Global Travel Program Recap: Discovering the Balkans with Professor Luidens

On June 3-15, 2019 a group of lifelong learners joined the Hope College Global Travel Program and professor emeritus Donald Luidens on a journey to Eastern Europe. Dr. Luidens reflects on their adventure…

The 2019 Hope College summer expedition to Eastern Europe, entitled “Discovering the Balkans: From the Black Sea to Budapest,” provided a wonderful opportunity for eight friends and alumni of Hope College to sail up the Danube from its mouth in the Black Sea to its midpoint in Hungary. It was a treasured excursion, punctuate by feathered wildlife, gorgeous vistas, crumbling castles, picturesque villages, and modern urban sprawls. It provided a tantalizing narrative of centuries of turbulent history and a grim reminder of the legacy of Soviet domination of these countries during the twentieth century. In all, an unforgettable experience.

We gathered in early June in Bucharest, the capital of a slowly modernizing Romania, hundreds of years old, but barely a babe in the contemporary era. The capital is dominated by the Soviet-era architecture – gargantuan in scale, and inevitably box-like in form – which was favored by Communist architects and the former dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu. No building more fully embodies this Orwellian period than the ornate and stolid parliament building, begun during the dictator’s reign and completed after his death. Constructed at the cost of razing hundreds of historic homes and other edifices, this structure became a symbol for us of the price that Romania has paid for the post WWII Soviet-dominated years.

Romanians have begun the laborious process of reclaiming their history, including their Orthodox Christian roots. Churches long in disrepair are being revived and have become wondrous tourist destinations as well as places of worship.

Following a brief sojourn in Bucharest, we headed south to the Danube and a sleepy fishing town called Fetesti. There we boarded our floating home for the next ten days, the sleek river cruiser, Avalon Passion. No one ever explained the name of this worthy vessel, but it certainly proved to be a pleasant and comfortable place to bunk on our trip. Not to mention the food, which was rich in its variety, calories, and appeal. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were definitely passion-inducing.

Initially, we turned east and headed to “Point Zero,” the opening of the Danube into the Black Sea. Disagreements about the source of the Danube in the mountains of Bavaria meant that its length has historically been counted from its undisputed endpoint at the Sea. Here a UNESCO World Heritage protected delta is the home to hundreds of thousands of migrating birds. While we were too early to enjoy their presence in such numbers, we were treated to many varieties of storks, cranes, and sea gulls. And foliage that came down to the river’s edge in profuse rolls of green and gray. Moses could have hidden a lifetime in the bulrushes!

While at the mouth of the Danube, we visited a small fishing village, St. Gheorghe, notable because of its Ukranian Orthodox history. Its first inhabitants were refugees from a sixteenth century pogrom in their home country. Secluded and safe in this hinterland, they developed a thriving business catching beluga fish and selling the roe, the world’s recognized premier caviar. However, years of overfishing and growing competition from elsewhere, has left this community struggling to survive on the edge of the Danube.

Turning back west, we were treated to endless miles of unbroken farmland and low-hanging shrubs. It was gloriously relaxing. Happily, the weather cooperated throughout the trip, so that we spent countless hours on deck watching the landscape swirl by. Evenings were particularly evocative, as the sunsets quieted our chatter and drew our sense of awe.

Towns and villages popped up from time to time, but the overwhelming sense of greenery soothed us every day. On a regular basis we stopped to visit local historical and cultural sites. A nineteenth century folly, a seaside casino envisioned by one potentate to draw the masses, has been a derelict for decades. Local businesses are working to revive it to its Gothic glory. Discussions of a new Monaco on the shores of the Black Sea swirl in the local conversation. The remoteness of Romania, distant from Rome even in ancient days, provided a home in exile for the unrivalled storyteller, Ovid. His residence is commemorated in Constanta with a town center statue and museum.

The centuries-long rule of the Ottomans is everywhere evident in these once-Moslem controlled provinces. Mosques punctuate the skyline and stand, cheek-by-jowl, with Crusader-era churches and castles.

Indeed, forts, castles and strongholds recall the millennia of wars fought over this strategic region along the main waterway in Eastern Europe. Occupiers from the Greeks through the Soviets have left their trail. We had occasion to walk the battlements of several ancient citadels, positioned as they were on the banks of the Danube to regulate and protect the inhabitants and their farmlands.

Without doubt, the most awesome of these castles was embedded in and around a natural outcropping high in the mountains near Belogradchik, Bulgaria. Some of our participants followed the guide up the long climb to the mountain aerie, while others agreed to stay behind and take pictures. A truly memorable site and sight, indeed!


While the western length of the Danube is enveloped by many Alpine foothills, the eastern segment is mostly lowland and agricultural. As a result, there are few extravagant vistas on this lower end. The most remarkable is known as the “Iron Gates,” a section of the Danube where mountain ranges from both the Romanian and Serbian sides come together in rolling profusion. On the side of one hillock is a carving of a past warlord, stately and bushy-bearded and imposing. He serves as the gatekeeper of the Iron Gates, a lone, gnarled sentry overseeing the river traffic. Not far from this ancient carving is a modern gatekeeper to the Danube, a two-tiered dam that was constructed under the joint administrations of Yugoslavian President Josip Tito and Romanian President Ceausescu. The dam has created a large lake that provides hydroelectric power for wide swaths of the two countries. It was an engineering wonder to ride the massive locks as they shunted multiple vessels up and down the river.

Punctuating our river cruise were a series of lectures on regional history (the resident tour guides were all superb amateur historians and helped us understand the long- and short-term narratives of their beloved countries) as well as periodic folk performances. On one such occasion, Bulgarian dancers and instrumentalists joined us on deck for a rousing spectacle.

Everywhere signs of the Soviet era were apparent. Sometimes in the form of state buildings (like the Romanian Parliament), but more often in small towns and struggling villages where the archetypal box-like apartments and factories were dropped into the midst of traditional communities, scarring them four decades after “independence.” The most dissonant ones appeared in beautiful mountain hamlets where gargantuan factories were imposed on rural or resort-like backgrounds.

