1969 – Fall ’20 Class Letter


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Dear Classmates,

Staying home for months now has given me a lot of time to reflect on my 73 years of life. I think a lot about my years at Ripon College. I met my wife of 52 years at Ripon. I got a first-rate education at Ripon. I made many life-long friends while there as a student and during my involvement with the College as an alum. I had the privilege of serving on the Alumni Association Board of Directors. The Alumni Board introduced me to alums who were at Ripon in the 70s, 80s and 90s, and to alums who were at Ripon five, ten, even 20 years before me. Regardless of the difference in our ages, we were all members of the same “family.” The stories we shared with each other (mostly true) were so similar, regardless of our time at the College. I treasure the friendships I made while on the Board and keep in touch with many of those I met while serving. I’ve also kept in touch with a lot of my classmates. For most of my 40-some years of working, my job involved a lot of travel. Instead of eating dinner alone while away from home, I would often contact Ripon friends a week or so in advance of my trip to their city and arrange to have dinner with them one night, sometimes in a restaurant, sometimes in their home. In many cases I got to meet their children and watch them grow up. I’ve even attended some of their kids’ weddings. I guess you could say my life has Ripon College woven into most of it. I send out about 120 Christmas cards every December. Forty of them are to Ripon friends.

Although I was a Chemistry-Biology major, classes I took at Ripon in Art History, Drama and Philosophy are ones that I value just as much as the science courses. Whenever Cynthia and I visit a city with an art museum, we try to always make time to visit. We love the theater, especially musicals. Many of my conversations with Ripon friends are truly philosophical discussions, especially after several glasses of wine.

In my last letter, I asked you to think about people from Ripon College who had a lasting influence on your life. For me, it was Chemistry Professor Earle Scott P’80/P’82 and Biology Professor Karen Weinke (now Karen Holbrook). They were brilliant in their field and excellent at teaching. They challenged you immensely. (Translation: Their courses were REALLY tough.) When you got a top grade in their class you were VERY proud of yourself. They always made time for students who were struggling or had questions. They both had a great sense of humor.

The other person who was very special to me was Dave Harris, Dean of Men. He was like a second father or a favorite uncle. You knew if you had a problem, he was always ready to listen and help however he could.

Last comment on my Ripon experience. I grew up in Chicago, mostly in the suburbs. I had only traveled to about four other states, all in the Midwest, before college. (I’ve been to 46 now.) My first year at Ripon, I met people from all over the country: NY, NJ, CT, MA, OH, CA, PA, DC, WI, MI, MN and even HI to name a few. I also met people of color for the first time, as well as people who practiced religions other than catholic or protestant. My high school of 3500 students was all white, save for four or five Asians whose parents were doctors or professors. My parents always disparaged people who were different from them. Going to Ripon meant meeting African-Americans, Asians and people of the Hebrew faith for the first time. Science tells us 99.8% of the DNA of all races is the same. I didn’t need science to determine people different than me were really no different than me. 

I hope some of you will share with me the experiences and people at Ripon that left a lasting impression on you.

Before sharing the news updates I received from class members, I want to share an article about our very own DON CHESTER ’69 of West Palm Beach, FL. The article appeared in the South Florida Hospital News & Healthcare Report. I contacted Don and got his OK to publish this as part of the class letter.

Profiles in Leadership

Don Chester is the Assistant Administrator and oversees community and governmental relations for St. Mary’s Medical Center and the Palm Beach Children’s Hospital. In his role, Don tracks and monitors legislation within the state and local governments, and is responsible for the community partnerships associated with the hospital. Don has been at St. Mary’s Medical Center & Palm Beach Children’s hospital for nearly 50 years. During his time, he played a crucial role in forming the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, which is a nationally recognized lifesaving trauma system serving the county’s two Level I Trauma Centers at St. Mary’s and Delray Medical Centers. On the 30th anniversary for the Health Care District, Don was honored with a Legacy Award for his contributions to the organization. Formerly an avid triathlete, Don was critically injured 16 years ago while running. Now, a quadriplegic, he dedicates his time mentoring others who recently became injured. Don’s goal is to give them the confidence and tools to go back to living a productive life. Don is a graduate of Ripon College and has a master’s degree from Nova Southeastern University.

Here’s the news I received from class members. I love hearing from all of you.

