1978 – Spring ’23 Class Letter

Hello everyone!

Did I mention it’s a reunion year? June 24 is our 45th Reunion! Many of you, and a good number of our great faculty, have already responded positively with plans to be there! See the list below. ROD HAYNES ’78 was our most recent addition as of this writing. If you are not on the list, there is still plenty of time to make plans to join us! If you have any requests for Alumni Weekend (June 22-25), please let me and the reunion committee know. Once again, this reunion year, two of our classmates, JUSTIN NIEBANK ’78 and JERRY WAUKAU ’78, will be recognized on the Friday evening before the reunion as Distinguished Alumni.

Speaking of the reunion, on December 4, THOMAS VAN LIESHOUT ‘78 (left) called me and told me he plans to join us this year. This was great news, because late last year, his family posted on Facebook that he was in the most serious situation a person could be in with his heart failing and an upcoming heart transplant operation. Several of you reached out to him at that critical time. WILL HIGGINS ’78 and Norm Loomer (right) were two he mentioned that helped to lift his spirits before the operation. The operation was successful, THOMAS has a new heart, is on the mend, and says he plans to be back up to “fighting weight” by June 30. While THOMAS reminded me that he spent only two years at Ripon, he was inspired by that caring connection that I think we all continue to have with the great friends and faculty we met at Ripon.

  • 45th Class Reunion – June 24, 2023!
    • Distinguished Graduates!
    • Other Events of Interest
    • Early Reunion RSVPs (updated)!
  • ’78 Classmate Updates
  • Sad News
  • Faculty Updates of Interest/Ripon’s New President
  • #100for100 Annual Giving (aka Our Class Gift) and #Ripon Rally Days April 20-23
  • Wrap-up
45th Class Reunion – June 24, 2023!

Please make your hotel and travel reservations/plans soon! Our reunion will be Saturday, June 24, and it will be here before you know it. Based on our early robust number of RSVPs, Reunion Committee members EDDIE SMITH ’78, LOUISA GEBELEIN JONES ’78, LISA WOLLAN ’78, LIZ PECHA-POELKER ’78, and I have secured the Great Hall in the Harwood Memorial Union for the Saturday night celebration. We’ll have heavy hors d’oeuvres on high tops and a FULL bar in the rotunda shared with the Class of 1983 who will be celebrating their 40th Reunion in the MLK Lounge.

Distinguished Graduates!

Of the three Ripon alums recognized as Distinguished Alumni Citation recipients this year, two of them come from the Class of ’78! On the evening of Friday, June 23, JUSTIN NIEBANK ’78 and JERRY WAUKAU ’78 will be honored at the 1851 Awards Dinner program. I encourage all of you who are attending the reunion to also join me and attend this event in Great Hall to support our two classmates. 

Other Alumni Weekend Events of Interest:
  • Bird, Bug & Plant Walk (Friday, 8 a.m., Ceresco Prairie) – led by an all-star team of current Biology Department Chair Professor Memuna Khan (birds), Professor Benjamin Grady (bugs/pollinators), and Professor Emeritus Skip Wittler (plants)
  • Doc Weiske ’50 Memorial Golf Scramble (Friday, The Golf Courses of Lawsonia, Green Lake)
  • Wine tasting and pizza lunch (Friday, Vines & Rushes Winery)
  • Gathering to honor ERIKA DOSS ’78’s father, Professor Seale Doss (Friday, 3-4:30 p.m., Lane Library)
  • Rally Run/Walk (Saturday)
  • Green Lake Boat Tours
  • Pickleball

Look for many more details in the Alumni Weekend brochure and online (alumni.ripon.edu/alumni-weekend) soon.

 Early Reunion RSVPs!



Guests planning to attend: Jack & BEV CHRIST ’96, Elaine & Gary Coll, PETER HINTZ ’82 & NANCY BUCK HINTZ ’82, CHUCK LARSEN ’65 & Karen Larson, SUSAN BOOTHROYD LOOMER ’67 & Norm Loomer, Doug Northrop, Bob Wallace, and Bill & Jean Woolley.

Lodging Choices:

Lodging fills up quickly. 

  • Heidel House: Offers Ripon a group lodging rate that starts at $199/night.
  • Cobblestone Suites: Call Cobblestone Inn (Ripon) at 920-748-5500. 
  • On–Campus Housing (non-air conditioned in Tri-Dorms or Bovay Hall): 1 night ($45), 2 nights ($80), 3 nights ($100).
Also, a reminder from the Fall Letter: AMY GABRIEL GERRETSEN ’04 alerted me to the new reality: if you have an RV, you can set up down in the Willmore Center parking lot (formerly Storzer Center). There is access to water there. You will need a generator for power, but you have a spot to park for the weekend. Please reach out for more details and to secure a space.

If you need a place to crash at the last minute, I will have a spare pull-out bed at the Mapes Hotel if you need it – first come, first served.

’78 Classmate Updates:

DANNI CALDWELL ’78 of Henderson, Nevada, sends: Greetings from Southern Nevada! Alan and I are well. Inevitably, we are facing some of the difficulties of older age, but we are also enjoying the benefits of (my) retirement and our hard work throughout our lives.

