1981 – Spring ’22 Class Letter


Welcome to 2022. I’ve always been an optimist, but this time I really think the world is showing signs of returning to somewhat of a normal life for all of us.

Thanks again to all of you who were able to make it to our 40th Reunion event in August. KATHY HARBUT NIKOLAUS ’81 and I really regret having to miss it. Despite all the COVID-19 turmoil, the Class of ’81 continued to be generous. In the 2021 fiscal year, our Class donated $25,945. Our contributions make a difference in helping Ripon College and its students to thrive.

Great news, the 2022 Alumni Weekend will return to its traditional schedule and be held on campus, June 23-26, 2022. The schedule will include 2022 Class Reunions, and options for campus tours, socials, activities, reminiscences, and plenty of time to explore campus and connect with each other. So if you were like me, and you could not attend last year’s Alumni Weekend events, put this on your calendar and check the website for details.

As you may know, the College is busy looking for a new President. Thanks to President Zach Messitte who ended his ten-year run as Ripon’s 13th president at the end of the 2021 fall semester and to Dr. Andrea Young who has been appointed Ripon College’s interim president.

Are you interested in keeping up with what is going on with our Alma Mater? For the latest goings-on and stories about Ripon College, alumni, and even some of our favorite professors, check out R Connections online at alumni.ripon.edu/rconnections. Also, be sure to check the latest news from the College at ripon.edu/news.

Back in our day, especially for us science geeks, Farr Hall was home almost as much as the dorms were. In a February article in the Ripon Commonwealth Press, Interim President Young gave an overview of the College’s plans for a major renovation of Farr Hall, upgrades of the residence halls, and plans for building a campus stadium on Lower Sadoff. You can check out the story here.

After 20 years in the Air Force and 20 more years supporting the Air and Space Forces with MITRE, I have decided it is time for us to retire and live the good life. KATHY and I are already making plans for more biking, hiking, and camping in Colorado and seeing more of the country and the world. Hopefully, it will give us opportunities to see some of you. We had the chance to spend Christmas with all of our kids in an awesome cabin in Buena Vista, Colorado. That also gave us the chance to visit with SETH WILLIAMS ’81 and LYNN FRISVOLD WILLIAMS ’80 in their new mountain home.

Scouting still fills my free time and keeps me young. In December, I had the pleasure of introducing my 77th Eagle Scout after 17 years as a Scoutmaster. This summer, I get to show the Scouts that the “old man” still has it when I join them for a 50-plus-mile canoe trip in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota.

Class Notes:

KAREN CHARLESTON ’81 of Battle Creek, Tennessee: After more than 30 years as a wildlife biologist, KAREN retired in 2009 to become a dog trainer. As a wildlife biologist, she worked actively with waterfowl and gamebirds. Trumpeter Swan and Hooded Mergansers were her passion. In Michigan, she held the first Trumpeter Swan cygnets (as an extirpated species…once wild…but none living wild in-state) being hatched in her hands. Now they are thriving. Now, she boards and trains dogs. She was actively competing on a national level in obedience with her Labs, Flint and Ciara, but has backed off that since COVID-19 hit.

BLAINE GIBSON ’81 of Grafton, Wisconsin: BLAINE is honored to join Ripon’s Board of Trustees and enjoys that it allows him to get to go back to Ripon on a regular basis. He had the chance to reconnect with MARK KSOBIECH ’81 (a fellow Beta Sig). After a two-year COVID-19 travel drought they are finally vacationing again and headed to Puerto Rico this month for a much-needed vacation.

DAVID JANSSEN ’81 and KRISTIN KOHLES JANSSEN ’82 of Oshkosh, Wisconsin: DAVE is still practicing at Fox Valley Plastic Surgery with no plans to retire yet. He and KRISTIN are looking forward to the birth of their Colorado granddaughter due on April 26 and their son, Geoff, and Cleo’s wedding in 2023. They are traveling a lot with a big trip to Egypt planned for October.

JODY HENDERSON-SYKES ’81 of Franklin, Wisconsin: JODY has been enjoying retirement, playing senior volleyball and softball, working with youth and youth leaders at church, and grandmotherhood. Her three daughters live in different states so that gives her a good reason to travel. Her oldest, MEAGAN SYKES-GEORGE ’09, and her husband, Major GREGORY GEORGE ’09, have four boys, ages seven, five, three, and one, and live in Colorado Springs now. The boys are quite energetic! In addition to visiting them for the holidays and birthdays, she really enjoyed visiting Zion National Park and Death Valley National Park in January with her sister. Her son finished his college soccer career last fall and is now focused on finishing school. The new news is that she just accepted a part-time job as an educator with the non-profit Sharp Literacy and is looking forward to working with them to teach their STEAM curriculum.

SUSAN “SUKI” FORREST-LOBB JEFFREYSSUSAN, sorry, SUKI, is living in Phoenix, Arizona, and was recently featured in the new book Women of Courage, vol. 5, published by Professional Woman Publishing. The book was released in February and is an anthology featuring stories of and thoughts about courage by SUKI and 24 other women around the world.

After retiring from a career in corporate information technology, SUKI became a life coach and founded Courage Rises life and courage coaching. She is creating a movement where women feel safe to work through fears by understanding their behavior and experiencing the transformational aspects of courage. SUKI also has a blog where you can some of the awesome video interviews she has produced.

Some sad news:

LAWRENCE SMITH, JR. ’81 of McLean, Virginia, died Sept. 28, 2021. At Ripon, he was an All-American wrestler and a member of Phi Delta Theta. He also wrestled at Ball State University. He worked for Brooks Brothers and Cuffs in Washington, D.C., and the family business, Rodes Clothing, in Columbus, Indiana, and Louisville, Kentucky. In the Washington, D.C., area, he coached for the Capital Area Wrestling League where he cultivated several champions including his son, Trey, and Olympic Gold Medalist Helen Maroulis. He was a member of Ducks Unlimited, an avid hunter, and especially enjoyed training Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. Survivors include his wife, Nicole; and one son.

PATRICK TESTER ’81 of Texas died on January 29, 2021. He spent a year at Ripon and participated in Theta Sigma Tau. He then joined his family in Fort Worth, Texas, and attended Texas Christian University. He worked in education for more than 25 years in Austin, Denver, and, primarily, the Dallas Independent School district, focusing on special education. After retiring from education in 2006, he worked as a Realtor. He was an active member of Lions Club International.

Lastly, a plea for some assistance. For 40 years, the math and physics education I received from Ripon has served me well. But, when it comes to social media, I am lost in the woods. Therefore, I am looking for a classmate to help as a Co-Class Agent to help to improve the social media presence for our Class of ’81. Even some temporary support would be appreciated. Please contact me if you are able to help and would like to become a Co-Class Agent.

Thanks to all of the Class of ’81. When you have stories to share please send them my way at [email protected] or submit them on the Alumni page at alumni.ripon.edu/services/update-info/.

Here’s a picture of me, my wife, KATHY HARBUT NIKOLAUS ’81SETH ’81 and LYNN FRISVALD WILLIAMS ’80. Feel free to send me your pictures with fellow alumni for our next Class Letter.

Best wishes,

Larry Nikolaus
(719) 314-5531
Your 1981 Class Agent