FRANK ANDERS ’69, of Chesterfield, VA, sends this update: “With COVID-19 restrictions in place it is the little things that create excitement. The hurricane yesterday (August 4th) passed through Virginia leaving us a much needed 5 inches of rain and curtailed my 7:18 tee time. On a more exciting note we generated a geyser in our crawl space this morning (the day after the hurricane) when a water line coupling separated creating our own swimming pool. I’ve just finished Dr. Seale Doss’ two books ‘Blood on the Risers’ (2018) and ‘Hattie’s Pink House’ (2020) and found them both enjoyable and easy to read.  Memories of philosophy classes with Drs. Doss, Hannaford and Tyree remain the highlight of my college experience. Social distancing has led to a wonderful experience of Zoom meetings with members of Beta Sigma Pi, many of whom I have not seen since graduation in 1969. To my surprise, I found that CHUCK WALDON ’66 and I, unbeknownst to either of us, were stationed in Chu Lai, Viet Nam at the same time — 1970 to 1971 — with the 198th Light Infantry Brigade and 1st Aviation Brigade respectively.  I suppose that this is a silver lining in COVID-19.”  

RICK BRANDT ’69, Tallahassee, FL writes: “I spent Thanksgiving last year with daughter Catherine in Richmond, VA. Spent Christmas 2019 with daughter Allison in Greenville SC. In February, I spent a couple of days with SCOTT NYQUIST ’69 and CYNTHIA SANBORN NYQUIST ’69 in Naples, FL then met some friends from Rockford, IL in Longboat Key, FL. I canceled a European trip I had scheduled for May because of the pandemic. I have been going to my local gym since early May for exercise, because outdoor walks in the heat and humidity here this time of year are tough. I’ve also been reading my way through books, mostly history and non-fiction. Some re-reads. I’ve been trying to find things worthwhile on TV, which is hard. I’ve also been staying in touch with friends by phone or text or email. Pretty boring. Don’t have Covid but almost wishing I’d get it to just get it behind me…and to have something new to focus on…a new adventure.” ?

PERRY BREWER ’69 of Mount Juliet, TN emails us: The COVID-19 pandemic has put a crimp in most everyone’s lifestyle. As a result, the Brewers have done next to nothing.  No trips, no visiting relatives, nada.  I did manage to fit in a right hip replacement back in January before the pandemic escalated to today’s level. Also, I had a tooth pulled Monday, so I am down to pudding, jell-o, applesauce, scrambled eggs, ice cream, and baby food for the next week or so. I do need to get new frames for my glasses as the old ones finally corroded through.  So, with the monthly beer club, whiskey club and men’s dinner all cancelled until further notice I am reduced to lounging by the pool and playing golf once a week.  There may be a start up of frisbee golf and wiffle ball in September to keep all us old guys active but that remains to be seen. In the meantime, I am biding my time on the Del Webb Landscape Committee looking for dead trees and shrubs that need to be removed/replaced.

DON CHESTER ’69 of West Palm Beach, FL says: “Since the COVID-19 pandemic started I have been extremely busy as part of St. Mary’s Medical Center’s Incident Command Team. Florida, and Palm Beach County in particular, continue to be hotspots. Needless to say, there have been many challenges. While not at the Medical Center I have been actively participating in virtual runs on my hand cycle. For each event you are given a certain amount of days to complete the course. I recently finished a 114-mile hand cycle ride around Lake Okeechobee and a 75-mile ride across Alligator Alley from Sarasota to the East Coast of Florida. The next event is a 142-mile ride in Massachusetts.”

JACK FLECK ’69 of Pensacola, FL emails us: “Getting in an hour walk in July can be challenging here in Pensacola. A morning rain can usually keep the temperature below 85. This year my plant propagation has focused on various hibiscus varieties as well as trying more camellias.” 

BILL GEBHARDT ’69 of Frankfort, IL writes: “SUE HECHT GEBHARDT ’70 and I are no longer Illinois residents. We sold our house in Frankfort and bought the lot we’ve been looking at for over a year. It’s on Swan Lake in Portage, Wisconsin! We have all our stuff in storage for six months. We hope the new house we are having built will be done within that time frame. We will probably become permanent Florida residents only due to tax implications. So six months in each location. Once situated, we’ll accept guests in either place. I’m still getting chemotherapy, but it’s down to every two weeks, and starting next month it’ll be once a month. Still taking chemo pills. But I feel good. Played golf three times this week. Can’t score like I could but I’m older too. Sue missed her 50-year reunion in Ripon when Alumni Weekend was cancelled due to COVID. We have been fortunate to stay away from it so far. I’m being extra careful due to my poor immune system.”

ALICE HALL HAYES ’69 of Washington, D.C. writes: “What a year 2020 has been!  I never believed that 1968 could be topped as so memorable. The good news is that there were good times and good things that we did during this pandemic. We even took a few side trips before the  long term social isolation started. One trip was to Hilton Head, South Carolina to the annual Gullah Cultural Arts Festival which is breathtaking for its artistic range, covering music, paintings, dancing, food, basketmaking, etc.

