Former Hope College president Gordon Van Wylen dies after contracting coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — A former Hope College president who helped transform the school in the 1970s and 1980s — and who also was a World War II Navy veteran — has died at age 100.

Gordon Van Wylen died Thursday, Nov. 5 after battling coronavirus, according to Hope College officials.

Van Wylen is recognized not only for his efforts to improve and grow Hope College, but also his attention to the revitalization of downtown Holland.

Van Wylen served as Hope College president form 1972 to 1987.

Numerous major campus building projects began or were completed during his tenure, including the Peale Science Center, now part of the A. Paul Schaap Science Center; the Dow Health and Physical Education Center; College East Apartments; the De Pree Art Center and Gallery; the Maas Student and Conference Center; Bekkering Admissions Office; and the Gordon J. and Margaret D. Van Wylen Library.

During World War II, Van Wylen was an officer aboard the USS Hardead submarine in the Pacific. He later co-authored a book, “Encounter at Sea And a Heroic Lifeboat Journey,” with Ichiro Matsunaga. Matsunga was an officer aboard a Japanese light cruiser sunk by the USS Hardhead in 1944.

After his retirement from Hope, he was involved in the renewal of the downtown Holland area, launched Homecor for the revitalization of central Holland City neighborhoods and was involved in the establishment of the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids.

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