Who Would Jesus Vote For?

Below is the text, as prepared, of President Matthew A. Scogin’s speech on christian political discourse, delivered to a Hope student and employee audience via Zoom from Diment Chapel, on September 24, 2020. President Scogin’s remarks were followed by a faculty panel discussion and live audience Q/A.


40 Days from today is election day. We’re in the thick of it now. We’re in the middle of an election season, and it’s not just any election season. This election season is proving to be the most volatile election season that our country has seen in a very long time. And this election season is falling in the midst of a world that seems like everything is broken all around us.

One thing that’s happened is all of this brokenness now has a political element to it. COVID has a political element to it. Masks have a political element. Racial justice, forest fires, everything seems to have a political element to it. I didn’t even mention killer bees or the Tiger King!

Everything seems to have a political element to it, and everyone seems to have an opinion on all of these things. Everyone certainly has an opinion on the election.

But the question tonight is “What does God think about all of this?”

That’s what we are trying to descipher tonight.

The title of our event this evening is Who Would Jesus Vote For. I hate to start by disappointing you, but that title was a tease.

We’re not actually going to answer the question. In part because, of course, we don’t know the answer to the question.  But more importantly, because it isn’t actually the right question to ask.

In the 1990s, a youth group leader right here in Holland, Michigan began a grassroots movement asking teenagers to consider the question, coined by Charles Sheldon in a bestselling book from a hundred years prior, – What Would Jesus Do. It spread and before long, Christian youth around the world were wearing WWJD bracelets. 

It can certainly be helpful to ask that question and try to project Jesus into a situation and imagine how he might have responded – especially one that is as thorny and volatile as today’s political environment. 

But it can also be dangerous.  Because we can attribute to the Jesus we imagine things that Jesus never did or said.  The Jesus of our imagination may not act anything like the real Jesus.

It also dangerously gives the impression that God gives simple answers to complicated questions. It presumes that Christianity is just a shortcut. Most of this time, it isn’t the case that when we are facing a complicated dilemma, God slips us the answer underneath the desk. In the classroom, that’s called cheating.

God isn’t like that. 

A better question is: HOW should Jesus shape our politics? We all have our own political loyalties, ideas and dispositions….  The question is: when your politics meet Jesus what should happen? That’s the real question I am going to try to answer tonight.

Here’s the bottom line: Jesus challenges the politics in all of us – right, left, Trump, Biden.

This means one net result from my speech (if I do it well) is that everyone should feel challenged; in other words, my goal is to offend everybody, equally.

So I won’t be checking my email for the next two weeks….  Just kidding! But seriously, if you have criticism to share after tonight, that’s great – just email campushealth@hope.edu.

For my comments I want to ask three questions: 

  • How should Jesus shape our political allegiance? 
  • How should he shape our political beliefs? 
  • And how should he shape our political discourse?


Let’s start by asking ourselves the question: How should Jesus shape our political allegiance? 

Quite helpfully, we have a situation in the Bible where Jesus himself was asked about his political allegiance. The story occurs when Jesus is questioned about paying taxes to Caesar.

The question was posed by two groups: the Pharisees and the Herodians. We know this question is a political question because the Pharisees and the Herodians were opponents on political issues. 

The Pharisees were religious leaders who opposed the Roman occupation of the Jews. The Herodians were pro-Herod Jews; they supported the rule of Rome.

Their question gets at the heart of their political division. They ask “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 

In essence, two opposing political parties asking him to take a side, asking “which party do you belong to?” Do you support Rome, or not? It’s like a group of Trump supporters and Biden supporters coming to Jesus and asking “who are you going to vote for?” It’s a dramatic scene.

And the question is a trap, because either answer has Jesus in trouble. If he says “no, don’t pay the tax,” he is essentially calling for rebellion against Rome. But if he says, “yes, it’s fine to pay the tax,” he is essentially supporting the Roman occupation – showing allegiance to Caesar. That means all his talk about the Kingdom of God is just that – talk; ultimately he too bows to Rome. 

It’s a gotcha question.  And we’re familiar with this type of question today.  

When politicians today get questions like this, they briefly acknowledge the question and then pivot – start talking about something else.  And you and I are watching the TV thinking: just answer the question! But it’s not their fault. They can’t answer the question because it has been specifically designed to trap them.  

That is exactly the case here – but Jesus doesn’t pivot. He answers the question directly without falling into the trap.  And the Bible says the crowd was amazed at his response.  

What’s his response?

First, he asks somebody to bring him a coin. They brought him one, and he asks, “whose picture is on the coin?”

They say: Caesar’s. Jesus says: ok, that means this is Caesar’s coin. So, “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” – what belongs to him, and has his image and likeness stamped upon it. But then he says, “and give unto God what is God’s” – that which has God’s image stamped upon it. Meaning, you. Your heart. Your life. Your allegiance.

In other words, Jesus doesn’t pick a side between political parties, but he does pick a side between politics and religion. 

Because which is more significant: paying a tax? Or rendering your life to God?

In surrendering your life to God, Jesus is saying: God comes first in your life, and in your politics.

He’s not advocating rebellion against Rome, but He IS calling for total rebellion of your HEART against anything that isn’t the authority of God.

In other words: your allegiance belongs to God.

This should be the “first principle” for Christians as we engage in politics. Our allegiance to God is primary.

That means that, before you’re an American, you’re a citizen of God’s kingdom. Before you’re Republican or Democrat, you’re a Christian. Before you follow Biden or Trump, you follow Jesus.

It means that we let Jesus inform our politics – not the other way around! 

It means we reorder our politics around the values of Jesus – not try to fit Jesus into our agenda.

Too often we elevate politics to the level of religion. And we end up more in love with our political party than we are in love with Jesus. 

This elevation of politics to the status of religious conviction stems at least in part from a uniquely American tendency to revere our country.

Have you ever seen a church that has a cross and an American flag displayed up front?  That’s not OK.  It implies that God and the country are on the same level.  God is a million times more important than the United States. 

Or have you heard the phrase “for God and country”? Pledging allegiance to God and country in the same breath implies that they are of the same importance. That is a problem.

That’s Jesus’ message to us when he says “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.”

Allegiance to God over country and party also has implications for our political positions.

Just as we shouldn’t exalt politics to the level of religion, so too we shouldn’t let political opinions rise to the same level of religious conviction.

You might say, “well, I get that, but aren’t there some things that are clearly right and wrong?”

The answer, of course, is yes.  There are many things that are clearly right and wrong – as moral matters.   But it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are right and wrong politically.  

Morality doesn’t translate cleanly to public policy. To do so – to make that one-to-one translation between morality and policy – is to elevate our political leanings to the status of religious convictions.

And we can’t do that, because policy isn’t as clear as morality. Yes, there are some things that Scripture is clear about, that are true or false, right or wrong. But just because something is TRUE doesn’t mean that it should be LEGISLATED. Just because something is WRONG doesn’t mean that it should be ILLEGAL. 

For example, pornography is wrong.  But because we believe in free speech as a first principle, very few people would argue in favor of making pornography illegal. 

Just because something is wrong doesn’t mean we should make it illegal.  And just because something is right doesn’t mean it should be mandatory.  

Let me give another example… The Bible is very clear: it is a commandment to take care of the poor. That’s a moral absolute – it’s a matter right and wrong. But that doesn’t mean all Christians have to support government redistribution programs.  It’s OK to disagree on HOW we take care of the poor. It’s OK to look at government welfare programs and ask “do those programs really help pull people away from life on the margins…  OR do they just enable them to live there?”

So, if you say, I’m a Christian and the Bible says we have to take care of the poor, therefore I’m only going to vote Democrat…  You’re being overly simplistic, and Jesus was OK with complexity. 

Let’s take another example that has become a flagship issue for conservatives – abortion. The way I read the Bible, abortion is wrong – a moral absolute. But again just because it is wrong doesn’t mean we have to agree that it should be legislated in a certain way.

It’s OK to ask questions like: What would actually happen if we made abortion illegal? Would abortion rates go down or up? What money would change hands? What are the unintended consequences?

So, if you say I’m a Christian and I’m pro-life therefore I’m only going to vote for politicians who promise to appoint pro-life judges….  I guess what I have to say about that is “it’s a good thing politicians can’t lie!”

Because if they could and if they caught wind of the fact that the Christian political thought process was that simplistic, there would be a temptation to think, “well if that’s all it takes to win your vote, I’m just going to say I’ll appoint pro-life judges to get your support.” With no intention of following through.  And then Christians have been taking advantage of.

Twenty years after Roe v Wade, it was upheld by another Supreme Court case – Planned Parenthood v Casey in 1992.  The five justices who voted to uphold Roe in that case, had one thing in common: they were all appointed by Republicans.  Three of them were specifically appointed by presidents who promised to appoint pro-life judges.

So, when Christians say I’m only going to vote for the person who promises to appoint pro-life judges, that kind of thinking opens us to being used.

Finally, Christians should be very alarmed by any politician who uses God’s name or Scripture as a way to score political points. 

No party owns Jesus. He cannot be mapped on to a political divide. When asked about the tax: he didn’t pick a side! So using God’s name to promote a particular political platform is mapping something onto Jesus that he refused to map onto Himself. And you know what? There’s a name for that: it’s called using God’s name in vain.

I’m not saying I don’t want Christian politicians, but I am saying that it is OFF LIMITS to use God for political gain.

And as voters, we should be more savvy. Christians shouldn’t follow someone just because they sound like one of us. 

Politics requires the kind of shrewd thinking that Jesus calls us to.  Politics is messy; it’s about compromise. We can’t enter that space unwilling to allow for complexity and shades of grey.

The coin that Jesus asks to see illustrates this. We know exactly what Jesus was looking at when he asked to see the coin, a Denarius, because originals exist to this day. If you go to a museum to look at a Denarius, you would see the image of Caesar, as well as an inscription. It says: Caesar Augustus, King, High Priest, Son of God. 

This was a common claim for a Roman Emperor to make. But it’s blasphemous for Jews and Christians. 

Jesus is the only King and Son of God! Yet Jesus says – pay the tax. In doing so, Jesus rejects purity of moral absolutism.

Moral absolutism applied to politics is one of the main problems with discourse today. Christians treat their political positions as THE only Christian position, the position Jesus would vote for. And that comes from a misalignment of allegiance: where is your primary loyalty? Your positions; the positions of your party? The values of this country? Or the Kingdom of God?

