Equipment manager Gordon VanderYacht’s diligent and detailed behind-the-scenes efforts helped Hope College Athletics look and feel its best every day, whether practicing or competing, rain or shine, fall, winter and spring.
Since 1988, VanderYacht handled all of the athletic laundry and equipment needs for Hope’s 22 varsity teams, each with its own specific requirements and timelines.
VanderYacht is retiring from Hope College on December 15.
“It’s hard to believe that it has been 32 years since I started here at Hope. I guess what they say about how time flies when you are having fun is true,” VanderYacht said. “I remember talking with former athletic director Ray Smith and saying I can’t believe I get paid to do what I’m doing. Not only that, I’ve got four kids who are now Hope graduates (Andrew ‘09, Jacob ‘11, Joe ‘12 and Samantha ‘17.)
“I have had the opportunity to work with some great people — and, most importantly, a lot of great kids. I also have to give out a huge thank you to my wife, Sharla, who has put up with me for all these years with all the weekend work and long hours.”
Director of Athletics Tim Schoonveld thanked VanderYacht for being a wonderful example of what a servant looks like.
“Gordon has spent 32 years of his life behind the scenes serving in amazing ways where there was little fanfare. We have been blessed to have him at Hope and his service has been an integral part of transforming the lives of thousands of athletes over the years,” Schoonveld said. “We are thankful and grateful for his outstanding service and for who he has been to so many of us in the kinesiology and athletics departments. We are excited for him and Sharla as they move to a new chapter in their lives.”
‘A joy to have as part of our athletic program’
VanderYacht started working at Hope in 1988. He held a similar position at Grand Valley State University, his alma mater, for five years before starting at Hope.
“Gord is one of my favorite staff members within the athletic department at Hope,” said senior Corinne Cole, a member of the women’s soccer team. “He is one of the most approachable adults I have ever met. He goes out of his way to make people feel heard and important.
“Even though laundry was his job, he always went the extra step to fold it for us and make sure it was flipped on time. I looked forward to seeing him in his office every day when we had to pick up laundry. He never fails to make people smile or laugh and is always the first to ask how you are. He was a joy to have as part of our athletic program. He will be missed!”
Head baseball coach Stu Fritz is grateful for the opportunity he had to serve alongside VanderYacht. His impact extended far beyond the thousands of loads of laundry he did each year, Fritz said.
“Gord and I have worked together for 28 years. I think the biggest thing that he has meant to our program is the amount of trust that we have between us,” Fritz said. “I knew that if something needed to get done it would get done.
“There have been several times where we have games stacked up with rainouts and cancellations and have played on the road the night before a home game the next day. Gord always found a way to make sure our kids had clean uniforms to wear the next day, that meant a lot of weekend and late nights for him. I very much appreciate the attention to detail that Gord had.”
‘Intentionality in encouraging our program’
VanderYacht’s preparation and demeanor allowed him to be a constant source of both service and calm as equipment manager, said Brian Morehouse, head women’s basketball coach, and DeVos Fieldhouse director.
“His intentionality in encouraging our program daily and making sure he is three steps ahead has been imperative in our success. His ability to deal with emergencies in a calm manner has been very important over the 30 years that Gord and I have been colleagues.
“Once when the shot clock went out in the middle of a game, everyone was running around panicked and the refs were trying to decide what to do. Gord calmly walked to his office after determining the clocks couldn’t be fixed and brought out the portable clocks, which most people didn’t even know we still had. His planning ahead for emergencies and his calm when it happened is typical of Gord’s service to the athletic program.”
VanderYacht’s ingenuity as an equipment manager came from a caring heart, head football coach Peter Stuursma said.
“There are so many stories. Once he set up portable deer blinds in the towers to protect our filmers on a rainy game day. He does that kind of thing all of the time,” Stuursma said. “I felt we had a special bond because I was a player here and he was one of the first guys I met then. And it’s come full circle for me working with him. I saw his raw emotion and him truly enjoying being a part of our student athletes’ lives.”
In addition to his work for Hope, VanderYacht was a member of the Port Sheldon Township Fire Department for 26 years. He was chief of the fire department for 12 years before retiring in 2014.
Tom Davelaar partnered with VanderYacht each spring for game operations at Hope baseball games. Davelaar is the public address announcer at Boeve Stadium, while VanderYacht has run the scoreboard.
“I’ve enjoyed working together with Gord up in the press box, as we discussed and debated coaching, scoring, and umpiring decisions in the Norm “Bunko” Japinga Press Box. We’ve always felt our friend and mentor ‘Bunko’ smiling down on us from above!” Davelaar said. “Gord has always been a hard worker, doing a lot of behind the scenes jobs that have made Hope Athletics so successful for so many decades in so many sports.”