In keeping with Marxist ideology, the true proletariat was assumed to be an enlightened industrial laborer. With this model in mind, the Soviets and their Eastern European allies worked mightily throughout much of the twentieth century to turn rural farming communities into true workers’ paradises. In the process, six- and eight-acre peasant farms were collectivized and became government-run agribusinesses. Their former landowners were marshalled to the cities and towns in order to work in the state-run factories. These factories were supplied, at largely discounted rates, with raw materials from the Soviet Union, and the markets for their products (from shoes to washing machines and cars) were Soviet Bloc consumers. This tight-knit, circular market kept the Eastern European economies alive (if not humming) during the post-World War II years. When the Soviet Union collapsed, so did this tight-knit system. Artificially cheap raw material no longer flowed into the countries, so most factories ground to a halt. When they were able to produce their former goods, these countries found themselves competing against much better, more mechanically produced, more widely-marketed goods from the rest of Europe and the global marketplace. Inevitably, they were – and remain – at a significant disadvantage in that rough and tumble commercial environment.

To complicate matters, when the new regimes took office, they tried to rectify the “land reform” policies of the Communists and offered to return stolen farms to the descendants of their former owners. However, for many, this was an impossible opportunity; they had spent two or three generations in the cities and villages and had no interest in returning to their ancestral lands. So now those same mammoth farms, which were once harvested by collective effort, were sold to the highest bidders and are now owned by agribusiness corporations or wealthy landowners. Inevitably, these painful realities sparked many discussions with our guides. Nevertheless, they all saw a better day dawning.

The future for Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia may be on display in Hungary, with its exploding cities and Western European focus. Our last stop was in the bustling metropolis of Budapest. The sister cities of Buda (on the hills to the west of the Danube) and Pest (on the flatlands to the east), were joined together in 1873 at the height of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Budapest retains its Imperial mantle, self-consciously the European-Asian linchpin in geopolitical and cultural transactions. Hotels, skyscrapers, and cathedrals have been refurbished and modernized, thrusting up throughout the city in regal fashion.

Two stops on our tour of Budapest stand out as most memorable. A visit to the Opera House was much anticipated, and we were disappointed that the main theater was undergoing extensive repairs. However, to compensate, the opera company had arranged for a tenor and a soprano to provide us with an impromptu concert! While we sat on the main staircase to the auditorium, they entertained us with lucious arias and lilting duets. The accoustics in this elegant staircase could not have been surpassed in a more formal setting. It was divine!

The second stop was equally moving. It was to the studio-home of stain-glass artist Roth Miksh, a Jewish artisan who reached international fame at the beginning of the twentieth century, but whose art fell out of repute with the arrival of the Nazis. Miksh was a contemporary of Tiffany (with whom he was often in competition for international recognition). His home/ studio has been transformed into a magical museum. His heirs have retrieved many of his works from owners around the world, and these are on extensive display throughout. While some of the works are classical in their form, reflecting medieval church windows, others are striking in their modernity. When we stepped into this unprepossessing home, none of us could anticipate the affecting art that was housed therein.

Another indelible highlight of the Danube excursion was the incomparable cuisine. From the start, we found the food to be outstanding – whether on the Avalon Passion or in local eateries. We sampled widely and found few offerings to be wanting. While it may not be the sole reason to take a trip such as this one was, it certainly is a strong recommender.

Our final evening in Budapest provided us with a cherished opportunity. Near our hotel was a grand ferris wheel which lofted us ten stories into the sky, well over the tops of neighboring apartments and hotels. It provided a grand panorama as we made our way to its apex. The city of Budapest lay out beneath us in royal splendor as its nightlights began to glow. In the distance, the Danube curled through the twin cities, reminding us of the matchless journey that lay behind us and that beckons future adventurers.

To participate in your own global travel adventure with Hope College, visit hope.edu/globaltravel.

2019 One Big Weekend Top Ten Events You Don’t Want To Miss!

Alumni, families and friends,

We’re looking forward to welcoming you back to campus for One Big Weekend: Homecoming and Family Weekend October 11 through 13, 2019. There’s a full list of the events happening on campus at hope.edu/onebigweekend. Here’s our Top Ten events you won’t want to miss! Register today and make plans to join us!

1. Shop, Sip, Save and Dine Downtown Holland
Celebrate this special weekend the Hope way – on 8th Street! The party starts at Courtyard Marriott from 5-9 pm where you can pick up all the info you need to make the most of your time downtown. Dozens of shops and restaurants will be featuring special deals and freebies for the Hope community!

2. Get Fit and Have Fun
Race through the streets of Holland while grabbing a donut hole at every mile! The Donut Run 5K benefits Dance Marathon (which ultimately benefits the Miracle Kids of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital). Once you are all warmed up, head to the Bultman Student Center to round out a fitness-filled morning with some yoga.

3. Stroll the Market and Follow the Yellow Brick Road!
Grab a hot cup of coffee at a local shop and head to the Holland Farmers Market for fresh local produce. Then take the short walk to Centennial Park and Herrick District Library where the Holland Oz Project celebrates the Wizard of Oz and its characters with a free outdoor exhibit.

4. Stop by for Swag
Stop by the One BIG Weekend Resource Center to snag some weekend info. During Happy Hour from 1 – 3 pm, we’ll have yummy snacks and even a few freebies. And since the Resource Center is conveniently located in the Bookstore, you’ll be able to update your Hope wardrobe too!

5. Fill up at Phelps
Alumni and families will join students in Phelps Dining Hall for the Campus Cookout. Everyone will love this tailgate themed menu!

6. Presidential Open House

Stop by the Bultman Student Center Great Room from 1 – 3 pm on Saturday for the Presidential Open House. Grab a snack, mingle with other alumni and families with a chance to meet President Matt Scogin. This event is hosted by the Alumni Board and Parents’ Council.

7. Holland Fall Fest

Watch as nationally recognized professional pumpkin carvers show off their skills, take a hay ride, and enjoy fun activities for the entire family! Join the fun at this downtown Holland sponsored event. Check their website for more details.