That’s the first section, allegiance. Our allegiance must be to God first. Give to God your allegiance, your life, your heart. Don’t let politics become your religion. And, don’t elevate political issues to the same level as moral issues; “give to Caesar” by accepting the messiness and complexity of politics.


The next question is: how does allegiance to Jesus affect my political beliefs?

The answer is: quite a lot. We all have our own political beliefs, but if your primary allegiance is to God, he should challenge your views wherever you fall on the political spectrum

Here’s what this means…  If you’re a conservative, Jesus should make you more liberal. If you’re a liberal, Jesus should make you more conservative. I’ll take those two points in turn. And give both liberals and conservatives each a turn in the hot seat.

First, your politics should become more liberal if you’re a conservative. 

To be clear: I’m saying that you should become more liberal, not A liberal. You don’t have to stop being a conservative. But there are certain things you HAVE to care about if you’re a Christian – and some of these are issues that typically fall on the left side of the political spectrum.

What areas? I’m going to list four specific issues, with a Bible verse for each, and you’ll notice that the principle from scripture sounds a lot more like something that would come out of the Democratic party than the Republican party.

  1. Poverty: Leviticus 25: If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him . . . take no interest from him or profit.
  2. Racial Reconciliation: Ephesians 2: For Christ Himself has made Jews and Gentiles one people and has broken down in His crucified body the dividing wall of hostility. AND Revelation 7: behold, a great multitude . . . from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages standing together before the throne . ”
  3. On the Environment: Genesis 2: The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
  4. And Immigration: Leviticus 19: When a stranger sojourns among you, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 

I’m not saying that one verse from the Bible proves anything; you can find a Bible verse to support just about any position. However, on these specific issues, you can find a lot more to support what is traditionally a more liberal political viewpoint. That means: these are priorities on God’s agenda that Christians can. not. disregard..

Jesus summarizes it (and shows how personal this is to God) when he says in Matthew 25 

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…. Whatever you did for one of the least of these you did for me.’

God’s agenda takes “the least of these” and makes them his most important priority. 

There is plenty of room for disagreement about our approach to these issues. Conservatives, don’t have to adopt liberal solutions. But SOME conservatives are guilty of disregarding these issues entirely. Not talking about them at all. That’s out of bounds. Christians cannot have a coldness or hardness to these issues.

Now, liberals, your turn for the hot seat…  If you’re a liberal, your politics should become more conservative when you meet Jesus. 

Again, you don’t have to become A conservative, but MORE conservative.

Instead of pointing to specific issues, I’m going to zoom out a bit and look at three principles. They’re principles that scripture presupposes, and they typically fall in the conservative camp. These are truths that liberals who are Christians must acknowledge. 

  1. The first is our understanding of human nature. Scripture challenges the typically more liberal assumption that humans are basically good and capable of being improved. The Bible is clear that we’re fallen, and that there’s deep evil in all of us. Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” One version adds “and beyond cure.” 

This means that when it comes to government programs, liberals must remember that where there is an opportunity to take advantage of something, people will do so. Because the heart is evil. 

And this impacts how we should understand the source of injustice… Nelson Mandella said that no one is born racist, “no one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin.” 

With all due respect to Mr. Mandella, I don’t buy it. Because if racism has to be taught, the question is, who is doing the teaching.  And you say “it’s these evil cultures, societies, and structures that teach us to be racist.” Then the question is, who put those evil structures together and who built those evil cultures?  You say, evil people who got in there and had too much power. But then who taught those people to be evil… You keep going back, but there’s never a real answer.  

If you don’t believe that racism comes from within, there’s no other answer that makes sense. 

A popular meme on social media shows a group of babies sitting together representing different races and it says “no one is born racist.” It’s a beautiful sentiment but if you know anything about real kids (and I have three of them!) you know that actual children look for anything that is different about someone else – and pick on it.  Because we were born fallen, selfish, and prideful. 

The most systemic, far-reaching injustice in our world is that which is within the human heart.

Being naive to this is what allows politicians to appeal to bigotry for political gain.  And if you heard Fred’s chapel talk yesterday he talked about how this has happened too many times throughout American history.

2. Number two: liberals must be cautious about sweeping change. Scripture challenges the assumption that change happens quickly. Consider the parable of the mustard seed: an analogy for the coming Kingdom of God, the mustard seed starts tiny, grows deep roots, then sprouts and grows, before it gets large and provides branches and shade. 

The Bible is saying that’s how effective change usually works, and when somebody (a politician) promises otherwise, we should be suspicious.

Massive change all at once often ends with unintended consequences and mixed success. Conservatives get labeled as anti-progress, but a lot of that instinct comes from a wise – and Biblical – view that true and effective change is slow and thoughtful.

3. Finally, the modality of change: liberals must be cautious about letting the church abdicate its role to the government. Acts 4 paints a clear picture of the church’s responsibility to share possessions and give so that “there were no needy among them” (Acts 4:34). The church is supposed to be the “first responder.”  But government spending on social programs can cause what economists call the “crowding out effect.” For example, when federal spending to help the poor increased from 0% to 4% of the GDP under FDR’s New Deal, church-based charity to help the poor dropped by 30%. The government has taken over much of what the church was intended to provide. 

As before, there’s room for debate about the specifics here, but the point is that there are some truths about the world presupposed by Scripture which typically fall in the more “conservative” camp. These are things that liberals must acknowledge.

So whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, a conservative or a liberal, Jesus should challenge your political leanings. 

The real takeaway here is: we shouldn’t hold our political convictions so tightly that we’re not open to the voice of Scripture. And it’s most important to look at parts of scripture that grade against your natural human instincts politically. There’s a lot in the Bible. You can’t just focus on the parts of the Bible that you naturally agree with and that you like. Because if you’re only letting those parts inform your thinking and your politics, you’re not growing.

We tend to like parts of the Bible that are challenging to others and ignore parts of the Bible that are challenging to ourselves.  

As we let Jesus challenge our political beliefs, it actually creates more space for robust discussion and healthy disagreement.

Which leads me to my final point: discourse. As Christians engaging in politics, Jesus should teach us how to disagree well.


If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that our country disagrees a lot. We’re very divided. And we don’t disagree well! It gets nasty.

Many say that the division in our country is characterized by ANGER. If only that were true: anger, while sometimes with negative effects, is ultimately a productive emotion. It occurs when we see something we believe to be wrong and feel like we can do something about it. It has great social purpose, and can catalyze problem solving.

Arthur Brooks says the problem with our divisive political climate isn’t anger, it’s CONTEMPT. Contempt is not just seeing those who disagree with you as incorrect or misguided, but seeing them as worthless

That’s what has to change…  seeing those who are different than we are – including those we find offensive! – as lacking worth.

Jesus has a line in Matthew 11 where he says “blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”  I’ve always been puzzled by that line. Why would anyone be offended by Jesus? I know what I’m offended by! What I find offensive is: injustice, human trafficking, racism, homophobia, hate crimes.

But do you know what’s even more offensive than those things? A God who forgives those sins!

And the God we serve does forgive those sins. And we must do the same. Because in God’s eyes every person is loved and has worth.

Following Jesus comes down to two things – a radical devotion to God (that’s the allegiance we talked about) and radical love for each other.  (That’s what should shape discourse.)

And if we enter into political discourse with radical love for each other that will change the nature of our division.

The solution to our destructive discourse isn’t less disagreement. Our goal is not uniformity of ideas!

Neither is our goal civility – that’s too low of a standard for Christians. Some say we should strive for “civil” discourse. And yet sometimes it is OK to disagree passionately. If I told you that my wife Sarah and I were being “civil” to one another, you wouldn’t applaud us, you would tell us to get counseling! 

The solution to a country filled with contemptuous discourse is the opposite of contempt, which is LOVE.

LOVE is compatible with frustration, conviction, even anger! We can have passionate and animated disagreements in LOVE! But love is NOT compatible with hatred. With contempt. With the desire to be “right” or prove myself “better,” at the expense of another person.

Following Jesus should make us more loving people, and more loving in our political discourse. 

What exactly does this mean?  I think it first must entail listening to others – showing respect for their convictions.  There are people at Hope College who think differently than you.  It is loving to get to know them and listen to them. 

As one of our rules of discourse I think it should be the case that you aren’t allowed to criticize someone unless you can frame their argument in ways that they would recognize and support.  This can’t be done without first paying them the respect of listening.

If someone is criticizing me and they haven’t really listened to me first, I’m going to write them off – and I probably should!  Because they aren’t actually criticizing me. They are criticizing what they think I am. 

We like to categorize people and then criticize those categories. 

To avoid that we have to listen.  Our world is not set up for listening… It’s set up for posting and speaking. Talking about each other, rather than to each other. 

My opinion – and I say this with trepidation because I know it may be unpopular – but in my opinion social media is NOT the place to have political conversations of any kind.

I simply do not see the value of posting anything political – any commentary, any opinion – on social media. I see how it makes you feel better to get something off your chest, but I don’t see how it helps anyone other than you.  I don’t see how it adds anything to our discourse.  I DO see how it hurts relationships and furthers division.

And on top of that, no one is listening.  They aren’t hearing it on social media. They aren’t being challenged by it.  No one has ever changed their mind in the history of the world based on a comment they read on social media. Instead it leads to a virtual shouting match.

If you want to challenge or confront someone, the ONLY way to do it is through a one-on-one conversation – in which you listen as much as you speak.

That, I think, is how we Christians should approach political discourse: make listening the first priority.  Stepping into the political arena with love and the acknowledgment that however bad we think the other side is, God adores them as his children.

So back to our big question… 

How does Jesus inform our political engagement?  First our primary allegiance is to God – above country, political party or political issue.  Second, Jesus should challenge your political beliefs – making you more liberal if you’re a conservative and more conservative if you’re a liberal.  Third, our discourse should be characterized by love and listening.


As I conclude my comments and turn it over to the panel discussion, I just want to make one final comment, which is simply a reminder for us as Christians to keep all of this in perspective.

Yes this election is important.  Yes, it matters.  Yes this seems like a consequential moment in history.

But, at the same time, let’s not over-exaggerate the importance of this election – or any election for that matter.  And let’s keep our hope in Jesus stronger than our hope in government.

Psalm 146 says this:

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.

