1976 – Spring ’22 Class Letter

Hello Classmates,

We hope this Class Letter finds you well. If not already, winter for most of us will be in the rearview mirror soon. In Ripon, at the end of February, snow covers the ground, and no doubt before spring there will be more snow, if not an actual blizzard! And hopefully, COVID in all its iterations will become a memory. As always, a lot is going on at Ripon College. As most of you probably know, President Zach Messitte resigned at year-end 2021 to take a job in the private sector in his hometown of Washington, D.C. During his ten-year term at Ripon, he had many accomplishments for which we can be grateful. They include the Willmore Center, which is one of the best college facilities of its kind in Wisconsin, the Catalyst Curriculum which was designed to help today’s college students build skills necessary in today’s world, and, lastly, seeing Ripon’s endowment reach and exceed the $100 million level for the first time.

A search committee led by alumnus and trustee MARK FRANZEN ’83 has begun the search for a new president, with intentions for the new president to be in place this summer. In a move to enhance curricular offerings available to students, plans are also underway to allow Ripon students to take courses at Marian University in Fond du Lac and to allow Marian students to take Ripon courses. And, Ripon is studying the possibility of adding a Master of Science program in Exercise Science. The Ripon College undergraduate Exercise Science majors are among the most popular majors on campus. In addition, the College is planning for a few significant infrastructure projects in the next two to five years, which will have a positive impact on student life. Included are a substantive remodel of Farr Hall of Science, modernizing of residence halls, and possibly the creation of an on-campus sports stadium.

Campus has been a vibrant place this spring semester. The student-directed productions in the One Act Play Festival in February were terrific, and funny — a real cheerful break. The following were presented: Who Made Robert DeNiro King of America by Jason Katims, Regina Flector Wins the Science Fair by Marco Ramirez, and The Philadelphia by David Ivers. Perhaps you recall being in, or attending a theatre production when you are were a student? Also, the women’s and men’s basketball teams both won the regular season Midwest Conference Titles, and therefore, we hosted both conference tournaments on the same weekend. The Willmore Center was a-buzz with big crowds and great music by the Rally Band, a new affinity group in the Department of Music.

Speaking of Rally, this year’s giving day for Ripon College, known as #OneDayRally will be on April 27th. If you are on social media, #OneDayRally is a great day to follow the College’s social media pages and share their posts. This summer’s Alumni Weekend will be June 23-26. Even though we are not celebrating a Reunion, we are all still invited to attend and take in the weekend festivities.

We would like to thank all of you who have contributed notes to this Class Letter. It is interesting that we are getting to the stage of life where most of the notes center on retirement plans and activities, instead of new jobs, awards, and such. Time happens! Often, at this stage of life, one pauses to remember one’s history in a new way. We share a history at Ripon College. Let us keep in touch.

MIKE VERKUILEN ’76 of Elgin, Illinois, writes, “Family-wise, my oldest son has been living and working in Tokyo since 2013. My younger son is with a security company here in Northeast Illinois. Both are single. My married daughter, Michelle, has had two beautiful boys who are now three and almost two. She’ll be trying for the third and last time for a girl after our trip to Disney World this month. She is a CPA and rising star in the Future Executive program at the headquarters of ACE Hardware in Oakbrook, Illinois. I’ll be spending several weeks in Orlando after the extended family leaves. Driving down and back, so hoping for non-blizzardy weather. (We may all be moving to Florida in a couple of years if taxes keep going up here in Illinois.) I am very much enjoying retirement since I get to spend much time with the grandboys and traveling.”

TOM FELLER ’76 has retired and is living with his wife in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a native of Middle Tennessee and has lived there all her life.

JON SCHWARTZ ’76 of Naples, New York, writes, “I had a very busy 2021. My father passed away at 100 in July in California. Was out there five times from April to October. October included a road trip, with a friend from Wisconsin, from San Francisco to Wisconsin, and then back home. I officially retired in September after 27 years with the telephone company. My younger daughter and my son are both in colleges in Massachusetts. My wife and I bought a few acres a mile from where we currently live (Finger Lakes, New York), and have begun the building of a 21st Century 100% Sustainable concrete and steel retirement house.”

DANIEL V. BURK ’76 of Marshfield, Wisconsin, writes, “Thanks for the digital newsletter, I always enjoy reading it! Just a side note. There were three brothers who all attended Ripon College in the 1940s during and post WWII. DALE V. BURK ’44, JACK C. BURK ’42, and ROBERT E. BURK ’51DALE and JACK were in WWII, and ROBERT (BOB), was in the occupational forces in Japan immediately following the War. DALE was a pilot and was killed in action over France near the end of the war, while JACK was in the Battle of the Bulge and received a bronze star and survived the war to return home to Marshfield, Wisconsin. JACK did not return to Ripon, as he had to go to work to support his young and growing family. BOB, however, attended Ripon on the GI Bill and graduated in 1951, 25 years before my graduation in 1976. My Uncle DALE‘s name is on the Ripon College War Memorial.”

JAMES HANEY ’76 of Plover, Wisconsin, died Dec. 2, 2021. At Ripon, he majored in speech communications and history and was a member of Theta Chi and Phi Beta Kappa. He also served as a special graduate Trustee and received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2001. He earned master’s and doctorate’s degrees from the University of Iowa. He was a retired professor from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, also serving as head of the Communication Division, associate dean, and interim Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication. From 1991 to 2000, he was research and information director for the Wisconsin Department of Justice and communications director for the state attorney general. He enjoyed traveling, reading, discussing politics, the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Milwaukee Bucks.

RUTH ANN STODOLA ’76 of Madison, Wisconsin, writes, “When 2021 wrapped up it was with the shocking and immeasurably sad news that JIM HANEY ’76 was gone. JIM‘s year-in-review letter had not arrived, and I hoped nothing was wrong. Maybe he was traveling or simply done sending cards? The latter made no sense. A master communicator done communicating? Highly unlikely. During the holidays I’d found some cards that looked like the path to Rodman Center at Ripon, except in the 2021 version the snow-covered trees were somehow lit up. Shocked to learn JIM was gone, I suddenly understood why the path to the C.J. Rodman Center for the Arts looked so much grander on those cards than it did in 1972, and who managed to light those trees with the difference he made in this world. Rest in peace, JIM HANEY, the peace of a dazzling winter day on the Ripon campus, the bracing air punctuated by people teaching, and people learning. JIM‘s famous communication skills derived from those twin superpowers, making him always and everywhere a natural leader. Truly subversive, JIM masterfully communicated the same thing in every setting: how to be a decent person. Our friend and classmate will be dearly missed and fondly remembered as the dean of our bicentennial year. In the decades that followed, his countless friends, colleagues, and students would also discover that it was impossible to know JIM and not hold some idea, if not some sense of responsibility, for making things better in a world of difficult!”

PATRICK SAUNDERS ’76 of Suring, Wisconsin, finally fully retired. He writes, “We moved up north on a lovely home just south of Mountain, Wisconsin. It is a very secluded and private nestled on the North Branch of the Oconto River. I hunt and fish and feed birds, deer, foxes, and damn squirrels! I rarely answer the phone. My wife and I enjoy retirement and our four grandchildren. I have a cell phone which my wife made me get for safety or some flimsy excuse. I rarely answer that either. I read a great deal, most mostly wildlife materials and stories, murder stories, history, and biographies. I frequently recall Ripon College years and the changes in myself and preparations Ripon afforded me in my life.”



Your 1976 Class Agents