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Hope College October 2012 : Page 18

Alumni Profile This It’s Personal a surprise if I didn’t say that. After all, I’ve worked at Hope since 1988. The cause-and-effect, though, runs the other way. I joined the staff because I had a terrific experience as a student and found that Hope really did live out, in large ways and small, all the things that it said it was. To have seen it continue to be true and to watch Hope make a difference to thousands of students across about a generation has been a joy. It’s all been there: outstanding faculty and staff who care about the students and take a real interest in them as individuals, strong academics that connect with students in so many ways, an ecumenical Christian character concerned with engaging with the world, co-curricular activities that themselves change lives, and friendships that last a lifetime. This fall, our first child has the opportunity, and so we find ourselves parking our sedan on 13th Street during Move-In Day, Friday, Aug. 24, a riot of crates, tubs and boxes filled with everything we could think to include based on our collective best effort as a family to equip David for the coming year. We are immediately greeted by a team of students, volunteers all, whose sole purpose is to empty our vehicle and whisk its contents to David’s room. By the time we arrive on campus in the late morning they’ve already been at it for 1.5 hours with many more to go, and it’s warm and humid, and yet they’re cheerful and welcoming, and make short work of a task that would have taken us multiple trips. Plus, they know where in the building the room is. The upperclassmen are a good indication of what we will encounter the entire weekend: a personal touch and a genuine desire to help make Orientation Weekend a good experience for the new students and their families alike. We also see it just a few minutes later when we reach the room and find the door bedecked with multiple notes of welcome. As we’re helping David settle in across the afternoon, several members of the residence life staff, and others from the college, visit room-to-room to introduce themselves and ask if any of us have questions or need any help. We’d already met David’s roommate, Jordan, during the summer when the two of them made a point of getting together after exchanging e-mails a few times. Today we enjoy meeting his family as well. A couple years ago, mercifully, the college eliminated the construction of home-made lofts in favor of “loftable” bed frames provided as standard equipment. Our experience is thus definitely easier than that of the generations who often came to campus equipped with trailer loads of lumber and occasionally power tools, but even the pre-fab components require Time, By Greg Olgers ’87 C an it really be time for our son, David, to be starting college? Who said that these 18 years could pass so quickly? From first words and first steps to this new step into adulthood and building a life of his own, it’s all happened way too soon. Although we’re still adjusting to that particular shock, his mother (Kathy Hogenboom ’85 Olgers) and I are thrilled with his college choice. Now, it’d probably be Settling in included working with David’s roommate Jordan Hill and his family to figure out how to loft the beds provided by the college, to provide a bit more space. Although the process managed to present challenges of its own, generations of parents will recognize that it was still a far sight easier than starting from scratch. From left to right are Jordan Hill, David Olgers, Jordan’s father Tim Hill and Greg Olgers ’87. 18 News News From From Hope Hope College College