In Biblical times someone was generally in power for their entire lifetime. And even after a lifetime of governing – the Bible says their plans will come to nothing.

We are electing someone for only four years. As Abraham Lincoln said in his first inaugural address: “no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government, in the short space of four years.”

There is a limit to what anyone can do in four years.  So don’t put your trust in princes… 

The next few lines from Psalm 146 are remarkable:

Blessed are those…whose hope is in the Lord their God.
6 ..    He remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
10 The Lord reigns forever

Those verses list all the groups of people we talked about earlier – the poor, the oppressed, the immigrant. We said every Christian MUST care about these people. But notice who is ultimately taking care of them – God is!

God is the one who upholds justice. And so, if someone wins the election and you worry about what it means, God is saying “I got this. I’m in control and my reign lasts forever”

Do you know what’s happening in heaven right now? There is a Jesus rally that has been going on since the beginning of time.  The Bible says in Revelation that the heavens are roaring with praise because God is on the throne. 

Do you know what will be happening tomorrow?  The heavens will be roaring with praise because God is on the throne.

Do you know what will be happening the day after the election? The heavens will be roaring with praise because God is on the throne.

No one in heaven will protest or throw a party, shed a tear or celebrate based on the results of the election. 

Instead, they will continue roaring with praise, “holy, holy, holy,” because God is on the throne.

And if we really want to know – what would Jesus do…  that’s our answer.  He is and always will part of this ongoing raucous celebration of our good Father.  And maybe that’s what we should do too.

Join in that rally – praising God. Because our hope is in Him, the one who saves. The only one who is worth of glory and honor and power.

Anchor Op-Ed: Doing the Hard Things

This piece was published in Hope College’s Student Newspaper, The Anchor. You can find the original post HERE.

We are now a few weeks into our Fall semester, and one thing has become abundantly clear to all of us: this is hard! I miss gathering together in person. I miss chapel; I miss sporting events; I miss the Phelps ice cream machine! We have signed up for a difficult semester. 

The question is: why did we choose this? Why was the Hope College staff and faculty motivated to work long hours all summer—what is usually a time of rest—to make it possible for you to come back? Why did you, students, overwhelmingly want to be back on campus, even though you knew it would be different? And why are we, as a community, committed to doing hard, uncomfortable things for the sake of staying on-campus together? 

Here are some of my reasons for choosing to do this hard thing, and why I think it will be worth it.

The first is that you will build relationships. Now this might sound counterintuitive: isn’t it harder than ever to make friends? But think of it this way: right now, we are living through an era that will define this century and will define your generation. For the rest of your time in college, for the next 10 years, at your 20 or even 50 year college reunion, you will remember and be talking about this semester. For the rest of your life, you’ll be saying things like, “I went to college during COVID,” or, “Remember when we met, you were wearing that mask?” For some of you, this will be your love story: “The first thing I noticed was her lovely eyes… because that was all I could see underneath her mask.” Shared experience is rich soil for relationships. As we live in this era together, you will make memories and friends that will last a lifetime. 

Second, we want you here even though it is hard because we believe you have a lot to contribute. You have already proven your grit and resilience. You have dealt with an abrupt pivot to online classes, the disappointment of so many cancelled sports games, concerts, and events and you’re adapting to the current guidelines like champions. You are learning a lot. You are supporting each other. We know that you have a lot to contribute, and therefore you will make an impact here at Hope—and beyond! 

Shared experience is rich soil for relationships. As we live in this era together, you will make memories and friends that will last a lifetime. 

Finally, and more broadly, we have chosen to do a hard thing this semester because we believe the world needs what we have here. The world is full of despair! It seems like we can’t go a day without another tragedy or hardship—from acts of police brutality to struggles with mental health—rearing its ugly head in the news or in our personal lives. The world needs hope! There is no better time to shape leaders to go out into the world as problem solvers and agents of hope. That’s you, and we are excited and determined to help equip you with what you need to spread hope to the world. 

Yes, this Fall is going to be hard. There are lots of things we don’t like. And yet, as we yearn for this season to be over, we should also look for the opportunities that exist in the here and now. That is a profoundly Biblical mindset. As Christians, we yearn for God’s redemption of the world, but we don’t spend our whole lives just yearning for heaven! We look for joy in the midst of current suffering and keep our eyes set on the reasons whywe persevere. That’s a mindset of hope. 

“My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.” 

James 1:2-4, TPT

Thank you, Hope College, for your endurance. You’re an inspiration. 

Letter to Alumni: Hope Ready

Dear Hope Alumni,

This week, we began our 159th academic year at Hope College. Throughout our history, we have opened in the midst of the Civil War, the World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Great Recession. We have opened in the midst of many challenging periods, but we’ve never begun a school year quite like this. 

Our faculty and staff have worked all summer long to prepare for opening in the midst of these unusual circumstances. As our students adjust to college life with masks and distancing, we wanted to share some of our preparation for safe and productive in-person instruction.

First, we made the decision over the summer to adjust our fall calendar.  Classes began on August 17th, two weeks earlier than originally planned, and our semester will conclude on Tuesday, November 24th (before Thanksgiving).  We also changed Fall Break to be two separate, midweek days off rather than the typical four day weekend.  These changes will limit movement to and from campus, helping mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  

In order to make sure that all our students — including those who will not be able to be on campus in the fall — stay on schedule for their planned graduation date, Hope’s course schedule for the fall semester includes in-person, hybrid and online classes. Hybrid courses feature a blend of in-person and online components.

In addition, the college has created a comprehensive, three-component COVID-19 testing plan specifically tailored to the Hope community and informed by the expertise of public health officials and our own faculty experts.

There is no better place to cultivate and spread hope through the world than a college for which true, biblical hope is a foundational identity.

Before arriving on campus, every student and employee was tested for COVID-19, most through a pre-arrival kit sent to their home. We administered a total of 3,979 COVID-19 tests, and of those, 99.04% were negative. Our 0.96% positive rate is significantly lower than the current national positive rate of 6.6% and the state positive rate of 2.5%.  A vast majority of the 38 positive cases were identified through the pre-arrival kit and are quarantining at home, and for the few that are on campus, we are prepared with robust isolation and quarantine housing protocols.

Second, we will test 1% of the students every weekday, in a strategy developed by Dr. Ben Kopek, an associate professor of biology with expertise in virology.  The sample size reflects a commitment to conducting successful surveillance while saving enough tests for clinical care of individuals.

Third, we will conduct wastewater testing to determine if the virus is present in specific residential zones on campus.  This innovative project is being led by faculty members Dr. Aaron Best, Dr. Brent Krueger and Dr. Mike Pikaart, who have long led water-quality research at Hope.  If the levels of the virus rise in a particular zone, we will conduct follow-up testing of residents. This will allow us to stay on top of, and mitigate the risk of, a potential outbreak.

While we have confidence in our testing plan, we realize that we’ll likely have cases on our campus this semester. We are prepared to respond, with testing available as soon as any student recognizes symptoms of COVID-19, and with quarantine space available for those who test positive.

We’re also taking many of the sorts of steps that you might expect.  For example, we’re promoting physical distancing by spacing desks in all classrooms six feet apart.  On campus, we’re all to wear masks, complete a daily screening form, and regularly sanitize our hands and spaces.

We’re undoubtedly signing up for a harder semester than if we continued the fully remote instruction that we implemented in March, but we see four compelling reasons for prioritizing in-person instruction.

First, our students want to be back! The vast majority (over 90%) want to be on campus.

Second, an in-person education, with students living and learning together, is the best education.  It’s why Hope has been committed to being a residential liberal arts college for more than 160 years.  That said, remote learning isn’t a poor substitute when done the Hope way.  We’ve been offering courses online since 1999 and infuse them with the same individual attention and character that we provide in person.

Third, an in-person experience is more equitable. Some students have good learning environments in their homes, while others do not. 

Finally, while this may be counterintuitive, we believe bringing students on campus is actually safer and more responsible. Since a large percentage will be living in the region regardless of the teaching modality, it’s better to have them on campus participating in our testing and monitoring programs.

As an institution of higher learning, this is an unparalleled opportunity for teaching moments! It is an opportunity for innovation, as we explore new modalities of teaching and think deeply about the future of learning. It’s also an opportunity for growth. As we are shaken out of old ways of thinking, we can look at the world with new eyes. 

Our students and faculty are happy to be back on campus, even though many things will be different this semester.  For example, fall sports have been postponed to the spring and chapel will be streamed remotely.   There are disappointments, but the spirit of our school is not to dwell on despair.  Rather we are a place that faces challenges with hope.

There is no better place to cultivate and spread hope through the world than a college for which true, biblical hope is a foundational identity.

We are going to learn a lot this semester.  And we’ll make some memories together too.

Spera in Deo!

Matthew A. Scogin

2020 State of the College Address

Below is the full text of President Matthew A. Scogin’s 2020 State of the College Address, as prepared.



Today marks the beginning of our 159th academic year. On the occasion of a new school year, we typically take time to reflect on the state of our college and outline aspirations for the coming twelve months. 

This year, we can’t fully assess the state of our college without reflecting on the state of our world.

Evidenced by the fact that I am here in an empty Dimnent Chapel and you sitting at your computer screen watching yet another Zoom call, we are forced to confront the reality that the so-called “bubble” of Hope College is profoundly impacted by the world out there.

In recognizing this, we find ourselves wondering one thing:  Is it too much to ask for some precedented times?

Throughout our history, Hope’s leaders have, with God’s guidance, led this college through many unprecedented periods — the Civil War, two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Great Recession, 40 presidential election cycles, and even the potential visit by VP Mike Pence last year (for a while, I thought that would be my biggest challenge during my first year).

We’ve seen a lot.  And opened in the midst of many challenging periods.  Yet we’ve never begun an academic year quite like this.

You have worked all summer long to prepare for opening in the midst of these unusual circumstances.  You made plans – and adjusted those plans as circumstances changed. Many of you sacrificed vacation time. And all of us – in the season we usually feel most refreshed – are feeling exhausted.

That’s understandable.  The work is not easy.  There many unknowns.  And the world out there is exasperating.  

And somehow, we are expected to prepare our students for lives of leadership and service in the world – when the world as we knew it just six months ago has been completely turned upside down.

