Kurt Oosterhouse ‘90 attended Lee High School in Wyoming, Michigan. While that fact might not mean a whole lot to most people, the reality of attending Lee High was this: the vast majority of its graduating students went straight into manufacturing jobs at one of the many industrial plants surrounding the school. Out of the 64 students in the Class of 1986, which was Kurt’s class, only four went straight to four-year colleges, and that did not include the class’s valedictorian or the salutatorian. For most graduates, the odds of going on to anything other than manufacturing were slim.
But God had a different plan for Kurt. Both of his parents, Alvin “Max” and Lavina Oosterhouse, had attended four-year colleges. His parents valued education — Max even served on the Godfrey-Lee School Board for more than twenty years. Attending college was an expectation that his parents held for all of their five children. The process of getting there and paying for it, however, was up to each Oosterhouse sibling to figure out.
For Kurt, ACT prep work consisted of flipping through the ACT test booklet for thirty minutes the night before the test while watching the Pistons. Regardless of his … unique … study style, he was still able to get a good score. For that, Kurt is grateful.
It was with this same level of preparation that Kurt applied to both Hope College and the University of Michigan, where Kurt was wait-listed. Looking back, Kurt remarks that he would not have done well at U of M since he needed the “personal attention (and help) that Hope College provided.” His freshman year at Hope was particularly daunting. To illustrate his lack of college preparation, Kurt recalls having only taken algebra and geometry in high school, while his peers had taken calculus. At Hope, they had enrolled in pre-calculus for the “easy A.” Kurt’s hard-earned “B,” on the other hand, was a minor miracle. This is part of the reason he can confidently declare, “Thank God for Hope College.”
Kurt worked hard. He did not waste the opportunity that was given to him, and he accepted the help and care that was offered by his professors here at Hope. “I know I would not have succeeded to the same degree without the watchful and caring eyes of the Hope College faculty who were always willing to take the time to help out a mostly lost, unprepared freshman from Lee High,” Kurt remembers.
It was his junior year that changed everything, though. That year, he qualified for the Washington, D.C. Honors Semester, where he was to intern for the newly-elected Senator Conrad Burns (R-Montana). Even at that young age, he knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime. Writing letters to constituents, conducting tours of the U.S. Capitol for visitors, walking around on the floor of the House of Representatives – who would have thought? Thank God for Hope College.
Sadly, a few days after arriving in D.C., he received the call that his father had died from a heart attack. While home for the funeral, it came to his attention that, because his father had co-signed the D.C. semester loan with him, the loan was now considered void. While still mourning his loss, Kurt had a meeting with the Director of Financial Aid. It was short. She simply said, “Don’t worry Kurt, you’ll go back to D.C. We’ll figure this out for you.”
Kurt was able to grieve and not worry about getting back on track. The director found the money, and he was able to go back to the D.C. Semester and continue on his path. He still views this semester as one of the greatest experiences of his life. Kurt remembers, “The outreach I received from faculty (cards, hugs, kind words, winks and smiles) and the immediate commitment to find a way to get me back to D.C. still puts a tear in my eye 30+ years later.” Thank God for Hope College.
Kurt went on to study law at the University of Minnesota Law School. Upon graduating in 1993, he began work as a finance attorney. In 2003, he made partner at Moore & Van Allen (Charlotte, North Carolina office); and, most recently, he joined Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft — New York City’s oldest law firm (est. 1792) — as a partner.
In 2020, Kurt is still thanking God for Hope College. He established the Kurt Oosterhouse ’90 Scholarship Fund to help other students reach their full potential.
Thank God for Hope College.