This Time It's Personal

Greg Olgers

<br /> Can it really be time for our son, David, to be starting college? Who said that these 18 years could pass so quickly? From first words and first steps to this new step into adulthood and building a life of his own, it’s all happened way too soon.<br /> <br /> Although we’re still adjusting to that particular shock, his mother (Kathy Hogenboom ’85 Olgers) and I are thrilled with his college choice. Now, it’d probably be a surprise if I didn’t say that. After all, I’ve worked at Hope since 1988. The cause-and-effect, though, runs the other way. I joined the staff because I had a terrific experience as a student and found that Hope really did live out, in large ways and small, all the things that it said it was.<br /> <br /> To have seen it continue to be true and to watch Hope make a difference to thousands of students across about a generation has been a joy. It’s all been there: outstanding faculty and staff who care about the students and take a real interest in them as individuals, strong academics that connect with students in so many ways, an ecumenical Christian character concerned with engaging with the world, cocurricular activities that themselves change lives, and friendships that last a lifetime.<br /> <br /> This fall, our first child has the opportunity, and so we find ourselves parking our sedan on 13th Street during Move-In Day, Friday, Aug. 24, a riot of crates, tubs and boxes filled with everything we could think to include based on our collective best effort as a family to equip David for the coming year.<br /> <br /> We are immediately greeted by a team of students, volunteers all, whose sole purpose is to empty our vehicle and whisk its contents to David’s room. By the time we arrive on campus in the late morning they’ve already been at it for 1.5 hours with many more to go, and it’s warm and humid, and yet they’re cheerful and welcoming, and make short work of a task that would have taken us multiple trips. Plus, they know where in the building the room is.<br /> <br /> The upperclassmen are a good indication of what we will encounter the entire weekend: a personal touch and a genuine desire to help make Orientation Weekend a good experience for the new students and their families alike. We also see it just a few minutes later when we reach the room and find the door bedecked with multiple notes of welcome. As we’re helping David settle in across the afternoon, several members of the residence life staff, and others from the college, visit room-to-room to introduce themselves and ask if any of us have questions or need any help.<br /> <br /> We’d already met David’s roommate, Jordan, during the summer when the two of them made a point of getting together after exchanging e-mails a few times. Today we enjoy meeting his family as well.<br /> <br /> A couple years ago, mercifully, the college eliminated the construction of home-made lofts in favor of “loftable” bed frames provided as standard equipment. Our experience is thus definitely easier than that of the generations who often came to campus equipped with trailer loads of lumber and occasionally power tools, but even the pre-fab components require a bit of fiddling. We work well together in common cause, though, and ultimately get the room’s furnishings arranged to our sons’ taste. Actually, I think it’s a nice chance to bond a bit.<br /> <br /> The students’ Orientation activities begin Friday evening and run through Monday, with the activities for families spanning Friday through shortly after the Opening Convocation Sunday afternoon. Kathy and I considered skipping many of the family events, particularly the structured presentations, since we like to think that we know the college pretty well. Repeatedly, though, colleagues whose children had attended Hope encouraged us to go, noting that we’d find the experience both informative and affirming.<br /> <br /> I’m glad that we listened. Across the weekend, we’re impressed and reassured by the heart and caliber of the people making the presentations, on topics ranging from the Center for Writing and Research, to “Now that I Am the Parent of a Hope Student,” to Campus Ministries, to the Phelps Scholars Program in which David is participating (the parents even get to attend as our students have their introductory class session Saturday afternoon). Certainly I know from working with them these many years that the people at Hope care deeply about what they do and are outstanding as they do it, but (and this sounds like an action-movie tag line) this time, it’s personal.<br /> <br /> Oh, my, is it personal.<br /> I realize t hat t he change for our family is much gentler than for many. Aft er all, I can even see David’s residence hall fr om my office window.<br /> <br /> This transition, though, isn’t really about geography. President James Bultman ’63 says it during the opening session in Dimnent Memorial Chapel on Saturday, and there are more than a few tears in the audience as we hear expressed what I suspect most of us have been handling individually so far, especially as we’ve focused on being excited for our children and helping them with their adjustment. Recalling his own experience as a college parent, he notes, “This is a change in our lives. We’re sending off our most prized possession to the care of another person.” Parents’ Council chairs Keith and Tracy Kreb make the same point during their remarks: “After 18 years, the process of letting go isn’t easy.”<br /> <br /> Of course, we don’t own our children. It’s more that we’re granted the privilege of borrowing them for a while, and our part of the bargain includes doing our best to prepare these precious, remarkable, developing humans to leave even as they become the most important part of our lives. The relationship remains at that point, but the roles change, and their decisions become ever more their own.<br /> <br /> If I could have a selfish wish, it would be to stop the clock or even turn it back and keep hanging on, but, since I don’t get that one, my hope as David grows into independence is that the connections that he makes in his life will be good for him as he continues to become. Clearly we’ll still be there for him, always, but increasingly he will find his path shaped by experiences outside of our involvement.<br /> <br /> College is a part of that process, from search and selection through all the learning and growth that take place across the years which follow. While we can guide and advise, the choice and how they live into it is ultimately each student’s, and we can only hope that they choose a place that will be a light for them that will itself prepare them well for the stages to come. I can think of no place I’d rather see David spend his undergraduate years than Hope, where the emphasis is on educating the whole person and the community is supportive. As Orientation co-director and Hope senior Ellen Milroy said during her remarks to us on Saturday, “Your child will be loved and cared for by the people of Hope College.”<br /> <br /> It doesn’t eliminate the sting of having David absent from our daily lives, but it helps. I’m also grateful that he’s enthused about this next stage in his life. That’s as it should be, and it also helps.<br /> <br /> Knowing that I’d be writing this story, he takes time to send me a note after his first day of class: “I really like being here. All of the people here are really nice and I think it’s a really great environment to be in. I’m excited that classes started, and think it’ll be a good year.”

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