  • We’re in the middle of a pandemic that will make COVID-19 the third leading cause of death in the US this year (behind cancer and heart disease)
  • Our country was rocked at the murder of several Black Americans earlier this summer, bringing into sharp focus the very real issues of racial injustice that continue to haunt us

These headlines have exposed even deeper issues, which have been percolating for a long time.  Like:

  • Widening economic inequality
  • Uneven access to good healthcare
  • A plague of discrimination and bigotry that continues to allow the color of one’s skin to influence the kind of experience one has in this country.  

All of these issues are actually just symptoms of a much deeper and more fundamental issue — we live in a broken world. 

That brokenness is more apparent today than it has been in a long time.

When looking at the state of the world and trying to understand what it means for us, our question has to be more than just “how do we survive?” As we’ve discussed in the past, that is not the right question for us.

Rather the question we should consider is this: How should we engage with this broken world, knowing that we are actually citizens of another kingdom? 

As our world is being disrupted, it is being reshaped.  And we have the opportunity to provide influence.  

We don’t have to accept the way the world is – or the way it used to be. When things are shaken up, they fall back into place differently.  We have an enormous opportunity to shape what the world could look like as we come out of this.

How we do that – and what exactly we want the world to look like – are important questions.  They are also scholarly questions.  Academic questions.  Question that requires maturity, understanding and true spiritual wisdom. 

In Luke 16, Jesus is talking to his disciples and he says “the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than the people of the light.”

That line is a criticism of the people of the light.  It’s a criticism of us Christians.  What he’s saying is: Christians, you are getting outsmarted.  Outsmarted by the world.  Christians, you are too often characterized by simple thinking and naiveté.  

That shouldn’t be the case here.  As an organization made up of Christian intellectuals, we are built for this moment.  

As we talked about a few weeks ago, this moment gives us opportunities – opportunities for teaching moments, opportunities for growth, and opportunities for innovation. 

Last summer, I quoted Isaiah 43 and told you that I felt God setting us up to do a “new thing” here at Hope.  I feel that all the more acutely now.  

And the opportunity for “new things” fall squarely within the three areas of focus I have been highlighting since last year: the future of learning, the future of work, and the future business model of higher education.

Opportunities at Hope

Higher education has been disrupted like no other time in history.  And we have the opportunity to be shrewd people of the light in how we navigate this.

Rather than being takers of circumstances, let’s be makers of circumstances.

To help make this specific, let me give you four observations regarding trends that I see developing in higher education as a result of what we’re going through now and how we can use these as opportunities.

1) The growth of online learning will accelerate

As this happens, I expect we’ll see new entrants into the field of higher education.  In particular, watch for large technology companies to enter our space. Google is already investing millions in educational services and expertise. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some institutions partner with these companies — imagine “Ohio State University powered by Google.” It would allow students to take online courses, powered by a name-brand tech company, at an institution with a nationally-ranked football team.

What does this mean for us?  Well, some have heralded this as the end of traditional liberal arts education. But I don’t believe that is going to be the case. As supporters of the residential liberal arts experience, we certainly do not want that to be the case.  And guess what.  We can do something about it.

Let’s be shrewd people of the light.   

The world of higher education is heading very quickly in one particular direction right now – online learning. And the easy thing to do, would be to follow.

Because the traditional model has never been more complicated or more expensive than it is right now.  

But if we believe in the traditional model – which we do – let’s do something counter-cultural.  While the world goes in one direction.  Let’s go the other way and double down on residential liberal arts learning.  

Our students have demonstrated they want to be here.  Consider the fact that 92% of our enrolled students will be learning on campus this semester putting up with – let’s just be honest – some fairly unpleasant things. 

So if our students want it and we believe in it, let’s double down on it. And instead of following what others are doing, let’s look for opportunities in the midst of this time to innovate and improve our on-campus, residential experience.  And, by the way, part of how we do this — as Gerald Griffin likes to say – might be “infusing” our traditional curriculum with some new technological and digital expertise.

2) The growth of online learning will mean more uniformity in curriculum

An online education is highly scalable. Remote classes and online universities have the ability to accommodate thousands of students at one lecture, in one class.

Here’s what this means: more students, learning the same thing, from the same people and places.

As education becomes more high tech it inherently becomes less high-touch, less personally transformative.  

Online programs are also oriented toward ushering students in and out, quickly and practically, so they can get a job. Neglecting thoughtful reflection, the life of mind.

This again presents an opportunity for us. 

As the world moves toward curriculum that is more standardized, more uniform, we could go the other direction and make our curriculum more customized, more high touch, more individualized to the passions and curiosities of each student.

One could even imagine the possibility – at some point in the future – when Hope, rather than offering a traditional selection of majors, offers an abundance of high quality curricular resources and building blocks that empower students to shape a highly personalized educational journey based on their fields of interest and discerned calling.

3) The average age of U.S. college students will increase

This was already happening.  But now, with students around the country taking gap years, the average age of a college student will rise further, as more people go to school later in life.

Further, a Brookings study published in June showed that, as a result of economic uncertainty, fewer babies will be born next year than previously expected. At one point, people thought the stay-at-home orders might result in more babies.  But I guess it turns out that, with lots of uncertainty, people just aren’t in the mood.  (and let’s be honest, when times are stressful, it’s a lot easier to turn on the tv than try to turn on your partner!)

Brookings estimated 10% fewer babies born in 2021 than previously predicted. The same phenomenon happened during the Great Recession. 

These demographic shifts will impact higher education for the long-term. With less students overall, and less in the 18-22-year-old age range, we have the chance to think creatively about reaching a demographic beyond the traditional college-age student. 

We could develop opportunities to foster life-long learning, such as offering unique educational tracks for people at all stages of life and career. This could be especially compelling as the future of work evolves and we enter what is very likely to be a sustained economic downturn.  


To summarize what we’ve said so far:

  • The world says residential liberal arts education is dying. We (HOPE) say let’s lean into our model and make it better.
  • The world says it’s cheaper/easier to scale up, one-size fits all. We (HOPE) say let’s improve our technological capabilities, but see how we can use that to customize, empowering each student to find a bespoke education that uniquely fits them. 
  • The world says learning is for young people to get jobs. We (HOPE) say learning is a life-long shaping of the soul that doesn’t stop when you reach a certain age.

These are just possibilities, and they’re just SOME of the possibilities! Join with me in finding more and dreaming bigger.

This is living as people of HOPE!

Let me mention one more observation, which I believe presents a very big opportunity for us to apply a unique Christian approach to this disruption…

4) Sustained financial challenges in higher education will result in more inequality

As we all know, the financial challenges for higher education stemming from the pandemic will be significant and have long lasting and wide-ranging implications. Here’s the headline: in aggregate, revenue will decline significantly and costs will increase. 

On a small scale, this is true at Hope College. We anticipate revenue impact of less than 5% this year, primarily due to students who are deferring and summer programs we had to cancel. (Of course, if we have to pivot back to fully remote learning, the revenue impact would be much greater.) Further, our additional expenditures related to COVID will cost $3-4 million year.

On a national level, however, the numbers look much more dire. (which highlights the fact that we’re in a uniquely good place) According to one recent article from Inside Higher Ed, higher education revenue in aggregate could be impacted by as much as 30% this year. At the same time, operational costs across the board will increase by billions of dollars. 

Here’s what this means: less revenue and higher spending will inevitably result in less scholarship money for students. 

With less scholarship money available, the real costs of education (specifically residential learning) will go up – yet again. This year and likely for several years to come. 

The impact of that? Greater inequality.

The kind of education we provide at Hope will become less accessible to those who aren’t otherwise wealthy or privileged.

Those who can’t afford an expensive education will default to weaker programs (probably online programs). Graduates of schools like ours will have a leg up in a challenged employment environment, and the result will be even greater inequity and a deeper wealth divide.

We have a chance to do something about that, starting here at Hope College. Which is why I believe it is paramount that we work diligently to bring down the cost of a Hope education. 

We’ve already started this work.  By offering a record increase in new scholarship money last year, we significantly reduced the net cost of a Hope education.  The average net tuition cost for a first year student last fall was $19,000.  The average net tuition for a first year student this fall is $17,000. That’s a decrease in cost of around 10% in just one year.

It’s a good start, but we have a long way to go.  Because – while priceless – a Hope education is still unreachably expensive for too many families.  

We’ll change this by being smart about how we spend money, and aggressive in raising new scholarship dollars in the endowment. I am more committed to this than ever before.

Here again, we can uniquely distinguish ourselves from the rest of the world.  Everybody else is retreating financially, reducing scholarships, and deciding to hold off on capital campaigns.

What are we doing?  We’re preparing to launch a billion dollar, decade-long fundraising campaign toward a new pay-it-forward tuition model that no one has ever tried before.  

Who would do this now?  Who would set such an ambitious goal – to raise this ridiculous amount of money in this kind of economic environment?  

Only a group of people who believe God is trying to do a “new thing”.  

And maybe this “new thing” is an aggressive pursuit of equality and justice at a time when it has never mattered more.  

The world says it’s impossible to make higher education affordable. This perpetuates injustice. 

One of the most tangible ways an institution of higher learning can respond to injustice in the world is to make what we do more affordable and accessible.  

It’s a matter of equality. It’s a matter of justice.

And it’s central to the heart of God.  The Bible says in Amos 5 that God doesn’t even want to hear our worship – he can’t stand our praise of him – unless we are a people who let justice roll down like a river.

That’s what I want for Hope…  I want us to be a place that lets justice roll out of us like a river, like a never-failing stream!

This means fighting against injustice and inequality where ever we see it.

Racial Justice

One of the major places we see injustice and inequality today is racial injustice.  

Racial injustice takes many forms. One way racism perpetuates itself is through structures and institutions.

As an institution, one way we can respond in a powerful way is by doing what we can to close the education and wealth gaps.

It’s a way for us to let justice roll out of us like a river.

But there’s more we can do.

First, as Christians, we have to be particularly enthusiastic about racial diversity.  

I think it is nearly impossible to overstate how much God cares about this.  

God likes racial diversity.  All throughout the Bible we see that God has preferences.  There are things he likes and things he doesn’t like.  Diversity is one of the things God likes. 

That means God prefers diverse communities – mixed race communities.  He likes mixed race churches, mixed race schools, I would even go so far as to say that he likes mixed race families.

In Numbers 12, Moses (a Jewish man) marries a black woman. God not only approves of it, but he punishes the people who don’t like it.

God likes diversity.  And that means Christians must be especially enthusiastic supporters of diversity.

