Park to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of their friendships! No one could have predicted that their seemingly random dorm and room assignments would have led to friendships that would remain meaningful for so many years! But their shared experiences of faith, fun, learning, and fellowship at Hope congealed into solid friendships that went on to support and inspire them through the ensuing years.
Enthusiastic cries of joy could be heard across the park as friends who had traveled from Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, New York, and Virginia; recognized each other approaching the pavilion. Their genuine love and respect for each other was immediately reignited, and memories of shared experiences, plus stories of family, faith, and careers since college began to unfold; a timeless aura pervading all.
As a prelude to the reunion picnic, former classmate, Dr. Thomas Leibold, offered tours, dinner, and live music at the Rose Place Properties that he and his wife, Julie DeLuca are restoring in Historic Kalamazoo. In addition, the Tunnel Park picnic included some very special guests: Professor Stephen Hemenway and Professor Emeritus Jack Ridl, who each addressed the group following the meal, and former Kollen Hall Third Floor Resident Advisor, Shirley (Jousma) Iannerone and her husband, Paul. The friends closed their evening with the opportunity to experience downtown Holland again, lingering over conversation and views of the campus beyond.
The fellowship shared over that special weekend not only strengthened friendships and connections, it also affirmed the loving promises found in Jeremiah 29: 11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Surrounded by friends whose Hope College education, relationships, and value systems brought them into careers and experiences ranging from medicine, ministry, missions, education, literature, theatre, music, military leadership and administration, real estate, finance, law, and community service, it was evident – those promises have been upheld.