From the President: Matthew A. Scogin ʼ02

Dear Friends and Family of Hope College,

Why does Hope College exist? It may sound like an obvious question, but it is one worth revisiting from time to time.

From the college’s inception, our founders believed this institution was called by God to be a beacon of HOPE for the world.

Starting a tiny new college during the Civil War — a tumultuous time of division and despair — with the intention of bringing global hope was an audacious goal. Yet Hope’s history has been full of audacious goals. When Hope was founded, fewer than 1% of 18-24-year-olds in the U.S. went to college. This made starting a tertiary school quite a risky endeavor. But our founders believed that bringing hope to the world required more than just passion: It required education. They also believed that education should be available to all. Thus, Hope College didn’t charge tuition for the first five decades of our existence, and in 1878 we boldly admitted women when less than 10% of U.S. colleges did so.

Maybe that’s why it didn’t seem totally absurd when Philip Phelps, our first president, proposed a grand idea: Let’s build a floating campus — a ship that will allow us to physically bring hope to the earth.

The project began with great fanfare. A “laying of the keel” ceremony marked the start of construction. However, when the college hit a financial crisis a few years later, the work was put on hold and the boat remained unfinished.

Enter Samuel Zwemer, an 1887 Hope graduate who dedicated his career to ministry work in the Middle East. Today, several hospitals, schools and churches in Bahrain can trace their origins to his efforts. Zwemer returned to campus later in his career and delivered a talk about Phelps’ boat concept. His address was titled “The Ship that Sailed and the Keel that Never Kissed the Sea.”

In that poignant talk, Zwemer affirmed the vision of a ship. Yet, in his view it wasn’t meant to be just one ship. Rather, it was the collective fleet of our graduating students — who are themselves the vessels that sail forth, carrying hope to the world. “The ships that sailed from Hope College after the keel had decayed are still leaving the port every year,” he declared.

On May 5, for the 159th time in the college’s history, we will say farewell to the graduating class of 2024 and send out 684 “ships” into the world. As always with partings, it is bittersweet for those of us who have spent four years with these remarkable students.

But of course, all this is as it should be. Our students were here for a season and now they are poised to embark on their next journey. We eagerly anticipate what lies ahead – their impact and contributions as they carry hope into the world.

And make no mistake, today’s world is desperately in need of hope — true hope, God’s living hope.

That’s why Hope College exists — to bring hope to the world! We do it by preparing our students to go out into the world as hope-bringers.

Spera in Deo!
Matthew A. Scogin ʼ02