But we also have to recognize that the Christian church doesn’t have a lot of credibility on this issue.  

Tragically, Christians (specifically white Christians) have historically been slow to speak and work against racial injustice.

In 1963, MLK was arrested on Good Friday and while he was in the Birmingham jail, eight white pastors criticized him for being unwise and untimely in his methods, calling on him to be more patient in his efforts to promote civil rights.

It was in response to this criticism from white pastors that he wrote that famous letter from jail…  “In the midst of blatant injustices…, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.”

I don’t want anyone to look back on us and say that we were standing on the sidelines in the midst of today’s “mighty struggle” against racial and economic injustice.  

We have work to do. Because today, the Christian church is one of the most segregated institutions in America.   95% of whites attend predominately white churches, and 95% of blacks attend black churches. Churches have not only NOT helped bridge the racial divide in this country, but every single week churches are reinforcing the divide.  That’s not OK.  

Christians  – because of how near this is to God’s heart – should be leading the way, working the hardest to create multi ethnic, mufti race communities.   

But, I have hope.  And I believe we have a shot to pull this off here at Hope College.

The world says Christians have lost credibility in fighting for racial justice.  Let’s show them that with Christ at the center of Hope College, we can do this.  

I believe we have a renewed commitment to enhance racial diversity in our student and employee populations – and to truly make Hope a culture of belonging.

Also, because we are a residential college our students have the opportunity to model what it can look like for a beautiful mosaic of people to live together, eat together, learn together, worship together and play together.  

That’s something very few adult communities have been able to model.  We can do it here.  


It seems to me the starting point should be with ourselves – looking at our own lives first.  I’ve been on my own personal journey recently.  I know that I have my own blind spots and I know that in many ways I am part of the problem.  So I’ve been asking myself “what can I do personally to get better?  And how can I use my influence to advocate for racial justice?” 

We can all ask ourselves the same question.  And I think we can be of great help to each other through example, discussion and encouragement – through belonging, understanding and grace.

As an individual, I’m committed to leaning into my own discomfort, and as we say in the Belonging/Grace/Understanding document, to get past my “usual social patterns”.

The disruption taking place gives us the opportunity to change our status quo, both as individuals and as an institution.  

From an institutional standpoint, as you know, we formed a steering committee over the summer.  We wanted to respond to today’s struggle for racial justice with the same kind of urgency and structure that we deployed in response to the COVID pandemic. 

Vanessa is leading this committee, we have a great group of people serving and they are taking a gospel-centered approach to their work.  I’ve asked them to give us some bold recommendations as to how we can promote racial justice on campus, and they will report back within 6-8 months. 

The possibility of making significant improvements at Hope in this regard excites me.  

The challenge and the opportunity is to live into the full depth and impact of a mature understanding of the Christian ethic.  

When you boil it all down – the teachings of Jesus – come down to a radical devotion to God and a radical love for each other.  That’s what I want our community to embody.


Speaking of boiling things down…  For me this season has been grounding…  It has given me a new appreciation for the simple things – like handshakes – that we once took for granted.

It has put things in perspective, and tragically over the last few months it seems we’ve had too many reminders of how brief life can be. 

Currently our campus community is grieving the loss of our own Dianna Machiela, who passed away last week.  Dianna will be remembered not just as our payroll manager whose quiet, dedication kept us paid on time. She will be more importantly remembered as someone who served our institution and her colleagues with kindness and care.

That’s ultimately what matters.  And when someday they are writing about the history this season, that’s what I want them to say about us.

As we enter our 159th year, I’ve reflected on my own history at Hope.

For me, it marks 23 years since I first experienced fall on this campus.  I came here for the first time in the fall of 1997 for a visit.  I was with my dad. 

Never in my wildest imaginations would I have predicted this job being in my future.  In fact, at that time I thought I would study at the University of Michigan. 

I only remember two things from that visit.  I remember attending one of Joel Toppen’s political science classes – and I remember stepping foot into this building for the first time. 

God stirred something in me that day.  Something that continues to stir in me today.  It’s a fundamental belief in this institution and what we stand for – HOPE.

I never properly thanked my dad for dragging me here that day, but that visit changed my life.  Next month will mark 7 years since he passed away.

My dad was a PhD chemist.  He worked at UpJohn in Portage, which ultimately became Pfizer.  He too was a quiet, dedicated employee.  He showed virtually no career ambition.  He was content to have the same job for decades.  (All the ambition I have came from my mom)  

He was an introvert.  But he was an introvert who loved people.  I’m not sure he really liked people. But he sure LOVED people.

At his funeral visitation, several people showed up who we had never met.  We had no idea my dad even knew these people.  One of them was a gas station attendant at the Shell gas station in Portage.  He introduced himself to my siblings and me.  Said he had seen the obituary in the paper and recognized my dad’s picture.

“How did you know him?” we asked

“Oh your dad used to come to Shell regularly.  Every time he came, he would ask about me.  He remembered my name.  He remembered my kids’ names. And he would ask about them too.”

At the end of the day, that’s what matters.  An institution like ours is nothing really but a collection of people. 

My prayer is that we would be a collection of people characterized by true love for one another. 

This year has, in different ways, been hard for all of us.  You know what the hardest part of this year has been for me?  Missing my parents.  They’ve been gone for several years, but I’ve missed them this year more than ever.  I can’t tell you how many times I would have liked to pick up the phone and call them and say “this is crazy!’

My mom had ambition.  My dad had love.  And that has made me strive – on my best days – to be a person characterized by ambitious love for others. 

And just as my parents influenced me, I’m striving to pay-it-forward and influence as many people as I can. 

Sociologists remind us that even the most introverted people will influence 10,000 others in an average lifetime.  Because hundreds of new students come onto our campus this time every year, we have the opportunity to influence countless more than the average person.  

We have the opportunity to love others, and to let justice roll out of us like a river.  

Here’s the thing: it’s contagious.  Because when you see it in others – like in Dianna or my dad – it changes you. And our students, seeing it in us, will be transformed.

I know these are trying times.  And I know achieving what we aspire to be as an institution will not happen in a smooth easy way.  It will be hard.  But James says:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The world is broken.  We can be a people who change the world by exuding joy, love, belonging, understanding, grace, and HOPE at every possible corner. 

Let’s do this.  Let’s finish the work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Thank you for who are and what you’ve done.  I’ve never worked with a group of people I respect more than all of you.

Sentinel Op-Ed: Committed to Safe In-Person Start

This piece was published in the Holland Sentinel. View the original post HERE.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, educational institutions around the country have wrestled with how best to provide students with the outstanding education that they deserve and assure the safest possible environment. We here at Hope care not only for the campus community but our cherished hometown of Holland. We’re writing to you, neighbor to neighbor, to share some of our thinking and preparation for in-person instruction, including an innovative approach to COVID-19 testing developed by our very own faculty experts, as we approach the start of classes on Aug. 17.

The college has created a comprehensive, three-component testing plan specifically tailored to the Hope community and informed by the expertise of public health officials and our own faculty and staff.

Our goal is to start the academic year with zero cases of COVID-19 on campus. Every student and employee coming to campus is being tested for COVID-19 through a pre-arrival kit sent to their home. They complete it with online supervision, send it to a laboratory and then quarantine at home for two weeks if they test positive.

Second, we will test 1 percent of the students every weekday, in a strategy developed by Dr. Ben Kopek, an associate professor of biology with expertise in virology. The sample size reflects a commitment to conducting successful surveillance while saving enough tests for clinical care of individuals.

Third, we will conduct wastewater testing to determine if the virus is present in specific residential zones on campus. This innovative project is being led by faculty members Dr. Aaron Best, Dr. Brent Krueger and Dr. Mike Pikaart, who have long led water-quality research. If the levels of the virus rise in a particular zone, we will conduct follow-up testing of residents. This will allow us to stay on top of, and mitigate the risk of, a potential outbreak.

While we have confidence in our testing plan, we realize that we’ll likely have cases on our campus this semester. We are prepared to respond, with testing available as soon as any student recognizes symptoms of COVID-19, and with quarantine space available for those who test positive.

We’re also taking many of the sorts of steps that you might expect. For example, we’re promoting physical distancing by spacing desks in all classrooms six feet apart. On campus, we’re all to wear masks, complete a daily screening form, and regularly sanitize our hands and spaces.

But as we look to the future with hope, our prayer is that we see not just the challenges but also the opportunities.

We’re undoubtedly signing up for a harder semester than if we continued the fully remote instruction that we implemented in March, but we see four compelling reasons for prioritizing in-person instruction.

First, our students want to be back! The vast majority (we believe over 90 percent) want to be on campus.

Second, an in-person education, with students living and learning together, is the best education. It’s why Hope has been committed to being a residential liberal arts college for more than 160 years. That said, remote learning isn’t a poor substitute when done the Hope way. We’ve been offering courses online since 1999 and infuse them with the same individual attention and character that we provide in person.

Third, an in-person experience is more equitable. Some students have good learning environments in their homes, while others do not.

Finally, while this may be counterintuitive, bringing students on campus is actually safer and more responsible. Since a large percentage will be living in the region regardless of the teaching modality, it’s better to have them on campus participating in our testing and monitoring.

These are trying times. But as we look to the future with hope, our prayer is that we see not just the challenges but also the opportunities. As an institution of higher education, this is an unparalleled opportunity for teaching moments! It is an opportunity for innovation, as we explore new modalities of teaching and think deeply about the future of learning. Most importantly, it’s an opportunity for growth. As we are shaken out of old ways of thinking, we can look at the world with new eyes, insisting that destruction and disappointment is not all there is. With this mindset, there is no better place to cultivate and spread hope through the world than a college for which true, biblical hope is a foundational identity.

— Matthew A. Scogin, President of Hope College, and Jennifer Fellinger, Chair of the college’s COVID-19 Steering Committee and VP of Public Affairs and Marketing.

Chapel Talk: Finding Hope in Diversity

Below is the recording, as well as the text as prepared, of President Matthew A. Scogin’s talk in Dimnent Chapel, part of his “Finding Hope” series, delivered to a Hope College student audience on January 20, 2020.

Good morning and happy Monday.  Today is not just any Monday; today is Martin Luther King Day.  And, so, our topic this morning is “finding hope in diversity”.