8. It wouldn’t be Homecoming without an opportunity to cheer on your favorite sports teams. 

Hockey vs. Indiana on Friday at 7:30 pm at Griff’s IceHouse.

Football vs. Albion on Saturday at 3 pm at the Ray and Sue Smith Stadium.

Volleyball vs. Trine on Saturday at 1 pm at the DeVos Fieldhouse.

9. Worship Opportunities

Visit one of the 170 churches in Holland for worship on Sunday morning. Those closest to campus are Pillar, Engedi, Third Reformed and St. Francis.

10. Celebrate 10 Young Alumni

The recipients of the 10 Under 10 Awards all graduated within the past 10 years and will be honored for being emerging leaders and making significant contributions in their local and global communities. Everyone’s invited to a Q&A panel in Winants Auditorium at 3 pm to learn some secrets to their success. CityVū is the place to be on Friday night. Stop by for an appetizer and to congratulate these alumni.

DONUT RUN 5K FTK

Hello Hope College!

My name is Erin Markley and I am a senior studying chemistry. My co-chair Kacie O’Connor is a junior nursing student. This year we have an amazing opportunity to be a part of Dream Team: a group of students who plan Dance Marathon, benefitting Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital! Personally, I am more of a visual person, so I’m going to attach photos here to give you a glimpse into Dance Marathon.

Here is the 2019-2020 Dream Team taking a tour around Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Kacie and I would love to tell you why we have chosen to invest in this amazing cause and why we dance FTK (for the kids)!

Why Erin Dances

Growing up I spent a lot of time at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, which is a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital like Helen DeVos, with my two siblings who have disabilities. Going into my freshman year, I signed up to be a dancer and had no idea what I had gotten myself into. The marathon consists of students standing on their feet for 24 hours, dancing, and playing with the miracle kiddos! Flash forward three years later and I am a part of the team planning the event that I fell in love with as a freshman.

Why Kacie Dances

As a future nurse, my heart goes out to families with hospitalized children. I heard about Dance Marathon as a freshman and signed up to be a dancer for the full 24 hours. I quickly realized how special and powerful this event was for so many. I never knew how life-changing 24 hours could be as I learned more about Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and listened to the Miracle Families’ stories. I felt exhausted but inspired and wanted to become more involved. I’m so excited to be on Dream Team this year and give back to an event that impacts so many lives.

If we have piqued your interest, here are a few more details. Dance Marathon is a nationwide partnership of college students with Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, such as Helen DeVos in Grand Rapids. Hundreds of universities around the country have teams of students spend a year planning events and fundraising, all leading up to an epic 24-hour “marathon” where participants stand on their feet for 24 hours. All the proceeds from the event will go directly to support children facing pediatric illness – in our case, by supporting the efforts of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Are you thinking, “How can I get involved with such an amazing cause?” Well do we have the event for you! Hope Dance Marathon is partnering with the Alumni Engagement office for the annual Donut Run 5K on October 12. We are calling all students, alumni, faculty, staff, community members, and even out-of-towners to participate in this year’s annual Donut Run 5K FTK! Run, jog, or walk – everyone is welcome! We also have a FREE Donut Hole Fun Run 0.5K for all kiddos who want to be a part of the fun. The whole family can come and support the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital together!

The race will take place on Saturday, October 12 at the Ray and Sue Smith Stadium at 9 a.m., with the Donut Hole fun run at 8:30 a.m. All participants in the 5K will receive a long-sleeve t-shirt, as well as donuts throughout the race and post-race snacks too! The price is $25 for Hope students and $35 for community members, with all proceeds benefiting Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Please come be a part of such a fun morning that supports SUCH a great cause!

Register today at hope.edu/donut5k

The Beginning of a New School Year

Dear Fellow Hope Alumni,

It’s a new year here at Hope College! Classes have begun, and we are off and running into Hope’s 158th academic year.

Hope College President Matthew A. Scogin

Do you remember your first day of classes at Hope? I certainly have fond memories of my first days as a student. In fact, (as cheesy as it sounds) I still see myself, first and foremost, as a kid from Michigan who had the extraordinary privilege of going to Hope College.

As is true for many of you, coming to this school changed my life. For one thing, the education — the academic preparation — I received here changed my life. I continue to believe that Hope is THE best-kept secret among U.S. liberal arts colleges. Period. Not Christian liberal arts colleges. ALL liberal arts colleges. We are working hard to make sure that’s a secret no longer. But even more important than what I learned here was who I met here. I met my wife here, I met lifelong friends here, and I met faculty here who cared for me and invested hours in my success, both in the classroom and out. Most importantly, I met God. During my years here, God for me became a Someone, not a something. All of that together meant, while a student at Hope, I learned I was on this planet for a reason. I learned that, as part of God’s calling for me, even my secular work can have a very sacred purpose.

This is what Hope does. We provide a transformational experience, which includes education, of course, as well as faith formation and calling discovery.

Our first-year students spent the first 18 years of their lives getting ready for this moment… and the transformational experience that will follow. As I wrote to our students last week, one of my favorite quotes is by Mark Twain: “The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” We believe God put our students on earth for a reason, and part of our purpose at Hope College is to help them discover their purpose.

For me, things have come full circle. The last 18 years of my own life have led me back to this moment! Since graduating from Hope in 2002, I have been on the East Coast, working in government and business. And now, my wife Sarah and I find ourselves “first-years” again at Hope College.

Over the past couple of weeks, we have shared many of the same emotions as our students. We feel nervous, excited, hopeful and eager to get started. Mostly, we feel extraordinarily blessed to be “home,” serving the place that launched a transformation for us more than 20 years ago.

The entire campus community has warmly welcomed us back. We arrived on June 28, greeted by welcome boxes from Student Congress as well as a treehouse and swing in the backyard of the president’s home, which the campus built as a surprise for our three children. The best part of this job has been interacting with Hope’s amazing students — take a look at a fun video that our Public Affairs and Marketing team put together on move-in day.

I ask that you keep Hope College in your prayers as we begin the new academic year. I look forward to connecting with you soon! In the meantime, if you know students or families who may be interested in learning more about Hope College, please share their names at hope.edu/refer.