Alan had a major health scare last year; he had blockage to an artery, but a stent was successfully placed, and he quickly bounced back. He was suffering with angina pains, but they were misdiagnosed as pain caused by a disc problem with his neck. Thankfully we pursued other possible issues, and a trip to a cardiologist revealed the problem. After he was fully recovered, we celebrated with a trip to Arches National Park in Utah, which we thoroughly enjoyed. He is still teaching full time at one of the prisons outside of Las Vegas but has decided that he will be retiring at the end of the 2024-25 school year.

I have been fully retired for more than a year now and am filling my time with bowling in three leagues during the week and social activities at the clubhouse at our 55 and over community. My hiking has had to go on hold as I am suffering with problems with both feet. I will be having surgery to repair my right foot issue in mid-May and then exploring options for the left foot. I hope to get back to hiking next fall.

Travel by train has been on our bucket list for quite some time, so we decided to go back to Wisconsin for the Christmas holiday by that means last year. Despite some issues with delays, we loved the experience, and are now making plans for more trips by train. Unfortunately, we experienced the bitter cold in Wisconsin the few days before Christmas, and we are rethinking traveling to the Midwest in the winter in the future. Winter is one of the reasons we moved to Nevada!

As Alan is teaching summer school the whole month of June, I will be unable to attend the reunion weekend in Ripon this year. I hope those of you who do attend have a great time and I look forward to reading the letters submitted by my classmates for the class letter.” 

ROBBIE CORDO ’78 of Plymouth, Minnesota, sent: “(Warning – contains serious self-aggrandizement!) written at 4:22:18 a.m. on February 15, 2023. Yes (A.M.). I sleep about three hours per night. 2022 through today was INCREDIBLE and the most impactful year of my 66 years. I can’t wait to see how 2023 turns out. I’ve never been more confident or had higher self-esteem. As I lacked these in my first 65 years, this is quite exciting. I owe this largely to my young partner, Bryant. Significant events include:

My daughter Elise, 35, was hospitalized after experiencing a major seizure in November. She entered an induced coma and was “as dead” for four days. She was discharged on a Thursday and back at her library working on MONDAY! My doctor called her a true warrior!

My son, 30, Quinn, is getting married May 7 at the Seattle Aquarium. ERIC RIEDERS ’78 and Maria will join us. This is his and Sarah’s third try due to COVID!

My daughter, Rachel (33) coaches synchronized swimming at the University of Minnesota and West Metro Synchronettes. (She and Elise were top swimmers in their teens.) She is with her significant other, Jason, in Fridley, Minnesota.

I moved to Oshkosh, Wisconsin in September 2021 to be near ROBERT PARDO ’77 and MARTY ERNSER ’78. It was great! Robert is with CATHY LARSEN ’80 and Marty is with Connie.

After 18 months in Oshkosh (which I love) I moved back to Plymouth, Minnesota, (Please visit me! – I live alone with Talker, my cat) on Valentine’s Day so I could be near Elise AND to jumpstart my NEW company, founded with my partner, Bryant Stratton, in November 2022: Cordo Advisors LLC dba The Butlers LLC’s mission is to “Help People Achieve Their Dreams!” (thebutlers.life – 612-201-6106). This is the fourth company for which I have been the CEO.

Finally, I would like to share that I have suffered from extreme chronic pain since high school. My accomplishments at Ripon and beyond were done despite many hospitalizations; chemotherapy; a stem-cell transplant at the Mayo; and hundreds of treatments and doctor visits. I believe most people were not aware this – though I do whine on occasion. I feel for anyone suffering from chronic physical, emotional, or mental chronic illnesses. As a result of my difficult journey to success I will coach Navy Seals and NFL players, and many others, on true “toughness.” My advice is simply “play through the pain.” To top it all off I broke my left shoulder in two places in November 2022 (while on a sales trip 8 hours from home!).

Even if you don’t want to learn about The Butlers Club, please contact me to catch up or get together. I’ll buy the drinks!

PS: I want to thank Dr. Norm Loomer for inspiring me to add math to my biology degree. And being the best teacher I ever had!

PPS: Must Reads – “Psycho-Cybernetics” by Maxwell Maltz; and “Stealing Fire” by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal – these books CHANGED my life.

PPPS: Check out my book; “The Wit and Wisdom of Robbie Cordo” soon to be available for free download at the common social media sites such as Facebook.

PPPPS: OK, OK – I am done… for now – stay tuned to thebutlers.life for periodic updates.”

ROD HAYNES ’78 of Bellingham, Washington, reports “he will be attending the reunion in June with his wife, Daria. Very much looks forward to it. He recently published a photo book of black and white photos shot and edited exclusively by his cell phone. It is only available locally in the Bellingham area. He is on track to retire from the US Department of Health and Human Services this coming December.”