But before we can talk about finding hope, we must acknowledge the underlying assumption here, which is that we have a problem in the area of diversity.  If we didn’t have a problem, we wouldn’t need hope.  The very fact that hope is needed at all, presupposes that there is some sense of desperation, a sense of hopelessness.

And that is certainly the case when it comes to racial relations – in this country, in our communities, on this campus, and in our hearts.  We have a problem.

That must be stated up front, because too many people – whether they say it out loud OR just think it – come into these conversations with an eye roll.  “Why are we still talking about this?”  “It’s the year 2020, isn’t it time to move on?” 

For Christians, that attitude is completely out of bounds.

Christians have to talk about diversity.  It’s something we can never move on from.  Why?

Because God talks about diversity. All the time.  

It’s all throughout the Bible.  God never glosses over racial tensions.  In fact, racial reconciliation is one of the main story arcs of Scripture.  In Genesis 11 (tower of Babel) people are scattered by nation, language, and tribe because of sin.  In Revelation, all tribes, nations and languages are gathered together around the throne of Christ.  

Let me read you a short passage from Revelation 7: 

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

Revelation 7:9-10

I think it is interesting that at the end of history – when all things are redeemed, when God has made all things new – there will still be race.  Race is not going away.  There will still be different tribes, nations, languages. But we’ll be together in perfect unity around Jesus.  

Some people say “why can’t we all be color blind?” 

Well, God’s not color blind!  He sees diversity.  And He likes it.  

All throughout the Bible we see that God has preferences.  There are things He likes and things He doesn’t like.  

Diversity is one of the things God likes.  

That means God prefers diverse communities – mixed race communities.  He likes mixed race churches, mixed race schools, I would even go so far as to say that He likes mixed race families.

In Numbers 12, Moses (a Jewish man) marries a black woman. God not only approves of it, but he punishes the people who don’t like it.

God likes diversity.  And that means Christians must be especially enthusiastic supporters of diversity.

God also gives us the only real motivation for fighting racism.

In fact, without God, human rights can’t really exist at all.

Where did the idea that every human being has certain rights come from?  

Some people claim this is a Western idea. But if you look at the roots of Western thought, which is the ancient Greeks, you have Aristotle saying that some races are born to be slaves.  

Martin Luther King – who we celebrate today – knew that the basis for human rights could only come from one source: God himself.  

The reason human beings are worthy of rights is because we were made in the image of God.  

In one of his sermons called “The American Dream,” he says,

“The whole concept of the imago Dei … ‘the image of God,’ is the idea that all men have… a uniqueness, worth, and dignity. And we must never forget this as a nation: there are no gradations in the image of God. Every man from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard, precisely because every man is made in the image of God.”

Every human is made in the image of God.  

See, when God made you He chose to make you this way.  He had options.  He made you this way because he wanted to.  

There’s a great line in scripture, it’s in Mark 3, when Jesus is choosing his disciples and it says “Jesus called to him those he WANTED…”  

God has options. He chooses what to do, who to make, how to make them. And I want you to know that He chose you.

I heard a story from a pastor recently of a kid who was adopted. The kid was being made fun of by his friends for being adopted. And he finally came up with a good line to shut up those who were making fun of him. He said “you know what? My parents CHOSE me. Yours got stuck with you.”

And so it is with us. God chose you. He hand-crafted you to be this way. Because he wanted to. And that’s our basis – our only basis – for human rights. 

Because if we’re all just “tormented atoms in a bed of mud,” to use Voltaire’s phrase, then who is to say that one race is or is not superior to another?

BUT if we were made in the image of God himself, each of us chosen by him and belonging to him, then any kind of racial discrimination is completely out of bounds.  

So, civil rights can’t exist without the image of God.  

The Christian gospel also gives us the only antidote for fixing racism.

The Bible says racism is a terrible thing, but the secular world tries to fix it by going after the mind.  “We need more education. We have to enlighten people – and scold them – until the racism is gone.” It hasn’t worked, and it won’t work because the problem is in the heart. 

The problem is deeply embedded in all of us – in our hearts.

Nothing can fix our hearts except God.  That means nothing can truly fix racism except God.  

So we look to Jesus for help.

There’s an amazing passage in Ephesians 2 that tells us that one of the main reasons Jesus came and died was to destroy “the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” between races.

He did it by destroying the barrier between us and God.  

Because we’re all estranged from God.  And when – through the gospel – we become reconnected to our Father, it changes us.  It changes our hearts. It changes our identity.    

Because of Jesus, we are connected to the God who created us and that becomes our main identity.  

This redefined identity is what holds us together. We still have our differences – racial differences, cultural differences, professional differences, whatever.  

You’re still Chinese, or French or Hispanic. And you’ll still feel connected to others who share those ethnicities.  

BUT, you’ll have an even stronger connection to those who have had the same kind of transformation you’ve had.  You’ll feel a deep and strong connection to those who have been convicted of sin and received the grace of God.

And that’s what will ultimately bring us together.  

The question is: What are some practical things we can do right now at Hope? Again, we look to Jesus.

One thing Jesus does throughout his life is hang out with people who he culturally shouldn’t associate with. He hangs out with the “others” – sinners, prostitutes, drunkards, tax collectors. He also violates cultural taboos by hanging out with people from different ethnic backgrounds.  

In John 4, he sits down with a Samaritan woman. Jews and Samaritans were enemies. They didn’t associate with each other. But Jesus sits down with her. He talks with her, he listens to her, he treats her with respect, he gets to know her.

Sometimes it’s that simple.  

But most of us don’t do it. One study done a few years ago found that whatever race you are, approximately 90 percent of your friends will be that same race.

That’s NOT OK for Christians.  

We have to do better. Achieving Biblical diversity starts with all of us. We ALL must be willing to make ourselves uncomfortable.  

It’s more comfortable to hang out with people like you. But that’s not what God wants. And that’s not what Jesus did.  

To achieve the kind of community that God wants – that God likes – we will all have to be uncomfortable sometimes – not just those who are in the minority. Get to know someone who is different from you.  Befriend them. Ask questions. Listen to them.  Show them respect.  

Let’s make Hope a community – not one that is color blind – but one that is color brave.  

Have a conversation with someone today who is different from you. Someone you’ve never talked to.  

Don’t be afraid to admit that you are uncomfortable. And let’s be generous in granting grace with each other as we do this.  

Let’s make Hope a place that models true Biblical community. Look at the world around us. Do you think people are getting nicer? The world is getting meaner, ruder, uglier. We have to be different.

The world is getting more diverse. Yes. But at the same time, it is getting more divided.  

This year, 2020, marks the first time in U.S. history when whites are a minority among 18 year-olds and younger.  By the middle of this century, that will be true for the entire population.  

Tragically, as we get more diverse, we get more divided.  

Hope must be different.  Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers.”  At Hope, let’s be people who build bridges to those unlike us.  

I believe God wants to do this at Hope. I believe he is calling us to be a place that models the kind of diversity gathered around the throne of Christ at the end of time.  

When God needs something done on earth, what does he do? He uses people. 

God needed a leader of the Civil Rights movement and he CHOSE Martin Luther King.

And I believe that God is choosing Hope College – choosing us – to be a place where he moves and shows his power and shows his glory.  One way that will happen will be by us being a place that is perfectly unified in our diversity.  

Ultimately, that’s how we can give the world evidence that God is real.  

We have the opportunity for the world to see God’s power at work here at Hope.  

It starts with us – being people who are willing to make ourselves uncomfortable to build bridges, to be peace makers.  

Go in peace.

Share your #GratitudeAndHope!

Dear Friends,

November is here — and the Thanksgiving season is upon us. We are so thankful for the way Hope College has transformed our lives, and we are especially thankful for all you do to support Hope!

This month, we invite you to share your gratitude. Tell us about the person, program or experience at Hope College for which you are most thankful.

You can participate in one of two ways (or both):

  • Post your gratitude publicly, along with the hashtag #GratitudeAndHope, on Instagram or Twitter. Remember that if your account is set to “private,” we won’t be able to see the post, even if you use the hashtag.

Your message can be short and sweet — just be sure to describe what made that person, program or experience so special and how they made an impact.

We can’t wait to hear how you have been transformed by Hope! During the month of November, we will share some of our favorite submissions via Instagram and Twitter.

Thank you for all you do to represent Hope College throughout the world.

Spera in Deo,
Matt ’02 and Sarah ’02 Scogin
President and First Lady, Hope College

Inaguration Address of President Matthew A. Scogin

Below is the full text of President Matthew A. Scogin’s Inauguration, as prepared.


Thank you, Bob, for that very kind introduction.  As Bob said, we have known each other for more than 15 years.  I cannot imagine a better friend or mentor … so it’s hard to capture how grateful I am that he is here today.   

I have to admit … I am feeling overcome with emotion right now… 

This whole thing feels like part graduation ceremony, part wedding and part funeral!  I just hope I come across as the groom or at least the graduate and not the … well, you get the idea.   

This room is full of people I love, respect and admire … people who supported me along my journey to and from Hope – and now back again.  

My high school social studies teacher, Marshall Rutz, and my former advisor at Hope, Jack Holmes, are here.  Both invested countless hours in me – inside and outside the classroom.

Some great leaders of Hope are also here – Dr. James Bultman our 11th president and Dr. Dennis Voskuil our 13th.  I have known and admired Dr. Bultman for many years.  And while I only met Dr. Voskuil two years ago, he quickly made my personal “hall of fame”.

Dr. John Knapp, our 12th president, is traveling overseas and couldn’t join us today.  But I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for asking me to join Hope’s Board of Trustees a few years ago – giving me the opportunity to serve this school we all love.

It is also an incredible honor that, at 99 years old, our 9th president, Dr. Gordon Van Wylen is here this afternoon.  Dr. Van Wylen, your legacy lives on in very real ways here at Hope, and it will be a privilege for me to help carry forward the work that you began here nearly five decades ago.

To the search committee, chaired by Suzanne Shier, and to the board of trustees, chaired by Karl Droppers – thank you for the trust you have placed in me.  I will work to justify that trust every day.

And thanks especially to all of you in the broader Hope community.  When I was named Hope’s 14th president, I wasn’t sure how the announcement would be received.  I was 39 … working in New York … with limited academic experience. But in true Hope tradition, you embraced me and welcomed me back.  I feel deeply grateful and highly privileged to serve this institution alongside you.    

And if anyone is still concerned about a 39-year-old president, I have one important announcement: two weeks ago I turned 40! 

