1966 – Spring ’23 Class Letter
Dear Class of 1966,
I don’t know what the weather is doing where you are, but here in central New Mexico it’s all over the place. First, it’s in the low 40’s. Later this week it’s in the mid-60’s before dropping again to the 30’s. Every night it’s in the 20s. And we finally had snow! As usual, it lasted less than a day. But it was nice to see the back yard covered in a white blanket. I took pictures with my computer that acts like a phone. But neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet will deter me from scattering dried meal worms around the yard for our neighborhood road runners, the last of the prehistoric animals. What incredible creatures they are.
Alumni Weekend is scheduled for June 22-25! More information about the event and activities occurring during Alumni Weekend will be available at alumni.ripon.edu/alumni-weekend soon. There are room blocks at Heidel House in Green Lake (Book here) and at Cobblestone Suites in Ripon (Call 920.748.5500).
I framed my invitation/request for updates with my issue of how I don’t easily take “no” for an answer and look for workarounds to get to “yes.”
Well, our former class agent, HELEN HANSEN ’66, expanded on this framing.
HELEN HANSEN ’66: “Barry: What a great theme! The worst “nos” are the nos we sometimes tell ourselves, unless, of course, they make us safer or healthier. As Bob’s health declines, it seems life gets smaller. And there are more “nos” than “yeses”. So, finding the yeses in “what is” is the challenge:
I say “yes” to the gifts of friends and family showing up although it is hard to show up.
I say “yes” to walks with Lola, our dog, who delights in her walks along the river.
I say “yes” to the lengthening of daylight, which at our latitude [St. Paul, MN] is a fantastic breakthrough.
I said “yes” to a respite trip last September that took me to California to visit my daughter, Mary Bubacz, and to Washington state to visit Bob’s Uncle Gordon, who died not long afterwards. I visited cousins and my best friend from nursing school at the University of Washington. Bob’s brothers cared for him while I was gone. “Yes” and thanksgivings to them.
I said “yes” to cutting off my long hair on a whim!
Everyday I try to say “no” to feeling I am missing out on retirement. Then I try to say “yes” to what it is I truly and deeply want in my life: to care for Bob and make his life filled with as few “nos” as possible.”
Bob Rice’s update is a study in saying yes. I mean, imagine working for the same company until retirement. Who gets to do that today?
BOB RICE ‘66: “Hi Barry; Bob Rice here. After graduation I started working for Northwestern Mutual in Milwaukee. I was 21 and started in sales. In 1969, I married Penny and we are still happily married and had three children. In 1979 Northwestern asked me to move to Boise, Idaho and manage their office. We did that and are still here! I retired in 2006.
I remember I was asked to Represent Ripon College as a White House Fellow by visiting The President in Washington, D.C. I think it was my senior year. LBJ was president. They had dinner in The White House, but it was like a cocktail party where everyone was walking around and meeting people. I was visiting with Lady Bird Johnson and spilled spaghetti on myself!! As I recall Lady Bird just kind of laughed and said “Oh no”! Very embarrassing, but the trip was a wonderful experience.
We have five grandchildren and three now live in our area. I’m still active with some golf, fishing, and bird hunting with my chocolate lab, Emmit.”
Elliot Samuels is another classmate who said “yes” to his career and is still working at it sometimes for free! I’m blown away by the number of clients he has represented. The stories he could tell.
ELLIOT SAMUELS ‘66: “Not much to say. After graduating from the University of Chicago Law school in 1969, I did a stint at the Cook County Public Defender’s Office, and then private practice. I estimate I represented at least 4,000 clients in criminal cases mostly in Chicago, but also Texas, LA, Kansas, Wisconsin.
I did a lot of work in Federal Courts in bank, securities and tax fraud cases, and I won a few as well. In the course of my work, I represented some of the best, and worst, that society has to offer. My pro bono work is based on referrals from individuals and organizations in the Waukegan area.
