Choosing How to Live

Live authentically with no apologies.

Jenn Drummond ’01 speaking at the Milestone Celebration.

That’s a mantra Hope College alumna and world record holder Jenn Drummond ’01 lives by. It’s something she learned as a student on Hope’s campus.

And it’s a foundational concept underlying our Hope Forward program.

Drummond, who is the first woman to reach all seven Second Summits (the second-highest mountains on each of the seven continents), has dedicated herself to motivating others to reach their own summits in life. She visited Hope College recently during Milestone Weekend to share her motivational message.

After a near fatal car accident in 2018 in which she wasn’t expected to survive, Drummond says she realized, “You don’t get to choose when you leave this life…but you sure can choose how to live it.”

Instead of continuing to pursue success as a business owner while being a stay-at-home mom to her seven children, the accident motivated Drummond to take stock of her priorities. She realized that she was living “the expectations that others had set” for her and decided to change course. She created a bucket list and set a goal to climb a mountain, which expanded to conquering all seven Second Summits.

This was not the first dramatic change of course in her life. When Drummond was an undergraduate at Hope College, she changed her major from pre-medicine to business.

“I had everything going for me when I decided to be pre-med,” she said. “Then Dr. [Graham] Peaslee pulled me aside. He cared enough to say, ‘Let’s think about this.’”

He talked to Drummond about the hours she would be spending at the library behind a desk studying like all the other pre-med students. Peaslee challenged her to consider whether that went along with her magnetic, “people person” personality. Days later, a Hope business law professor told her, “Jenn, you’re so built for business.” She changed her major that day and never looked back.

After graduating from Hope, she landed her first job in finance and later started her own company, often returning to her Hope professors for advice.

“Hope faculty were game changers for me,” Drummond said. “The professors knew me. I wasn’t just a number. They were willing to reach out to me and invest in me. And they supported me long after graduation.”

If Drummond could give advice to every Hope student like her professors gave to her, she would tell them, “Have the courage to listen to that inner calling and live it out.”

Students being able to live out their calling is one reason she values Hope Forward. Under Hope College’s revolutionary new funding model, the generosity of others provides fully-funded tuition for students. When they graduate, they agree to pay it forward at any amount they choose to allow others to have the same opportunity.

With tuition covered, students don’t feel forced to take jobs with high incomes to repay overwhelming debt, so they are free to pursue their calling. Or, in the words of Jenn Drummond, students are free “to be their authentic selves with no apologies.”

Receiving the gift of fully-funded tuition is a powerful gift, she said. Drummond remembers receiving a gift that her family couldn’t repay when she was growing up. Someone paid for landscaping to make their home a better fit for their family, an expense that they couldn’t afford at the time.

“That was the first time I was given a gift that I couldn’t repay,” she explained. “It’s a different kind of gift. You learn the significance of being able to give a gift that somebody else can’t repay. It gets you thinking: How can I do something that feels as good as this for someone else?”

This is what Hope Forward is all about. The funding model is based on Christ’s instructions “freely you have received; now freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) The ripple effect of gifted tuition is designed not only to bring hope to students who never thought they could afford college, but also to inspire students with a radical generosity that they will carry beyond campus to give generously to others, especially to those who cannot repay them.

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