I also want to recognize my family, starting with my siblings Sam, Alice and Tim.  Thank you for being here. My in-laws join us from Colorado, which means so much to me.  

Of course, my three children – Oliver, Lucy and Sophie – and my amazing wife, Sarah.  Thank you for your willingness to embark on this crazy adventure together.

Finally, I want to mention my parents.  My dad passed away six years ago; my mom three years ago.  

Unbeknownst to me, my preparation for this job began decades ago with them.  They exuded a passion for learning in the pursuit of wisdom and truth – a passion I carry as I return to Hope.

My dad was a PhD chemist, who worked at a pharmaceutical company in Portage his entire career.  My mom started her career as a middle school science teacher and later taught adult education and high school equivalency.  

My dad, who never raised his voice – at least in my presence – taught me the importance of kindness and staying calm in all circumstances.  My mom taught me how to channel my ambition, always telling me … “If you see something you don’t like in this world, go out and do what you can to make it better.”  That’s a message of hope I’ve always tried to embody.    

I miss them and wish they were here.  They would have loved this. Partly because, after 17 years on the East Coast, I am finally home.


You see … for me … this is home.

Twenty-one years ago, my parents dropped me at Scott Hall for freshman year.  I remember my mom … sitting in our blue minivan … tears streaming down her face as they drove off … heartbroken that I was leaving the nest – even though the nest was only an hour’s drive away.

In this very room, I first caught a glimpse of a girl who stopped my heart and made me so nervous it took me three years to work up the courage to ask her out.  That incredible girl has been my wife for nearly 17 years.

In the halls that surround us, I met professors who stretched my mind … taught me to think … gave me a passion for learning … and most importantly cared about who I was and who I would become.

And though I had been a Christian my whole life, on this campus, God became a someone, not a something.  

I met my wife here.  I met people who changed my life here.  And I met God here.

The simple truth is, my life was transformed by Hope.  Yes, by Hope College. But even more so, by the “living hope” this institution pointed me to.

This was no accident.  The idea of sparking this transformation in young people was the original intent of the visionaries who started this institution more than 153 years ago.  

A courageous group of immigrants from the Netherlands, led by Albertus Van Raalte, settled here.  They had a zeal for God and a belief that Western Michigan – then standing on America’s frontier – was the best place to spread God’s hope to the world.  

They believed the culture and values of the frontier would shape the culture and values of this country.  So they settled here, intending to help shape America.

But their dream was even bigger than that.  

They believed this strategic spot, hard by the waters of Lake Michigan, offered a transportation network to reach the world.

All of this was inspired by their fundamental belief that advancing God’s kingdom in this life demanded more than zeal and passion – it required education.  So they started a small school with a big ambition – to transform the world through hope.  

Philip Phelps was our first president – a 39-year-old from New York who was 40 at the time of his inauguration.  Hmm … sounds familiar!

Early on, there was some tension over the school’s mission.  Some believed Hope’s purpose should be limited to training future missionaries and ministers.  Others wanted Hope to be a broader liberal arts institution like traditional eastern schools.  

Phelps had a different plan:  He wanted to do BOTH – offer world-class academics AND a vibrant faith environment.  This was a new idea at the time. Yet Phelps believed this dual mission was the key to fulfilling Hope’s founding vision to transform the world.  

A few decades after Hope was founded, work started on this chapel.  When it was finished, it held 1,500 people – at a time when Hope’s student population was less than 400!

Like I said … our founders had big ambitions!

The rose window in the back of this room – designed by President Dimnent – showcases the seals of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of Michigan, Rutgers and Leiden University in the Netherlands.

These schools were seen as aspirational academic peers of Hope College.  

So, someone better warn Leiden University that we’re coming!  Because we are coming.  

This is a season of homecoming for me – and I can’t help but feel it is also a season of homecoming for Hope College.  A time to rededicate ourselves to that early vision.

Somewhere along the line, we have lost a little of the grand ambition that inspired our founders.  After all, we weren’t founded to transform Ottawa County or compete with a school in Grand Rapids. We were founded to compete at the highest levels academically and transform the world with God’s hope.


Today, I see Hope College with new hope.  

I know that recent years have not been easy.  You’ve lived it and don’t need me to tell you.  

At times our campus has felt divided – in a way that mirrors the division in our country.  

We also feel pressure from the external challenges facing higher education and liberal arts colleges in particular.  

I see all of that – and yet I also see God preparing our institution to do something new.  

I’m inspired by that passage just read from Isaiah 43:

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? 
I am making a way in the wilderness
 and streams in the wasteland

This points to an interesting paradox with God.  He describes himself as a God who never changes – He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  And yet, He is also a God who does new things.  

The Bible begins in Genesis 1 with God creating the earth.  For a God who has always existed, that was a new thing.  Creation was a new thing.  Humans were a new thing.  

And then, remarkably, in Genesis 6 – just a few pages into the Bible – God says, let’s do something new again!  And he destroys the world with a flood and starts over. 

A few thousand years later, Jesus comes and brings another new thing – a new message, a new covenant.  

At the end of time, the Bible says Jesus will come back, and when he does, he will make ALL things new.

God is one who never changes … and yet also a God who does new things.

I don’t know about you, but I feel God moving here now … doing a new thing at Hope College.  

To be clear, I’m NOT the new thing.  It’s not about me.

I would even submit that it’s not about our institution.  It’s about God using us to impact the world – drawing us back to the vision that filled our founders with such fervor – the idea that the world could be transformed by Hope.

I believe if our founders could see where Hope stands today, they would be overcome with envy.  

Today, we are a school that belongs on the world stage.   

  • We are ranked by US News as 23rd in the nation for undergraduate research, tied with Cornell and Swarthmore.
  • We were the first private liberal arts college – and remain one of the few – to have accredited programs in all four areas of fine arts: music, art, dance and theater.
  • We have championship level athletics in 22 sports, and we are consistently recognized by the NCAA for having student-athletes who excel academically.
  • We have pivoted beautifully from a denominational school to a fully ecumenical Christian school.  At a time when churches and denominations around the world are dividing, Hope is a place that brings all Christians together … a place where Greek Orthodox, Catholics and all protestant traditions can come together and say, ‘We may disagree on some things but we share a handful of big convictions that unite us.’ 

I can’t think of a better position from which to transform the world.

As we look to the future, we are fortunate to inherit the hard work, vision, and determination of brave leaders who got us here.  Names like Phelps, Dimnent, Van Wylen, and Bultman.

We honor them best and remain true to their ambition by seizing the new opportunities before us.  

I see three major areas where Hope College can chart a course of leadership our founders envisioned.  The three areas are: the future of learning; the future of work; and the future business model of higher education.  

In my early weeks as president, I have spent a lot of time listening – hearing from faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors, parents, community members.  These sessions will continue, but early conversations have already informed my thoughts in all three areas. 


First, how can Hope shape the future of learning?  

Let’s start with the fact that despite the sweeping changes to society brought about by the Information Age, the format and delivery of a college education has changed little since the Industrial Revolution.  

Consider the landscape:  Technology is transforming the way many people learn.  Thanks to online learning, a student in Madagascar can be taught by the world’s top scholars without leaving home.  With such powerful tools at their fingertips, today’s students see college as a springboard to lifetime learning, not the completion of their education.   

Hope will always be a residential liberal arts college.  That will never change. But perhaps there are areas where we can consider doing “a new thing”.  

Our focus on the future of learning starts with a vigorous defense of the value of the liberal arts.  There is strong research supporting us. 

In a recent study, Harvard economist David Deming found strong growth in jobs that require both social skills and STEM skills – whereas STEM-only occupations are declining as a share of our labor force.[1] 

While the pendulum of higher education seems to be shifting toward vocational training, we at Hope believe college is about more than grooming young people for work.

Of course, Hope does a great job preparing students for fulfilling careers.  But a liberal arts degree also instills a passion for learning … the chance to experience the unexpected … the opportunity to make sense of one’s place in the world.  

There isn’t a better preparation for a job – or for life.  This is where Hope – with our unique mission – can excel.  


In fact – through the work of the Boerigter Center for Calling and Career – Hope can become a bridge between the study of liberal arts and the rapidly changing workplace that is defining the future of work.

“Rapidly changing” barely does justice to current dynamics.

Over the next five years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up to one-third of our workforce will transfer not just to a new job, but to a new occupation.  A 2016 study by two Oxford economists estimates that nearly half of U.S. jobs are at risk of being automated within two decades.[2]

Automation is impacting not only factory workers, but highly educated professionals.  I’ve seen this first-hand. The New York Stock Exchange, where I worked for six years, once housed thousands of stock traders on the trading floor. Now, as a result of electronic trading, there are only a few hundred.

While some look at our “new economy” and see only the need for more technical training, I believe the skills produced by a Hope College liberal arts degree will become even MORE relevant.  

In my view, the rise of automation means the most successful leaders of the future will be those who are especially human.  As more jobs are automated, employers will more highly value people who bring curiosity, creativity, wit and warmth to the workplace … people who can work across cultures, make a human connection, and live by a strong moral compass.

Who better to meet this rising need than Hope College?


Finally, I see Hope College as uniquely positioned to impact the future business model of higher education.  

The whole world is asking why college has gotten so expensive.  What if Hope could take the lead in solving that puzzle?

Doing so requires asking some existential questions … like why does a college exist in the first place?  

Some institutions – if they are honest with themselves – would have to admit they exist solely to support professional researchers.  Their idea is simple: wouldn’t it be nice if all the thinkers in society were able to come together and just think all day, rather than having to, say, work at a bank with only a few precious hours to think in the evening.

That’s one model.  And it’s a brilliant idea. All of society benefits from it.  

But the question is, how do you pay for it?  

So, institutions invite students to spend a few years rubbing shoulders with great thinkers – for a fee.  

It’s been this way from the very beginning – since Aristotle supported himself by tutoring students on the side.  

That’s how the whole project keeps moving forward. But what happens when the tuition students – and parents – are willing and able to pay doesn’t cover expenses?  Then it’s not so simple.

Hope College has a different model.  

Hope exists for professors AND students.  Hope convenes bright minds who not only want to think and pursue truth, knowledge and beauty, but who love teaching and care about their students. 

That’s not to say we don’t love research.  We do and we’re good at it. Professors here do world-changing research – but through our collaborative model, that research includes students as the first priority, not as an after-thought.