Spera in Deo,
Matt


Matthew A. Scogin
President
Hope College

P.S. Some of you have been asking about the Presidential Inauguration, which will take place Friday, September 13, at 2:30 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel. I hope that you will be able to join us for this historic moment in our college’s history, if not in person, then in spirit. For those who are unable to attend, the ceremony will be streamed online at hope.edu/live.

Announcing the 2019 10 Under 10 Award Recipients

Every time a nomination for a 10 Under 10 Award is made, the completed form is sent to my email inbox. Reading through the educational, professional, and humanitarian pursuits of Hope’s youngest alumni is most certainly one of the greatest highlights of my job (and I get to eat Phelps on the daily at a discounted rate, so that’s saying something!) It is impossible not to find joy in reading about all the ways Hope alum within ten years of graduation have already started living into their callings.

Caitlin Lindman ’19, Jason Gomory ’19, Kate Ralston ’09, Scott Travis ’06 and Chanda Slenk ’00 at the 2018 Ten Under Ten Soirée.

All nominees are considered by a selection committee made up of Alumni Board members, faculty, staff and current students. While the selection process is incredibly difficult for all involved, it is also so much fun to really dive deep into the accomplishments and attributes of each alum. The selection committee is able to read about the impact Hope has had on the development of who they have become and what they are doing in the world. I’m confident everyone leaves those meetings full of pride, amazement and inspiration.

And while each recipient always makes me fangirl a little bit, one of the greatest things about this award to me is the fact that it is not just celebrating these 10 individuals. It represents all of the impacts Hope has had on its graduates, and the impact that they in turn can have on the world. While we can only highlight a small percentage of our young alumni, the hope is that they will not overshadow our other recent graduates, but serve as an example of the amazing people who count Hope as their alma mater. We couldn’t be more proud of the many alumni who happen to not be on this list, but are living beautiful lives that reflect their unique abilities, attributes and passions.

The criteria for the 10 Under 10 Awards was crafted by the Alumni Board to seek out graduates who are exuding the best of Hope. Each of the recipients are:

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

Alumni, students, families and friends are invited to the 10 Under 10 Soirée during One Big Weekend on Friday, October 11 from 7-9 pm at City Flats Hotel as part of Hope on 8th Street. You’ll celebrate with these young alumni in a casual meet-and-greet setting with a short award presentation, appetizers and a cash bar. Registration is not required and you may come and go as you please. You won’t want to miss it!

Do you know someone who belongs on this list for 2020? We are accepting nominations! Simply fill out this short form and our nominee will be added to the list and considered for next year’s award.

We are pleased to announce the following Hope College 10 Under 10 Award Recipients for 2019:

Memories of an Epic Road Trip Home

In 1927, distance travel by automobile was less common than today. The U.S. had only recently introduced the numbered highway system, using existing roads, and the interstate freeways were still some three decades in the future. Even so, a trip home to Long Island from college in Holland mightn’t normally have merited a story — complete with a three-deck headline and a two-column photograph — in the local newspaper.


It happens, though, that Hope classmates William A. (Bill) Heydorn ’28 of College Point, New York, and Howard R. Sluyter ’28 of Paterson, New Jersey, made a particularly unique odyssey. They conducted what the newspaper characterized as an “epochal tour” in a “superannuated Ford assembled from a junk pile for a $10 bill” — about $147 in today’s dollars. The photo shows Heydorn at the wheel of the aged Model T, which the story noted was reliable but decidedly basic transportation: the four-door convertible lacked a top.

“They surprised family and friends by rumbling into College Point after a four-day trip from the Michigan town, and after a day’s visit they returned in as good time without a mishap of any sort,” the article notes. “Chalked with the names of the cities and towns through which it had passed, the Ford attracted considerable attention parked in front of the Heydorn home.”

The account continues, “En route from the college town on the shores of Lake Michigan the expedition paused in Detroit where in front of the big Ford factories a respectful salute of two honks was sounded. The boys drove through the southern Ontario peninsula and visited Niagara Falls and Buffalo along the way.”

As Heydorn’s son Dr. William H. (Bill) Heydorn ’55 of Tiburon, California, explained, his father attended Hope for three semesters, transferring in his junior year to meet the requirements for seminary. The elder Heydorn and Sluyter had known each other for several years before coming to Hope — Sluyter’s father had pastored First Reformed Church in College Point from 1915 to 1920, immediately prior to moving on to Paterson. They made the journey during the summer between their junior and senior years, which they’d spent working in a gravel pit between Holland and Grand Rapids.

After Hope, William A. Heydorn ’28 attended New Brunswick Seminary and became a pastor, serving churches in Schenectady, Kinderhook and Hawthorne, New York. He died at age 50 on Oct. 15, 1958. Howard R. Sluyter ’28 became a prominent businessman in Grand Rapids and Dallas, and served on the college’s Board of Trustees from 1968 until his death at age 79 on July 12, 1986.

In addition to being immortalized in print, the tale of the 1927 road trip made an important impression on Bill Heydorn ’55 (who is a physician who served in the U.S. Army for nearly 30 years and has stayed active in medicine since retiring as a colonel in 1989), including not least of all by influencing his college choice.

“The article and his scrapbook provided the incentive for me to stop in Holland on a trip around the country in between my junior and senior years of high school. The pickup truck used for the trip was adorned with the names of the places we traveled through,” he recalled. “I had a list of individuals of ‘friends of my dad’ who we could call upon, including his English teacher Irwin Lubbers, who was now college president. Dr. Lubbers personally gave of his time to tour the campus and convinced me this is where I wanted to go.”

Reflections on Recent Global Travel Program Safari

Continuing a popular Global Travel Program offering, a group of alumni and friends went on a safari in Tanzania in May 2019.

I am writing to share with you my experience on one of the most amazing trips I have ever been on in my life – and I have been fortunate to visit over 45 countries during my career.