During our social distanced timeframe, Ed and I have done a lot of gardening, enjoyed reading some new books and authors, and walked some new pathways and public gardens. Additionally, we participated in several of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in D.C. with our church and neighbors. I am still saddened by the passing of Congressman John Lewis but definitely appreciate the push for justice that he worked so tirelessly to achieve.

To highlight the joy of this year, Ed and I welcomed a new granddaughter, Josephine, in May.  Because the young family lives in New Orleans, my husband and I have not held Baby Josephine yet, but are looking forward to our next trip which will be to meet her. Our budding plans for our trip are to rent an RV and drive down to meet her in late August or September. Wish us luck!”

DEBBIE HAMELE KUKLA ’69 of Carmel, IN emails: “My husband, TOM KUKLA ’70, and I went with five friends on a private tour of Australia and New Zealand this January. It was the trip of a lifetime- breathtaking beauty and wonderful people. Made it home before COVID hit!”

PHIL MCCULLOUGH ’69 of Woodstock, IL sends this update: “I have been working every day down at my office at Northwestern University Medical School. Patricia is recovering from her second shoulder replacement procedure, which had been pushed back a couple of months as it was elective. Fortunately, from what I recall from anatomy class, she has no more shoulders left to operate upon. Just started teaching my Advanced Psychopharmacology class to the 3rd-year residents. It is via Zoom which is new to me. Speaking quite a lot with CHRIS OGLE ’80, Ripon College’s Dean of Students, about plans to re-open campus safely in the fall.”

JOAN NOVINSON NICHOLSON ’69, of Port Townsend, Washington, writes, “My husband, DWIGHT D. NICHOLSON ’70, worked in the Upward Bound program for several summers as a direct result of the influence of Dr. Erv Breithaupt and Rev. Jerry Thompson. Today he volunteers at the Community Boat Project with high school students from the area as part of a continuum of volunteering with youth. The son of one of the Upward Bound participants spent two weeks with us in the summer. We received a philosophy of life at Ripon that I believe would be a challenge to match.”

SCOTT NYQUIST ’69 and CYNTHIA SANBORN NYQUIST ’69 of Naples, FL write: “Like many of you, we have been staying home to avoid exposure to the COVID virus. Cynthia busies herself doing gardening, knitting & crocheting projects and watercolor paintings. Her crafters club has been making blankets and hats for the local children’s hospital. Now they are making stuffed animals to be used as Christmas presents for the kids. Scott continues as President of the Homeowners Association and is enjoying reading. He can highly recommend “Wait ‘Till Next Year,” by noted historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, especially if you are a baseball fan. At this writing, the baseball season has begun and Scott is glued to the TV watching every Cubs game. (Hopefully play will continue.) We celebrated 52 years of marriage on March 9th, a quiet evening at home. We had planned to attend Alumni Weekend 2020 and were disappointed when it had to be cancelled. Sadly, our annual August visit to Germany to see our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter was also cancelled. Scott talks with six fraternity brothers every Wednesday night via the Zoom platform. We are becoming experts at ordering online from Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Amazon, Macy’s, Barnes & Noble and others. 

DON PARK ’69 of Cambridge, MD sends this news: “We have been traveling a little. Spent a week with our daughter and her family at Hilton Head week of July 4th and just completed a week at the beach in Ocean City, MD. We miss dining out. Don’t risk even “al fresco” dining. If we aren’t cooking for ourselves then we order for pickup.  We did have a porch added to the back of our house. Now we have a nice view of the river.  Love the Beta Sig monthly Zoom house meetings. Great to catch up with the brothers.”

NICHOLAS “CHIP” RETSON ’69 of Aiken, SC sends this: “I have become a Zoom Meeting & Webinar expert! In my role as Chair of our local Chapter of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). I have been hosting almost daily meetings on the new COVID-19 Small Business Emergency Loan programs and helping our clients start and grow businesses. It’s been rewarding but I can’t wait to get back to more face-to-face mentoring and workshop presentations. 

I have two great books I recently read and highly recommend them to all – “Empire of The Summer Moon,” by S.C. Gwynne, which is about the Comanche Indians and the interruption of their lifestyle as farmers moved westward into the Plains. A well written history of both cultures. “The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend,” by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, is a similar cultural history of the northern plains Indians — basically the Lakota Sioux who had been forcibly moved westward out of Minnesota. The key leader is Red Cloud, born into a dysfunctional Indian family. Through wisdom and courage, he ultimately brings together the largest number ever of warriors from numerous tribes to fight the US Army. One take-away for me from these books is how the failures of different cultures to even try to understand the culture of their opponents always leads to terrible waste on both sides.

