1994 – Spring ’21 Class Letter
Greetings, Class of 1994!
I hope you are all staying sane during this remarkable time in our lives. I last sat down to write a class letter in February 2020. At that time, I was aware of the COVID-19 pandemic but it was distant – something other countries were dealing with. I never imagined my daughters would come home from school on March 13, 2020 and not return to in-person high school for over a year. I never imagined our dining room table would become a workstation and days spent wearing real pants would count as a notable event.
There have been a few silver linings from the last year. I have reconnected with Ripon classmates over Zoom and made new friends with alums from my sorority, Alpha Delta Pi. Friends in Alpha Chi Omega also invited a group of us to crash their Zoom party, which was very fun. The pandemic made us all slow down a bit and helped make those connections possible. I’m looking forward to a time when we are all vaccinated and can travel safely again to see each other in person. Until then, reach out if you’d like to meet up on Zoom! I can’t promise I’ll be wearing pants.
Update on the College:
The College has navigated the COVID-19 pandemic extraordinarily well, with students living on campus and taking in-person classes both semesters of this school year. Most recently, classes started back up on January 25 with a mix of in-person, online, and hybrid formats. The weekend before classes started, the entire campus community (all students, faculty, and staff) were required to take a COVID-19 test, which was administered on campus in Great Hall. Luckily, there was a less than 1% positivity rate. Since February 1, the College has been doing random weekly testing, where approximately a quarter of the College community are tested. There are contingency plans in place for all eventualities but the desire is for all students to be able to safely remain on campus through the end of this semester.
Ripon’s annual giving day, known as #OneDayRally, will be held on Wednesday, April 28th. Please save this date and if you can donate, support the Ripon Fund, and post about it on social media. I know many of you give to the College on an annual basis. Thank you for helping the College during this difficult time. If you cannot help financially, please consider reaching out to the College to volunteer on behalf of the alumni or admissions office, or become a mentor to current students for career and professional development.
Alumni Weekend was cancelled in 2020 but there is hope that the College can once again hold an in-person alumni gathering on campus this year. In fact, Alumni Weekend 2021 will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen with two distinct summer weekends of Ripon alumni programming for us. No matter how you’d like to connect, virtually or in person, the Office of Constituent Engagement is developing a variety of activities to continue to follow CDC, Fond du Lac County and College guidelines in both June and August. Full schedules, lodging, and programming details will be posted soon to www.ripon.edu/alumni-weekend.
- In honor of our June Alumni Weekend traditions, virtual alumni programming will be held Tuesday, June 22 through Saturday, June 26, and will include: an alumni town hall, R Connections webinars, affinity socials, a summer book club, and special recognition of the 2020 and 2021 Athletic Hall of Fame Inductees.
- The only in-person event, the Doc Weiske ’50 Memorial Golf Scramble, will be held off-campus on Friday, June 25.
A combination of virtual and in-person Alumni Weekend programming will be held the first week of August. We will continue to evaluate the state of COVID-19. If circumstances change at the local and national level and we need to cancel in-person programming, that decision will be made and communicated by July 1, 2021.
- Virtual programming will be held Tuesday, August 3 through Saturday, August 7 and will include: a reunion-focused alumni town hall that also previews the new academic year, additional R Connections webinars, the summer book club capstone, and the traditional “That Was Then” storytelling session.
- In-person, on-campus programming will be held Friday, August 6 through Sunday, August 8, and will focus on alumni awards recognition, 2020 and 2021 reunion celebrations, and other outdoor events such as Rally Run and prairie walk.
- Additionally, the Class of 2020 will officially be welcomed to our alumni community with a special commencement ceremony.
Class Notes: Thank you to the classmates who reached out to me with updates. Here are what some of our classmates are up to:
ERIC ATKISSON ’94 of Alexandria, Virginia, was recently hired to serve in the new position of Director of Communications at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, where he started as a public affairs specialist in 2011. In his new job, he leads a division of up to 15 staff responsible for all of the agency’s external and internal communications, including media relations, speechwriting, strategic communication, and more. He continues to write nonfiction and fiction on the side and hopes to have more essays and short stories published in the years ahead.