My wife, Gail, and I joined 26 other alumni and friends for a Tanzania Safari with the Hope College Alumni Association’s Global Travel Program. Going on safari has always been high on my “bucket list” and the idea of going with an award-winning wildlife photojournalist and other Hope alumni and friends was too good to miss. On all scores, the trip exceeded my lofty expectations – from wildlife viewing to cultural excursions to getting re-acquainted with a number of former classmates and fraternity brothers to meeting and making many new friends who share a common love for Hope College.

Tim Laman, a Hope College alumnus and National Geographic photographer was a co-leader on the trip.

The trip was well organized by Pat Van Wylen, who did a fabulous job with logistics before and during our excursion. She was ably joined by ornithologist, professor emeritus, and founder of Birder’s World Magazine, Eldon Greij, as well as distinguished alumnus, Tim Laman ’83. I cannot hope to compare to the quality of Tim’s work. You can see for yourself on Instagram, where he now has over one million followers! Eldon and Tim were so gracious in imparting their vast knowledge and experience that it made the trip a phenomenal learning opportunity.

Tanzania is ranked as one of the best African countries for safaris. It is not hard to see why. With almost a third of Tanzania protected for wildlife, viewing opportunities were endless. We followed what is called the northern safari circuit, where we witnessed an amazing array of wildlife and enchanting landscapes. This program was designed to maximize animal viewing and it more than accomplished that goal from dawn to dusk each day. The trip also included a number of cultural experiences designed to provide insights into the history, people and culture of Tanzania.

We experienced a wide variety of ecosystems with unique habitats. We traveled from forest and woodlands with scattered lakes, ponds and wetlands, to wooded savannah where trees and grasslands are interspersed, and finally, to grasslands — both short and tall — culminating in the Serengeti. What an amazing place! But I am getting ahead of myself. One of the points that Eldon and Tim kept emphasizing was to stay in the present moment. Don’t anticipate what is to come next – you never know what is just around the bend of the road.

After flying into Schiphol airport in the Netherlands (how appropriate) from various parts of the US, we flew as a group into Kilimanjaro Airport near Arusha, Tanzania where we stayed at the African Tulip, a luxury boutique hotel.

Colobus monkeys were an early highlight of the trip.

Our first full day in Africa was spent at Arusha National Park with habitats varying from wetlands to ponds and forests. Eldon was in his happy place because we saw so many different varieties of birds, including flamingos, herons, stilts and plovers. We also saw baboons – including a rare albino – along with zebras, giraffes, buffalo and monkeys. The highlight was watching the huge black and white Colobus monkeys that are unique to this particular area.

Mama Gladness welcomes the group at the Tengeru Cultural Center.

The next day began at the Tengeru Cultural Tourism Center where we learned about the Meru people and examined coffee and banana cultivation within a facility that captures, recycles and produces its own biogas. Not only did we get to share a meal, but we followed the coffee harvesting, roasting and grinding process all the way through to enjoying a fresh cup with Mama Gladness and our new friends.

We then moved onto Tarangire National Park. Tarangire has biodiversity not found elsewhere in the northern circuit. We spent two days where the Baobab trees dotted the landscape and there was an abundance of excellent wildlife viewing. The waterbuck, impala and gazelle became commonplace along with large elephant groups. We spotted lions, watched a leopard stalking a warthog and a Goliath heron perched on a rock in the river.

Flamingos in the Lake Manyara region.

We next moved on to spend two days exploring the enchanting Lake Manyara National Park. Ernest Hemingway once called this area the “loveliest place in Africa.” The park, with its phenomenal assortment of wildlife, is set up against the imposing huge western wall of the Great Rift Valley. The forest, lake and wetlands are home to a diversity of bird species so vast that it was hard to keep up on the ornithology lessons from Eldon. We spent our nights at The Retreat at Ngorongoro, a gorgeous new lodge at the top of the western wall. While there we visited the Iraqw to learn about their culture and history and to tour a nearby hill-side home. We witnessed a traditional marriage ceremony and some of our group had the opportunity to ‘renew’ vows.

A lioness and her cubs encounter the travelers.

Next, we were off to Ndutu Lake, within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It lies on the southern edge of the Serengeti plains and is filled with Acacia trees. We spent the night at the Ndutu Safari Lodge. The area is famous for cheetah and grazing mammals, such as wildebeest, zebras and gazelles, all of whom are at home in the short grass plains of this region. And, sure enough, Ndutu did not disappoint. On the drive in, we encountered two male lions relaxing under some trees near the lodge.

The group finds itself suddenly in the middle of the Great Migration.

The next day we were up before the sun to see if could observe cats on the move. And observe we did. We were not half a mile down the trail before encountering a pregnant lion out hunting. After an encounter with our two males again, we happened upon a group of two females and six kittens at a watering hole. While photographing these beautiful creatures, our guide spotted what he suspected was a cheetah chasing a wildebeest. We arrived just as the cat took down its prey. As we sat in the middle of the vast plain, we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of the Great Migration as thousands of zebras and wildebeest came thundering out of the trees on the surrounding hillside and began to fill up the surrounding area from horizon to horizon. It was an awe inspiring site to say the least.

A leopard on the hunt.

We then spent two days exploring Serengeti National Park, the preeminent park in East Africa and home to more than 2 million large mammals, including the big cats — lions, leopards and cheetahs. We spent two nights at the elegant Serengeti Serena Lodge. Where else in the world are you going to suddenly encounter a female cheetah and her six kittens resting in the shade of an Acacia tree? Or a pregnant leopard sleeping on a branch of a tree? Or another out stalking prey in the tall grass?

A panorama of Oldupai Gorge.

On our way to the Ngorongoro Highlands, we visited Olduvai Gorge (although we were instructed that the correct name is Oldupai – after the plant that grows there). The site is famous for early hominid findings from the team of Louis and Mary Leakey. A fascinating and well done museum has just been opened on the site and we were treated to a lecture and overview of the history of the site by the museum director.

After a couple of hours touring the Gorge, we move from one UNESCO World Heritage Site to another. At the top of the highlands sits the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, a collapsed caldera that is the largest in Africa. We packed a picnic lunch and descended from the beautiful Ngorongoro SOPA Lodge, located on the crater rim, into the spacious crater floor, where an absolutely incredible experience with wildlife awaited us.