Lastly, this Fall I will become a member of the Ripon College Alumni Association Board of Directors and look forward to working with others to support the College. “

ART SCARLETT ’69 of Glenshaw, PA writes this: “I won’t complain about canceled plans and trashed trips, however, COVID lock down has had interesting, unforeseen, benefits. Even though Alumni Weekend was cancelled the Brothers of Beta Sigma Pi, still held their traditional Thursday evening Alumni Weekend kickoff party at ROBERT “BOB” FLECK JR.’S ’65 Green Lake home – via ZOOM. Over 70 Brothers from the ’60s to mid ’70s were invited and about 35 attended! It was BYOB — virtual beer and brats were served — terrific view of Green Lake and the usual reminiscing with long-time friends. All time zones of the 50 states were covered. Discussions lasted over 2 hours and covered personal adventures and the perceived state of the College and beloved professors. Professor of Philosophy, Seale Doss triggered quite a lively reaction from lawyers and educators on the call. They were, in turn, admonished by acting house Sergeant-at-Arms, H. Keck:  “Those Brothers who joined the conversation to reminisce about Seale Doss, his influence on us and the philosophical applications of complex common law, have been fined the equivalent of a case of beer for: “intense discussions way over the head of an average Beta Sig.” Additionally, for those who referenced obscure authors and quoted from their published works ….. your fine is two cases.” Payable next Alumni Weekend.

I had no idea of the adventurous life Seale Doss had before his tenure at Ripon and that he has written at least two novels since he retired to New Mexico: “Blood on the Risers” (2018) and “Hattie’s Pink House” (2020). I’ve ordered both books. Thanks to KURT THORNBLADH ’70 for his efforts and patience in making these virtual house meetings happen and keeping us connected. Founded in 1964, Beta Sigma Pi has not existed on campus since 1994. However, the brotherhood is still strong. Looking forward to our next virtual house meeting and very curious to see who shows up. Who will I recognize?”

CYNTHIA KLINGEL SPRING ’69 of Meredith, NH emails us: “I am Chair of our Black Lives Matter Task Force in my congregation. I have been doing a lot of reading to try and understand the issues.  Part of my interest in this comes from knowing ALICE HALL HAYS ’69 and SAM JOHNSON ’69 at Ripon. I keep wondering if they or their children or grandchildren have been stopped by the police. I grew up protected from harassment just because of the color of my skin. And I was oblivious to it!  Lots of work to be done before we can really claim that this is the land of the free!”

BOB “OTTO” WACHHOLTZ ’69 of Papillon, NE writes: “My bride bought 13 jigsaw puzzles and traded for three more.  And not the 48-piece US states from our grade school days.  Eyesight and sanity (?) are slowly returning.  Hopefully the current insanity is just a minor speed bump in retirement.”

Several of you emailed me pictures. I forwarded them to the College but will also upload them to the R Connections website: www.ripon.edu/rconnections

So this is the part where I ask you to support Ripon. If you have not yet made a gift to Ripon College this year, please consider making one. A gift of ANY amount is sincerely appreciated. Just about all small colleges struggle financially. It’s kind of a way of life for them. The pandemic has thrown a real curve ball into their already stretched finances, so please be generous. You can specify where you want your money to go: scholarships, building fund, endowment, library, athletic dept., etc. You can give in memory of a professor or a classmate. Our class had 32 individuals who supported #OneDayRally, a special giving day for Ripon College, as well as 19 individuals who made a gift to the Emergency Assistance Fund. Thank you to all of you who gave to Ripon! Finally, please consider making the College part of your estate plan. It’s easy to do. Contact SHAWN KARSTEN ’09, Vice President of Advancement, at [email protected] if you have questions about this.

Be sure to let Ripon know your new address if you move or if you change email addresses. Speaking of which, I only have email addresses for about half the class. I’d love to be able to communicate with more of you by email. Attached is a list of people for whom I have no valid email address. If you’re on it, please share your email with me. The college will not bombard you with emails and you can opt out of the emails they do send.

Also, Alumni Weekend 2021 will be held June 24-27, 2021. You can get more information from the Ripon College website. You can also register online there once the date approaches.

Keep in touch.

Always for Ripon,


P.S. If you need an email address or street address to reconnect with a roommate, fraternity brother/sorority sister, lab partner, fellow ROTC cadet, contact me.