MELANIE CIVIN KENION ’78 of Brighton, Massachusetts, writes: “I was able to cross two goals off my bucket list at the beginning of 2023. On January 1, I did a Polar Plunge, and I took a dip in the frigid ocean north of Boston. It felt like a good transition to wash out the old and bring in the new year. I loved it and plan to do it annually. I also had a goal of having a poem published. I hadn’t written anything since Dr. Mansfield’s Creative Writing class my freshman year, but three years ago started a daily meditation and writing practice. My poem was published in The Prompt Magazine (thepromptmag.com). You can read it by searching ‘The New Year’.”

JAKE MEGOWAN ’78 of Concord, Massachusetts, says “I am unlikely to make the 2023 reunion, but you never know… My brother Bubba lives in the UP and we visit him sometimes, along with my ,sister ANN MEGOWAN STEVENS ’83, who also lives in Michigan. Feel free to list my email: [email protected].” 
Jake holding a rose-colored Burmese Python (right) at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Florida, where we hope to move soon. The other shot (left) is sailing in “Bahston Hahbah” with Wollaston Beach in the background.’

THOMAS VAN LIESHOUT ’78 of Neenah, Wisconsin, says that he “retired in 2016 from a 37-year sales career in the paper industry. I found a part-time job and after seven years, I am still working and enjoying the 15-hour work week. I also do projects for the local historical societies. To date, produced seven YouTube videos, covering a wide variety of subjects. Mary and I celebrated our 41st anniversary last October and we have two children and four grandchildren. Last November, I was provided a second life with a transplanted heart. My original heart failed, and I was blessed to be put on a transplant list. Through that ordeal, I reconnected with an old Ripon College friend, and math adviser, Norm Loomer. We both are looking to play tennis together once I have completed my cardio rehab program.”

GREGG PETERSEN ’78 of Columbia, Maryland, visited with Professor Bill Woolley in December and discussed Bill’s recent book “Creating the Modern Army” and other Ripon topics with him.

Sad News:

Joann Wickstrom of Newton, Kansas, died on November 17, 2022, at age 89. After earning her BA in English, she received a Master’s in Communications from the University of Iowa in Iowa City. She taught speech both at Wichita State University and in high schools before having children. Jo married Ralph Wickstrom in 1957. They moved to Ripon in 1961 when Ralph accepted a position as a full professor at Ripon College. Several years later she began using her extensive skills to edit his books.

Mary Williams-Norton passed away on Sept. 27, 2022. Professor Williams-Norton was a professor of physics at Ripon College for 37 years from 1975 to 2012. She was the Harrison E. Farnsworth 1918 Chair in Physics and chair of the department, taught physics and astronomy and was Ripon’s representative for the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium. A strong advocate for Welsh American relations, culture, and heritage, she facilitated Ripon’s study-abroad program at Swansea University and Bangor University. Survivors include her husband, Gregory Norton and two daughters JEANNE NORTON ’99 and Laura Dunday.

Faculty Updates of Interest: Ripon’s New President:

Dr. Victoria (Vickie) N. Folse, will be inaugurated as Ripon’s 14th president on April 22, 2023. As you may recall, she will be the first woman to be formally inaugurated as president of Ripon College in our alma mater’s 170-year history! DAVID JUNG ’78 and I are looking forward to visiting with her on March 15 at her Washington, D.C. welcome reception.

#100for100 Annual Giving (aka Our Class Gift) and #Ripon Rally Days April 20-23

We are pursuing two gift goals this year: one is to win the Class Participation Trophy for the third consecutive Alumni Weekend, and the second goal is to again lead all classes in the Ripon Rally Days (replacing #OneDayRally this year to honor President Folse’s Inauguration) for the sixth straight year.

Our class fundraising slogan and goal for this year is #100for100. Translated, we are shooting for 100 donors and $100K in donations. Since this is a reunion year, all our donations count toward our Class Gift “Big Check” total. As of this writing, we had 31 donors who donated a total of $71,750. That means our participation rate was already nearly the average for Ripon alumni classes and we are only $28K and change from our dollar goal. As you are very well aware, we are NOT an average class. Especially because this is a reunion year, please consider boosting your donations or giving for the first time to increase our overall gift and to help us continue to lead all alumni classes.

As I said, the April 20-23 Ripon Rally Days, 14 for 14 (14 ways to give in honor of our 14th president!) will coincide with and honor President Folse’s inauguration on April 22. As you have in years past, please give your annual contribution coincident with April 20-21 or if you have already donated, please give a nominal additional gift to boost our donor total for the weekend. For instance, since I have already made my donation for the year, I will make a small donation to the Ripon Fund on April 20 during this giving event and celebration. 


If you aren’t on my emailing list (137 members), please send me your email at [email protected] and I will add you for early and interim updates. And if you are on Facebook and not in our Class of 78 (Classmates, Friends, and Faculty) Group, let me know your ID and I’ll add you to that, as well. Please make those travel & lodging plans for the reunion and then reach out to coax, cajole, or otherwise coerce your friends to attend the reunion. Also, please make your class gift to support our goal of #100for100 and support #Ripon Rally Days. I hope I see many, many of you at Ripon on June 24!

Best wishes and warm regards,

Gregg ’78