The beauty of Ngorongoro Crater from the rim.

A single lion battles with a herd of buffalo in Ngorongoro Crater.

Over the course of the next few hours, we witnessed several hunts and attempted hunts between lions, buffalo and hyenas. At one point, we were positioned in between two very different encounters. On our right, two packs of hyenas were attacking a buffalo calf that had become separated from its mother and the herd. The buffalo tried for the longest time to fend off the attack, but was simply out numbered. On our left, we witnessed the sight of a young male lion that somehow found itself surrounded by an angry herd of buffalo that began hooking the helpless cat and throwing it into the air over and over again. It is amazing that the lion survived the repeated attacks and continued to fight back. After 15 minutes or so, the buffalo abandoned the cat. But we were not finished. One of our vehicles spotted another hunt underway with two lionesses stalking a small buffalo herd. A seeming stalemate ensued until four more from the pride arrived to join in the hunt. It didn’t take long after that for the buffalo to fall. We watched in astonishment.

Tim Laman summed up everyone’s sentiments for the day: “At times these scenes were not pleasant to watch, I will admit. Nature can be harsh. But it was real, and it was amazing to witness the cycle of life in a place that is still wild. We need places like that on earth, and it is good for us to visit them. As Tennyson wrote, on this day, we truly witnessed nature red in tooth and claw.”

Students from the school in Tanzania sign the national anthem.

We also visited a Maasai school in the area that Hope College groups have been financially supporting for the past few years. We also brought a number of gifts such as soccer balls, frisbees, jump ropes and other toys for the children to play with. It was fun to play with such an energetic group of students. We visited classrooms where we exchanged songs. In spite of our best efforts, we were totally outclassed by the students singing the Tanzania national anthem. They were beautiful.

The trip faces rain-soaked roads toward the end of their journey.

But our adventure was not over. There is no pavement on the roads around the rim of the crater. Given that the rim is quite often in the clouds during this the rainy season, the volcanic soil turns into a deep, red, slippery mud. Our drive up the night before had been harrowing enough, but two more days of wet made the drive even more treacherous. We attempted to get permission to go out via the park, but we were denied. So . . . we forged on. This is where you really appreciate the skills and experience of our guides from Roy Safaris. Although one of our vehicles did indeed become stuck trying to avoid another vehicle mired in the mud, they were able to free both from the mess.

On our final morning before heading to the airport for our flights home, many of us visited the Plaster House. Plaster House is the home of the Rehabilitative Surgery Program of the Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre in Northern Tanzania. It was established in 2008 to provide a unique and loving home away from home for children receiving pre- and post-operative care and rehabilitation for a surgically correctable disability. It was truly a moving experience to see these children and their families recovering from surgeries to correct club feet, harelip and cleft palates that had hindered them from leading a normal life.

Leaders and guides from the trip pose for a photo before returning home.

I leave you with this picture of our fearless leaders. Our amazing guides are decked out in Hope College track warm ups. From left to right are: Hussein, Tim Laman, Niko, Pat Van Wylen, God Bless, Eldon Greij and Moses.

I cannot recommend highly enough that you check out the opportunity to participate in a future program. New Zealand with Dave Van Wylen and Croatia with John Tammi are two destinations currently open for registration. It is a great way to re-engage with your alma mater.

Spera in Deo!

Meet Dan Osterbaan ’91

Greetings from Hope College!

I want to take a moment to introduce myself and my new role at Hope. I am both an alumnus and a parent of two third-generation Hope students. This April, after a 21-year career at a Fortune 250 company, I made the decision to accept a role at my alma mater focused specifically on parent engagement and philanthropy. I am grateful for the education and opportunities that Hope has provided for my family and delighted to join a team that is focused on transforming the lives of our students, our community, and our world.

One of my objectives is to engage alumni and families to expand the reach of the college via enhanced learning and vocational experiences through the Boerigter Center for Calling and Career. By establishing the Boerigter Center, Hope College is one of the few higher education institutions nationally to streamline the intersection of calling, academic advising, experiential learning, and internships/career connections. This forward-thinking was recently highlighted in a New York Times article titled, “One Way to Make College Meaningful.”

Strong and diverse networks are a key element that make these types of programs successful. Parents and alumni play an integral role in identifying and cultivating experiential learning opportunities for our students as well as expressing the value that Hope College brings to your family and community.

I look forward to connecting with you in the near future to personally hear your ideas and insights about Hope College. Together we can build the network and support the services needed to enhance students’ experiences, equipping them to impact our community and our world.

Regards,

Daniel J. Osterbaan ’91
Director of Development for Parent Giving
Development and Alumni Engagement

Find me on LinkedIn.

Hope College Roommates Build a Local Community of Merchants and Makers

Merchants and Makers at the Civic Center

Couple plays instruments outside
Plain Jane Glory is a husband and wife duo from West Michigan.

On Sunday, June 23, over 60 Merchants and Makers will gather in the recently renovated Holland Civic Center. Shoppers and party goers will gather to stroll the booths, snack at the food trucks, grab a drink at the bar and listen to music by Plain Jane Glory.

This isn’t your grandmother’s bazaar, although she would probably have a blast. It’s Etsy in person. It’s a curated party of handmade goodness. It’s a new generation of craft fair and it’s a growing movement that has more than doubled in size and number since it started just two years ago.

It also wouldn’t be happening if Hope College Residential Life and Housing hadn’t paired up Shyle Edelmayer ’07 Lyons and Meghan Follen ’07 French as roommates in Dykstra Hall when they arrived at Hope in the fall of 2003. They first met during Orientation at their residence hall check-in and became fast friends. Their parents all went to high school in Grand Haven and they both had grandfathers who played football at Hope. Shyle and Meghan went on to live in Gilmore Hall and VanDreiser Cottage before graduating and pursuing their own professional interests.

Shyle Edelmayer ’07 Lyons and Meghan Follen ’07
Shyle Lyons and Meghan French reminisce outside of their old residence hall.