I’m married to Debbie for 48 years, have two adult daughters, Julie and Lauren, and five soon to be six grandsons. All are doing very well in school and sports. I spend a lot of time re-reading my history books (modern European history). My health is very good, and I have no plans to retire. We spend time with Fred and Pam Graf, and Bob Dorn. Hope this fills in a few blanks.”
Sandra Rennie said yes to an accident of nature…and learned a lesson.
SANDRA RUMMEL RENNIE ‘66: “Nothing to report here. Just enjoying our local grandkids and keeping in touch with our other family members with our Aura system for posting pictures and occasional visits. Family is #1 at our house.
Oh, one interesting thing we did was accidentally grow a small patch of wheat in our suburban backyard by broadcasting wild bird seed. This was mostly my husband Thom’s project. We harvested, thrashed, winnowed, and ground the wheat, and got two loaves of very crunchy bread out of it. Will try not to do that again.”
I suspect we all have a lot to report even though we don’t think so. Many moons ago I attended the wedding anniversary of my cousins in Southern California. I was struck by the various people who shared their remembrances of the couple and how we never know the impact we have on people. And so, as I read these updates, I am again struck by how each of us has impacted the lives of many people—family and friends as well as people with whom we meet daily in our work and comings and goings. Yet, we never really know how we impacted their lives unless they tell us and we tell them as happened at my cousins’ anniversary celebration. But how often do we do this?
I traveled to Florida to have this kind of conversation with my mother who was not in the best of health. We did not have the greatest relationship, but I felt I needed to let her know I appreciated what she and my father did for me. It’s a small Emily Dickinson moment with profound larger consequences. It was probably one of the most important things I have done in my life. I believe we all have these moments and, maybe, my next request for the next newsletter will be about the small things you have done that had a larger impact.
It’s for this reason that I continue to volunteer with Albuquerque Reads. Each school year, I tutor two kindergarten students in reading as I attempt to introduce them to the wonders and importance of books. (I just had a young girl go nuts over Don’t Touch That Button as she shook the book to change the picture on the next page, giggling all the way. Will she become a reader or just go on to shake other books?) Once I was asked why I do this work. My answer: I’m planting seeds. And that’s what each of us does with every interaction we have even though we may never know the results.
I think about this when I see pictures and short videos I receive weekly showing the progress of my granddaughter. Watching her grow from the small three-week old infant my stepdaughter and her wife adopted to the rambunctious nearly three-year old has been a joy and a wonderment. I never had children and never expected this experience. And so, it was a joy to be with her in person last October in Brooklyn. As I walked toward their apartment, she was at the window shouting, “Barry!” I am thinking of going for her third birthday this coming June. I cannot collect enough memories.
I think all of this is an extension of my education training when I was at Ripon. Teachers have an impact and we are all teachers, impacting everyone with whom we come in contact. I think about the teachers at Ripon that had an impact on me. One is the reason I spent the next 30 years in California and the film/TV industry. Also, there is the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam, that the world was created in an incomplete state. It is our responsibility to help finish the creation even though we know it will never be finished but handed on to the next generation. So, in my last years I want to try to plant seeds that will help this generation and, maybe, make up for the negative seeds I may have planted along my journey. Maybe Tikun Olam will be the theme of my next invitation, giving you the chance to tell your classmates how you have worked to complete the world. We’ll see.
Meanwhile, thanks to yoga and my new walking pad (a simple version of a treadmill that folds in half and stores under my desk), my health is holding up even with a few new physical adjustments as the years add up. Also, I kind of said good-bye to traveling far away. But recently, wonder lust has set in. I mean, I’d like to see the Northern Lights just once. Maybe.
Again, thanks to those who responded to my invitation. And there’s still time for the rest of my classmates to respond to the next invitation later this year. Until then, as I like to say before bedtime, “May we sleep in peace and wake in joy and good health.” Stay well.
P.S. There will be a special giving event in conjunction with inauguration weekend, April 20-23, to celebrate Ripon’s 14th President, Victoria N. Folse, and the exciting momentum happening within our campus community. This event will be an extension of the #OneDayRally brand and experience. Stay tuned for more information. We look forward to your participation!