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Former Hope College president dies of COVID-19

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Posted at 8:38 PM, Nov 05, 2020

HOLLAND, Mich. — A former president of Hope College has died of COVID-19, college officials announced Thursday.

Gordon Van Wylen of Holland served as president from 1972 until retiring in 1987.

He was 100 years old when he died Thursday.

Members of the Hope College community remember him for his lasting impact through his 15-year tenure.

“Dr. Van Wylen was a remarkable human being – a vibrant and passionate leader who devoted his life to God, the pursuit of knowledge and public service,” Hope College President Matthew A. Scogin said. “He had a profound impact on countless lives.”

Van Wylen wrote the mission statement the college still uses today and championed the physical development of the campus.

His son, who has been part of the college’s faculty and administration since 2015, describes his father’s Christian faith, work ethic, emphasis on teamwork and love of students as key to understanding Van Wylen’s service to Hope College.

“Dad’s Christian faith was his defining dimension,” Dave Van Wylen said. “He drew upon it as his personal foundation and motivation, and in turn this was a catalyst and inspiration for many others. He loved Hope College, but saw his service to the college ultimately as an avenue for God’s love and the realization of grace through Jesus Christ.”

Van Wylen received national recognition for his leadership in 1986, when he was named one of the country’s 100 “most outstanding college presidents” by the Exxon Education Foundation.

Academic departments initiated during his presidency include dance, computer science and nursing.