KIM CONROY ’94 moved to Green Lake, Wisconsin, with her husband WADE PACKARD ’93 in June. She recently left her job at NBC Universal Business Affairs to support Jeeun Kim, the Co-Head of CBS Studios Business Affairs. Kim previously worked for Jeeun when they were both at NBC and she had a great opportunity to support Jeeun again in this new role. Kim and Wade plan to return to Los Angeles once the schools and offices reopen.
JULIAN GARDNER ’94: As many of you know, in October 2011 Julian went into cardiac arrest but recovered. He then suffered a second heart attack in March 2016. Since that time, Julian’s heart function continued to decline and he was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure at the age of 45. But there is some really good news to share – On February 22, 2021, he received a new heart from a donor and he is doing extremely well in his recovery. According to a post on Facebook, Julian said he can never have another bad day after the transplant. He is challenging everyone to appreciate the small things because we don’t know when it will potentially be the last. If you would like to help support Julian, please contribute online.
ASHLEIGH HENRICHS ’94 of Kenosha, Wisconsin, has three children: Caroline is a sophomore at Carthage College, Mary is a senior in high school, and Henry is a sophomore in high school. Ashleigh works for the Gateway Technical College Foundation as the Foundation and Alumni Relations Manager, and during a normal year she enjoys running marathons and ultra-marathons, but she reports that many have been canceled. During the recent polar vortex, Ashleigh still managed to run 11 miles wearing a down coat and a 22-miler with no food or water (initially because her fingers were too cold to open anything and then because she just wanted to keep going and get finished). She’s an inspiration!
BROOKE TIREMAN KONOPACKI ’94 of Larsen, Wisconsin, works as the Director, Education for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. There are over 1,000 members, including Caterpillar, John Deere, Volvo, and Komatsu, that manufacture off-road heavy equipment for construction, agriculture, forestry, mining, and utilities. Brooke works in the customer connections area, where she builds positive customer connections for the Association’s members, primarily through trade shows. Her company owns and manages the largest trade show in the Western Hemisphere and Brooke coordinates all the education that occurs at the tradeshows. She also works on the CONEXPO-CON/AGG Tech Talks, a three-part series of on-demand education. Brooke loves her job because she works for a company that treats their employees well, has transparent communication, and has given her new and exciting challenges every year.
LIZ MAHONEY ’94 of New York, New York had been working at the same commercial real estate company in New York City for close to 17 years, but the pandemic and the shift to working from home is having a devastating impact on the commercial market. Like many others, Liz found herself looking for work at the end of 2020. She didn’t have to look very far as a message to a former employer on LinkedIn quickly yielded a job offer. In January, Liz returned to her roots, working for William Vitacco Associates, a building and zoning law consulting firm in Manhattan. As Operations Associate, Liz is a jack-of-all-trades, handling facilities, IT, information management and anything else that comes up as the company navigates the changing construction industry and new work from home culture. Liz has kept her sanity throughout the pandemic with the help of her Ripon friends who join weekly online trivia contests as part of “Liz’s Trivial Friends.” Starting as a group of alumnae who needed a platform to connect with each other in a casual manner, the group has grown to include friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers who pop in for laughs, support, and the rare top-ten finish. They are also using this platform to educate others about Harrison Ford and Ripon College!
Now for some sad news. I am sorry to report that MATTHEW A. MIDDLETON ’94 of Sandwich, Illinois, died in his home on November 10, 2020. At Ripon, he majored in economics. He had worked for Experian and then was a founding member of Launch Digital Marketing/Dealer Inspire. His roles included project manager and DMS support manager. He enjoyed animals, golfing, cooking, sailing, and spending summers in Onekama, Michigan. Survivors include his mother, Betty Middleton; and his partner, Jennifer “Jiffy” Baker.
LISA SPROSTON SUTTER ‘94 will be writing our next class letter in the fall. If you have updates that didn’t make it into this letter, please reach out to her at [email protected].
In the meantime, please stay healthy and safe.
Wishing you all the best,