Shyle worked at Bethany Christian Services in foster care, Habitat for Humanity as a volunteer coordinator and with a YMCA after school program. Meghan’s career focused on graphic design, marketing and special events. When Shyle moved to San Diego, Meghan moved into her apartment in Grand Haven.

It was in San Diego when Shyle attended maker’s arcades and realized that the craft fair concept could be a lot more fun. She had a vision for events that would create community and be more enjoyable for shoppers and vendors alike. In a world of Target and Amazon, she realized that people craved an experience where they could meet the people that make food, drinks and goods locally.

After Shyle moved back to Michigan she teamed back up with Meghan to host the first Merchants and Makers at Watermark Church in February of 2017. They have since incorporated, grown to host events in all seasons that draw up to 75 vendors and 1,400 shoppers. Each event has a unique location, group of artists, music, food and drink. They have continued to grow and support a community of artists, who gather once a month to talk marketing, social media, product photography and pricing strategies and to encourage one another. They focus on collaboration over competition and always have room to welcome new makers.

They look back at their experience at Hope College, and their old scrapbook shown below, with nostalgia. They recognize that they first learned about purpose and calling at Hope. They have taken those lessons to heart as they have followed interests and talents that light them up and meet a need in the community. They also learned to be adaptable and open-minded and about the importance of  building community.

Their advice for students today is to spend more time creating, taking more than just required courses. They encourage everyone to explore interests and passions and remind students to be open-minded about where life can take them. Shyle went from social work and foster care to selling clothes, to motherhood, to heading down a completely different path with Merchants and Makers. She has a degree in social work that she may never directly use again. However, she shares that it isn’t any less valuable. The skills she learned in public service she now applies to creating new communities and new markets.

If you’d like to see this community in action, check out the Merchants and Makers event at the Holland Civic Center on Sunday, June 23 from 12 to 5 pm. There is a $3 entry at the door. Cash and cards are accepted. Shyle and Meghan can’t wait to meet you there.

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Seven Arts Alumni Share Lessons Learned at Hope and in New York City

Hope College provides instruction and experience in every major arts program. In fact, Hope was the first private, liberal arts college to hold national accreditation in art, dance, music and theater. Perhaps it is not surprising that a visit to New York City, which has been a shining theatrical center since electricity first hit Broadway in the 1880s, would put you in contact with Hope College alumni on stage, behind the scenes and, in some cases, programming the lights.

The energy of Times Square and the Theater District light up mid-town Manhattan.

One out of every ten Hope graduates majors in the arts and they are twice as likely than their counterparts to live in New York. While they each have unique stories, they also have common experiences. Some were encouraged to apply for a Distinguished Artist Award scholarship when they first considered Hope. Others met a unique blend of distinguished professionals and young artists from all over the country when they participated in Hope Summer Repertory Theatre (HSRT). Still others benefited from Hope’s connections to the Great Lakes College Association and the NY Arts Program, putting their creativity to work with an immersive internship and seminar experience in NYC.

On a recent trip to the city, I had the opportunity to meet seven of these graduates and learn important lessons from their lives after Hope College.

Meet the Alumni

Susan Checklick ’97 on a phone in wardrobe room.
Susan Checklick ’97 preps for a Dear Evan Hansen performance.

Marquee of The Music Box Theatre
The Music Box Theatre

Susan Checklick ’97 is a self-professed jack of all trades, master of none. With 20 years of experience on Broadway as a wardrobe supervisor, she floats between HR manager, professional shopper, tailor, team builder, pants-presser and counselor. Currently, she sets up shop below deck at the Music Box Theatre. Established by Irving Berlin in 1919, it is now home to the award-winning musical, Dear Evan Hansen. Her prior experience includes Tuck Everlasting, Newsies, Matilda and In the Heights. She credits faculty mentors like Michelle Bombe and Perry Landes for identifying her talent and providing her a safe place to explore prior to returning to New York.

Lindsey Ferguson ’09 in Manhattan.

Lindsey Ferguson ’09 is a dynamic freelance performer with experiences ranging from aerial trapeze, Broadway magic in The Illusionist, performances at Radio City Music Hall, television and film appearances like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and immersive theatre with Third Rail Projects. She moved to New York 11 years ago after auditioning through a connection from a visiting professor. Inspired by her faculty, she also has intentionally sought out teaching opportunities, including at Joffrey Ballet School, Hope College and Montclair State University. While a dance major, theatre at Hope College was a big part of her life. She even met her fiancé while a cast member with HSRT.

Isaac Bush ’09 on the High Line near Hudson Yards.

Isaac Bush ’09 is from a third generation Hope family and has used the stage to launch from Muskegon, Michigan to experiences in London, Brazil, China and across the United States. He credits his student role with Rose and the Rime for the trajectory of his career. This nationally acclaimed play developed at Hope in 2007 has inspired his training at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London as well as his founding of the Circle Theater of New York. From using Hansel and Gretel to tell the story of child soldiers in the Middle East, to exploring the intersection of media and populism, his work uses theater to examine the consequences of our actions and how they affect the most vulnerable in society.

Jeremy Lydic ’02 in Union Square.

Jeremy Lydic ’02 was a football player in Iowa when he discovered his true passion for music and theatre. Focusing on this, he chose to attend Hope. He studied abroad in London and gained experience as a production assistant. After graduation, he moved to New York with fellow alumni to become a singer and director. After being on stage as much as he could and singing in choirs and experimental operas, he decided to focus on backstage skills first learned at Hope. His career grew to include work with the Public Theater, Einstein on the Beach, Pomegranate Arts and his own design and production company. He has worked on over 60 Broadway productions, including Book of MormonSomething Rotten and Cats, and has toured internationally in over twelve countries.

Nathan Hart stands in front of a white church.
Nathan Hart ’01 at Stanwich Church in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Nathan Hart ’01 went from performing in plays to preaching in pulpits. He was a student of the religion, communication and theatre departments at Hope but discovered his true self through theatre. Upon urging from a faculty member, he attended Princeton Seminary after graduating. Internship experiences, including with the Yankees team chaplain and with Bible studies on Wall Street, shaped his vocational interests and built an important network. He took his first call to a congregation on Long Island and then worked with students on the Upper East Side. Eight years ago, he responded to a call back to pastoral ministry at Stanwich Church in Greenwich, Connecticut. He recently became its senior pastor.