For us, what it comes down to, is this… if our academic model is different, shouldn’t our business model also be different?  

Our academic model centers on bringing together the best scholars with the most vibrant, talented, diverse group of students we can assemble.  

And don’t forget, dating back to the founding of our institution, we’re about more than just excellent academics.  

At a fundamental level, what we provide here is a transformational experience.  A world-class, liberal arts education is part of that. It also includes faith formation, as well as enabling students to discover their calling – their life purpose – and the chance to wrestle with the biggest, most important questions of all – like Is there a God? and Why am I here? 

Those pieces together are what transformed my life.  And the ability to pay for this transformative experience should not be a barrier.  

That’s why Hope will be committing an additional $1 million toward new scholarships for the next academic year.  This marks the biggest-ever increase in our scholarship offering.


But longer term, we need to do much more to close the gap.  The most direct way to accomplish this is through fundraising.  And that’s an area where I am excited to get to work – using all the passion, commitment and energy Hope College instilled in me.

Let me warn you.. my ultimate goal for us is big.  

My objective is to raise enough scholarship money in our endowment so that one-day Hope College would not need to charge students tuition at all.  

My dream is a Hope College that can fully fund tuition for all of our students.

This is a big ambition.  So large that it probably sounds crazy and unachievable.  

Yet, to paraphrase President Kennedy when he charged our nation with the seemingly crazy and unachievable mission of going to the moon, we choose this ambition.  We choose this, not because it is easy; we choose this because it is hard.  

We accept this challenge because we believe so deeply in the transformative experience that Hope College offers.  The opportunity to be transformed by Hope should not be dependent on a family’s net worth or what zip code a student grows up in.

Being transformed by Hope should not come with a price tag.

To me this is personal…  My own life was forever transformed by this institution.  I grew up in a modest middle-class family. I wouldn’t have been able to afford Hope College without scholarship support.  And even with scholarships, I still graduated with significant student loan debt. Keep in mind, this was two decades ago, when the price of tuition was less than half what it is today.

We are taking a hard look at ways we can rethink our cost structure.  But organizations do not shrink on the way to greatness. Our path toward greatness involves growing, growing our scholarship support. 

So I am asking us to channel the pioneer spirit that inspired our immigrant founders, who believed this institution could change the world… I’m asking us to re-ignite that passion and be a place that chooses to be a leader, a place that chooses to climb the highest mountain, a place that chooses to take on one of the most significant challenges facing society today: access and affordability of higher education.

Ultimately we accept this challenge, not just because we believe in what Hope College can do.  We accept this challenge because we have faith in a big God.  

If Hope is a God-centered school, we ought to have God-sized ambitions for ourselves.  And we do.


The areas I have highlighted today – the future of learning, the future of work, the future business model of higher education – may sound daunting.  But while other institutions perceive them as a threat, we can see them as opportunities.  

Challenges from the outside are inherently disruptive. That’s why they are scary to those who are already at the top, but exciting to those who are poised to climb higher. 

When Israel’s leading generals saw Goliath, they saw their worst nightmare. But when David saw Goliath, he saw his biggest chance. The same thing that struck the Israelite army with fear is what filled David with hope. 

And so it should be with us. Remember, our name is HOPE.  Who better to take on seemingly hopeless challenges than us? Especially when, as with David, our hope comes from the only reliable source.

The world places its hope in circumstance … things like personal health, family, success, high position in society.  

Those are nice things.  But as you know, and as our students will discover, life is full of hardship.  What is hardship but a stripping of those things? And when you lose the circumstances in which you place your hope, you risk becoming cynical, disillusioned, hopeless.  

The Apostle Peter says that we have, in Christ, a “living hope”… a hope that doesn’t die … a hope that doesn’t depend on circumstances.

That’s why David could look directly into the eyes of the most daunting challenge his nation faced and say “today, the Lord will deliver you into my hands.”

How did he summon the will to say that – or the faith to believe it?  

Faced with an insurmountable task, David had supernatural hope.  Realizing the battle was not his but God’s, he said “this very day…  the whole world will see that there is an extraordinary God.”

THAT is the power of hope – a living hope that comes from only one place.  

It is the hope we aspire to instill at Hope College.  

It is the hope that inspired our founding.    

It is the hope that defines our purpose.  

And it is the hope that carries us forward today.  

So, with God’s words guiding us – “see I am doing a new thing” – we look to the future with confidence in Hope’s mission … its people … and its ability to transform the world.  

Thank you.


1 Deming, David, “The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, November 2017

2 Frey, Carl and Michael Osborne, “The future of employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerization?” Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Employment, Sept 2016

Inauguration Day details for Faculty and Staff – Friday, September 13

Thank you so much for being a part of the Presidential Inauguration celebration. We know that some aspects of inauguration day can disrupt routines (parking lot closures, anyone?!), which is why we are especially grateful for your patience and your collaborative, celebratory spirit. This is a special day in the history of the college, and, as one faculty member recently said to us, “What a great day it will be!” 

Here are a few final reminders for faculty before Friday’s ceremony and celebration:

  • Parking: We will have hundreds of guests on campus Friday, and we hope to make their parking experience positive. (To better manage parking challenges and traffic flow, we will be offering guests valet parking.) Please extend Hope hospitality to our guests by:
    • Parking in a faculty lot or on the street on the east side of campus — far from Dimnent Memorial Chapel — to enable our guests, especially those with disabilities, to park closer. 
    • Avoiding the Western Theological Seminary parking lot south of the chapel. This lot will be reserved for accessible parking.
    • Avoiding: Lots #10 (south of Schaap Science Center) and #12 (off 10th Street, next to the VanRaalte Institute / across from the Haworth Engineering Center); Lot #20 (Admissions); Lot #22 (off 9th Street, behind the Anderson-Werkman Building); and Lot #42 (south of Kruizenga Art Museum, off Columbia Avenue). These lots will be reserved for guests’ vehicles.
  • Classes: Classes will be dismissed at 2 p.m. on Friday so that all students and faculty may attend the ceremony. If your office is closed, you’re welcome to add this sign to your door. 
  • Employees invited: All Hope employees are invited to attend the ceremony! An office may close if all of the staff members in the office plan to attend the inauguration and post-ceremony celebration. Attached please find a sign you can print out and hang on your door, if desired.
  • Installation Ceremony: The ceremony begins at 2:30 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.
    • For faculty and staff not in the processional: All faculty and staff are invited to attend the ceremony, even if they are not participating in the processional. The ceremony is open to the public, and no tickets are needed. There will be a reserved section in Dimnent Memorial Chapel for employees; please plan to arrive early, as the unused space in this section will be released 15 minutes prior to the start of the ceremony. For those faculty who are not able to be present at Dimnent Memorial Chapel, the inauguration ceremony will be streamed online at hope.edu/live and will be broadcast live in the Concert Hall of the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts. There also will be a live broadcast for students in the Bultman Student Center Great Room.
    • For faculty in the processional
      • 2:00 p.m.: Faculty (in regalia) gather on 12th Street, between Dimnent Memorial Chapel and Western Theological Seminary. In case of inclement weather, line-up will take place in Dimnent B11.
      • 2:20 p.m: Prepare to process.
      • 2:30 p.m.: Processional begins promptly at 2:30 p.m. Faculty will follow the international flag-bearers and will be seated in reserved pews at the front of the chapel. 
      • Recessional: Faculty recess following the ceremony. Faculty marshals will dismiss faculty, starting with the front rows on both sides of the aisle, once the platform party has recessed. 
  • Post-Ceremony Reception: Following the installation ceremony, there will be a public reception with President Scogin and his family. All are invited to join the celebration, taking place at the Haworth Inn and Conference Center from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Social media: If you are a social media user, feel free to celebrate online by posting inauguration-related messages, using the hashtag #transformedbyhope.
  • Events through Saturday: There are many other events this week, including a Celebration of the Arts on Thursday night and Community Day all-day Saturday, featuring a picnic, football and soccer games, and fireworks.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at inauguration@hope.edu.

As always, thank you for everything you do for Hope College — and thank you for your cooperation. What a great day it will be!

Spera in Deo —

Mary Remenschneider, Office of the President
Jennifer Fellinger, Public Affairs and Marketing
Co-chairs, Presidential Inauguration Committee

Be a part of the Presidential Inauguration celebration!

We hope you have marked your calendar for the Presidential Inauguration, which will take place Friday, September 13, 2:30 pm., in Dimnent Memorial Chapel. A lot of planning goes into an inauguration celebration, and we are grateful to those of you who have been involved in the preparations over the last few months — thank you!

In advance of the inauguration, please: 

  • Register for the faculty processional: Full-time faculty are invited to participate in the processional in full academic regalia. If you plan to participate in the processional, you must register online by Friday, September 6. 
  • Remember that classes after 2 p.m. are cancelled: Classes will be dismissed at 2 p.m. on September 13 so that all students and faculty may attend the ceremony.
  • Plan to attend (or watch!): While classes are cancelled on the afternoon of inauguration, the college will not close. However, Hope employees are invited to attend the ceremony, and an office may close if all of the staff members in the office plan to attend the inauguration and post-ceremony celebration. 
    • The ceremony is open to the public, and no tickets are needed. There will be a reserved section in Dimnent Memorial Chapel for employees not participating in the processional; please plan to arrive early, as the unused space in this section will be released 15 minutes prior to the start of the ceremony.
    • For those employees who are not able to be present at Dimnent Memorial Chapel, the inauguration ceremony will be streamed online at hope.edu/live and will be broadcast live in the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts Auditorium. There also will be a live broadcast for students in the Bultman Student Center Great Room.
  • Celebrate with us!: Following the ceremony, we are hosting a Celebration with President Scogin and his family. This event is open to the public and everyone is invited to be part of the fun. The event will take place at the Haworth Inn and Conference Center.

There are many other events taking place during Inauguration Week, including: a concert by Young Oceans on Sept. 11; a Celebration of the Arts on Sept. 12, featuring all four of Hope’s arts departments; and Community Day on Sept. 14, complete with a picnic, football and soccer games, and… fireworks! Please check out the schedule and be a part of this very special weeklong celebration honoring Hope’s 14th president, Matthew A. Scogin!

Thank you for all you have done to welcome President Scogin and his family to Hope College. We look forward to seeing at the inauguration events!