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Hope College reaffirms Knapp as university's president

By Erin Ditzer/The Holland Sentinel • Updated May 6, 2016 at 8:30 PM

HOLLAND — The Hope College Board of Trustees adjourned its spring meetings Friday by reaffirming President John Knapp as the college's leader.

"The Board of Trustees reaffirms its commitment to support President John Knapp as leader of Hope College," said Vice President for Public Affairs and Marketing Jennifer Fellinger in a May 6 email to campus. "The board and the president are strongly united in the mission of building a better Hope. Together, they will continue meeting challenges collaboratively and championing the college’s strategic plan, Hope for the World: 2025. The board remains wholeheartedly and unanimously supportive of the vision and goals laid out in the strategic plan."

The decision comes after anxiety over Knapp's future was stirred up on campus after Knapp asked Provost Richard Ray to step down on April 11, and leaked emails from Board Chairwoman Mary Bauman showed that the board's executive committee was considering a resolution to fire Knapp over "serious concerns."

Students, alumni and faculty held a silent demonstration in support of Knapp on April 15 in the college's pine grove and created a support website.

The committee's concerns were not shared with the greater community. However, Fellinger said the board and Knapp are now "moving forward in a spirit of unity, working toward clarification of mutual expectations."

"Communication between board leadership and the president has been restored, and President Knapp and the trustees are looking forward to better processes and more fluent communications," Fellinger said.

Board leadership also had some changes at the meeting. Bauman stepped down as chairwoman at the end of the May meetings, though she remains on the board. Karl Droppers, a 1982 graduate of Hope and a third-generation alumnus, will step into the role of chairman immediately. Mark Van Genderen, a 1990 Hope graduate, remains in his position as vice chairman. Nancy Dirkse De Witt, a 1981 Hope graduate, has been elected board secretary and will assume her role July 1.

"Called by their Christian faith, the trustees and the president are forging a path forward with leadership based on grace and trust," Fellinger said. "They remain dedicated to serving Hope College and distinguishing Hope as a premier liberal arts college and a leader in Christ-centered higher education."

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