1985 – Spring ’22 Class Letter

Dear Classmates,

I am starting our Class Letter out with a tribute to our dear classmate who left us too early.

MARY PURDO PEKSA ’85 of Ringle, Wisconsin, died Oct. 17, 2021. At Ripon, she majored in physical education and was a member of Alpha Delta Pi. She received a degree in nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She worked for 30 years in cardiac health and rehabilitation at Aspirus Wausau Hospital. On her hobby farm, she raised sheep, chickens and yellow Labradors, and tended apple trees, a pumpkin patch and many gardens. She enjObituary for Mary Martha (Purdo) Peksa | Peterson Kraemer Funeral Homes &  Crematory Inc.oyed biking, cross-country and downhill skiing and hiking. She also was a member of golf and curling leagues. She was active in St. Michael’s Catholic Church and enjoyed cooking and baking. Survivors include her husband, JAMES “JIM” PEKSA ’85; one son; and a brother-in-law, RICHARD PEKSA ’83.

As I reflect on the loss of our classmate MARY, I am reminded of the fragility of life. How it can be taken from any one of us at any given moment. My sincere condolences to JIM and his family. My brother recently passed away, so I find myself on a similar journey, grieving over the loss of a loved one. This fragility inspires me to embrace the miracle of life even more. Living and being surrounded by loved ones and enjoying life every day are good reminders for all of us to fuel our life journey with an abundance of love, happiness, adventure, energy, hope, inspiration – all the good things in life.

In addition to reflecting on the fragility of life, I’m reminded of the importance of “family” – whether we’re directly related or not – we can exemplify all the great things a family represents in our circle of friends, contacts, colleagues and yes, fellow classmates. Our class of over 250 Riponites is one heck of a large family. Each of us touches many lives and can have a significant impact reminding others about the importance of nurturing our life journey by taking good care of one another and treating each other like family. Today’s struggles are real – more than ever our world needs love, kindness, and compassion.

Our senior year, I was an RA on the fourth floor of Johnson Hall where Alpha Delta Pi resided. I can still see MARY’s brilliant smile – warm and welcoming; hear her laughter – genuine and sincere; and remembering how she was always ready to lend a helping hand, never hesitating to go out of her way to help others. Something truly to be emulated by all of us.

Let us remember MARY for all her amazing attributes – let us continue her legacy by reminding ourselves daily to practice random acts of kindness, go out of our way for others and embrace all the wonderful joy life offers and most important – live life to the fullest.

A message from JIM PEKSA ’85: “MARY did everything right by today’s medical standards and still lost her life to metastatic breast cancer. She was a 30 year medical professional and passionate about health her entire life. She began getting mammograms at age 35 because she had a history of cancer in her family (not breast cancer). What we quickly learned when she became symptomatic at age 51 was that mammograms can only detect 85% of breast cancers – the other 15% (lobular carcinoma) need to be diagnosed by ultrasound testing. However, most insurance plans will not pay for a preventative ultrasound so these cancers go undetected until it is too late. We lived with a false sense of security while her cancer grew in her for multiple years until it metastasized. I think we as a society are largely brainwashed in that regard. Mammograms, self-inspections, etc., are good – but they are not good enough. We can do better. One in eight women in America will develop some form of breast cancer in their lives. It is safe to say it will touch all of us at some point. If we are diligent the 85% have a fighting chance to beat cancer through early detection by an annual mammogram or 3D mammogram. The other 15% (like MARY) are at a much higher risk of losing that battle until ultrasound becomes the standard for early detection. How do we shine a light on that? If anything good can come of MARY’s passing, I think legislating that change to early detection practices would be a worthy legacy. I am encouraged by President Biden’s ‘Moonshot Initiative’ to reduce cancer by 50% – now we just have to figure out how to get this on that agenda.”


Ripon’s #OneDayRally – April 27, 2022
Alumni Weekend – June 23-26, 2022


KARA ZARTNER WOODS ’85 of Prescott, Arizona, is a candidate for Arizona State Superintendent of Public Education. She is a wife/military spouse, mother, grandmother, teacher, PUSD school board member, and small business owner. Her platform is as follows:

“I believe America is the land of opportunity and a great place to live and raise a family. I am a life-long Republican, Precinct Committeeman, and YavGOP Treasurer. I have degrees in Mathematics and Physics from Ripon College, Ripon, Wisconsin. I believe we in Arizona can do better for our children. Our children deserve the right to be well educated. Arizona K-12 education is ranked 48th in educating our youth in the United States and 47th in the amount spent on each student. Although I do not believe there is a 100% correlation between money spent and a good education, I would like to increase spending per student in Arizona to help make our students more competitive in the world economy. Fiscal transparency is necessary to clearly show constituents how our tax monies are being spent and push more money down to the district level where the education of our students happens without raising school taxes. Motivate parents and community members to get involved in their local schools by volunteering in classrooms, monitoring school boards, and taking back control of what is taught in their schools.”

STACY HEINRICH SHUDA ’85 of Faribault, Minnesota, writes, “In August 2021, I switched jobs at the United States Postal Service. I changed from UNIX systems administrator to Solutions Architect II.”

Joy and Peace,


(262) 628-1377
Your 1985 Class Agent