Lydia Ruth Dawson ’13

Lydia Ruth Dawson ’13 knew she could start a successful career in New York after she danced with the Joffrey Ballet as a Hope College sophomore. It didn’t hurt that she was an English literature and musical theater composite double major with dance and Spanish minors where she broadened her skill set and was encouraged to grow. She has performed with American Ballet Theater, appeared in film and over 20 regional theater productions, danced in three off-Broadway shows and has been on a national tour with Cirque BELIEVE. You can find her working at SoulCycle, dancing at Steps on Broadway and Broadway Dance Center when she returns from St. Louis where she is currently performing in The Boy from Oz.

Megan stands on a street ini New York City.
Megan Mills ’99 on her way to work.

Megan Mills ’99 moved into Kleinheksel Cottage with a group of transfer students when she came to Hope as a junior. She knew she was forming lifelong friendships immediately. With her time at Hope limited, she got involved with chapel and the theatre department. She graduated and moved to New York where she worked “survivor jobs” alongside backstage roles on Broadway and Off-Broadway. For eight years she created, directed, taught and studied improv. Then, at the age of 30 and within a year of getting married, she had a stroke. One year later she had open heart surgery. She credits her journey to a healthy recovery to a deep-rooted faith planted at Hope and a little improvisation.

Lessons Learned

No matter how their journey brought them to the city that never sleeps, they all had a common starting point at Hope College. It served as a foundation of curiosity, identity development and practical experience that they continue to build on today.

Curiosity

These graduates were clearly influenced by an intentional liberal arts approach to education. They have developed a wide base of knowledge and an intense desire to know and to understand.

“Lindsey Ferguson believes her range of knowledge across history, religion and culture makes her more than just a talented dancer, but a smart dancer.”

Lindsey Ferguson ’09

Lindsey Ferguson believes her range of knowledge across history, religion and culture makes her more than just a talented dancer, but a smart dancer. She can share wisdom and opinions on her craft, providing her a seat at the table when decisions are made. Likewise, Isaac Bush’s journey has been invigorated by the liberal arts, allowing him to find solutions to problems, such as limited funding for the arts, with approaches inspired by other industries. Lydia Ruth Dawson feels that her job as an actor is to convey truth.  Her varied exposure to history, literature, science, art and faith allows her to more believably convey characters onstage.

This has provided them all with an incredible ability to adapt to the challenges of their industry. Lindsey’s freelance career requires a constant flux from gig to gig. Isaac faced limitations in casting in the United States and realized that on an international stage he could stand out. Jeremy Lydic had a well-rounded education beyond acting and singing. This allowed him to use design, stagecraft, electronics and crew skills in ways that made him marketable and created a network in the industry. Megan Mills explored life’s possibilities through improv. She learned to listen, adapt, encourage and question. She sees parallels between the improv stage and faith, sharing that “when we jump in to help each other through life’s rough patches we can  create something better and move forward.”

Identity Development

Each of these graduates had glimmers of passion for the arts during their youth. Susan Checklick loved to sew with her mom and later merged this with a love for theatre when she became a wardrobe supervisor. Lindsey Ferguson remembers dancing in the living room as a toddler. After growing up in a small town in upstate New York, she found out about Hope College and continued to dance here. Nathan Hart credits the theatre department at Hope as helping him discover his true self. When he was young he thought of acting as pretending, but at Hope realized that acting comes from a place of truth and from answering questions like, “who am I really?”

The career can be brutal with rejection on a weekly basis as agents tell you who you should be. In this environment, these alumni shared the importance of knowing who you are at a deeper level. They know that uniqueness as an individual is what makes them an artist. Lindsey recognizes that she needs to be open to others having influence on her creative vision, but ultimately knows the story she wants to tell is her own. Isaac Bush reflects on his identity as a white male and the responsibility he feels to incorporate different voices and advocate for those that are marginalized.

In addition to understanding themselves, these graduates know the importance of being part of a community.

Alumni gather at a recent event with President-Elect Matt Scogin.

Susan’s friendships within the theatre community on Broadway are her favorite part of her work. Her strongest moments, like those on stage, are when she connects with others as human beings. Lindsey sees her art as a gift and responsibility to others. The phrase, “it takes a village”, recurs constantly. Nathan acknowledges that the Hope network is far more scarce in New York than it is in the Midwest. This makes the awareness of that network and the importance of community building even more meaningful. In addition, Lydia Ruth Dawson believes her ability to adapt quickly, find balance and create community is invaluable as she constantly tours around the country. As a transfer student with only two years at Hope, Megan Mills learned to jump in to communities as soon as you can. She says, “the time you have with those around you might be short, but with intention they become people you couldn’t imagine doing life without.”

Practical Experience

Finally, many of their journeys included practical, hands-on learning experiences and a desire for even more business training.

Susan Checklick ’97 stands in front of the site of her first internship, located just around the corner from where she works today.

With a chuckle, Susan Checklick said, “the only thing they didn’t teach me in school was Excel spreadsheets.” Isaac Bush envisions future programs on campus that pair business students with arts majors to work on interdisciplinary projects. His advice to future artists is to take business classes. He knows they are not the exciting classes theatre majors want to take, but acknowledges that they are necessary to keep art available and affordable. In his words, ‘you need business acumen to survive.”

“There is no such thing as failing. There is only learning.”

Susan also goes so far as to say that there is no such thing as failing. There is only learning. With just 27 shows operating on Broadway, there is limited demand for her work at that level. She credits internships and summer work as what has helped her to stand out. Jeremy Lydic encourages others to explore curiosities and interests, adding “you never know when they may lead to job opportunities or creative relationships.” Nathan Hart had internship experiences that opened his eyes to how the world works beyond the classroom. He thinks of them daily. As she reflects back on her years at Hope College, Lydia Ruth Dawson sees Hope as a “lovely bubble,” acknowledging that it only prepares you if you get out of it from time to time to see what you need to be prepared for.