2004 Fall ’23 Class Letter

Greetings Class of ’04,

I found myself tackling the first draft of this letter on the anniversary of a day that we will never forget, 9/11. The professional procrastinator that I am, two days before my deadline was actually pretty darn good! But there I was, staring at a blank Google doc, a blinking cursor flashing at me with my mind impossibly glued to the memory of watching the second plane fly into the towers. At that moment, on the third floor of Brockway and just minutes after morning swim practice, I could never have guessed just how impactful the moment we were all witnessing would be in our lives.

The memories we have of our time at Ripon College, 9/11 and its aftermath included, will never leave us. Those years helped define who we are as adults, but they also defined our society in ways that our children will forever struggle to understand. (Try explaining to your kids the audacity of walking up to a gate at the airport without suffering through the TSA process!)

Now here we are, less than a year away from celebrating the 20th anniversary of our graduation. At that fateful moment in 2001, graduation seemed like an impossibly insignificant idea. But it happened. And the rest of our lives have continued to unfold in front of us, the possibilities of that unfolding being broader than any of us could ever imagine. You might have a pretty good idea of how that has played out for some of your classmates. Or you might not have the slightest clue, as your life took you in a different direction from any of your Ripon ties. Regardless of where you find yourself on that spectrum of understanding, I challenge you to come back next June 20-23, 2024, to share your version of life. Believe it or not, like it or not, Ripon matters because of you and Ripon played a part in your mattering. Let’s celebrate that together next June.

If you are someone that likes to plan early, remember that Ripon has limited hotels. That said, there are room blocks set at Heidel House (under new management!) and Cobblestone Suites (call 920-748-5500 to reserve blocked rooms). Additionally, on-campus housing will be available with online Alumni Weekend registration starting April 1 and you can request to stay together with other members of the Class of 2004.

A special note of thanks for the few of you that have passed along updates. I’ll buy the first round next June as a thank you.


MICHAEL COLES ’04 works as the Director of Talent Acquisition at CFI and is in his tenth year of coaching travel softball (which keeps him from having a beer with NICK SPAETH ’04 even though they live 10 minutes from each other). His youngest daughter, Riann, is an 8th grader and oldest daughter, Amiah, is a freshman at Iowa State University.

AMY GABRIEL GERRETSEN ’04 continues her role as Director of Constituent Engagement at Ripon College. She writes, “Annually, I get to work with reunion classes to plan successful celebrations. But it is always way more fun to work with Nick and other classmates to make our 20th Reunion a blast. If anyone is interested in helping make decisions about how Alumni Weekend 2024 will look, especially related to the Class of 2004, please contact me at [email protected].”

AMANDA PHILLIPS GROSS ’04 shares: “I am starting my sixth year as a special education teacher at Clintonville Elementary School and 11th year overall in education. I am working in kindergarten and 5th grade this year. I have not been in 5th grade since student teaching so this will be a learning experience! I have been lucky to have been working with alumni ANDREA KNORR JUSTMAN ’09 the past six years in kindergarten. My husband, Bob, and I have three great kids. Matthew and Peyton are starting 7th grade and Brenna is in 5th. It’s crazy how fast the time has gone!”

TAMMY JOHNSON ’04 shares: “I was recognized as an Outstanding Special Education Teacher from the National Association of Special Education Teachers and received a Meritorious Service Award from the Illinois State Board of Education. I’ve taken a new position this school year at Antioch Community High School as a Special Education teacher and JV girls’ volleyball and basketball coach. I am four classes and one dissertation away from my EdD. Our older boys earned their purple taekwondo belts and little Finnegan is starting 2yr old preschool this fall with my wife, Becky, as one of the lead teachers. The Johnson family is busy!”

SEBASTIAN MEADE ’04 shares: “So at this time I am running my own business, buttonspinzandthingz.com, making button pins and magnets, both designed by me along with custom work. Also making t-shirts, hats and other items being sold wholesale to local Maine businesses and out of a small market in Freeport ME. At the same time, I’ve been hard at work being a member of my local Grange helping it come back to life and getting ready to celebrate 150 years (2024), being one of the oldest non-profit community groups still active.”

KATIE PLIER BOISVERT ’04 is starting her 15th year teaching fourth grade at Jackson Elementary School in the West Bend School District.

ETTA HILLIGOSS SCHWIRTZ ’04 and TYLEY SCHWIRTZ ’04 share: “We are still living in Fort Collins with our three kids, a 12-year-old, 9-year-old and 7-year-old. We are very busy with our kids playing soccer, basketball and skiing. Tyler and I are both special education teachers. Tyler recently took a new position of special education coordinator for the Laramie County school district in Cheyenne Wyoming. I am still working for the early intervention program in Fort Collins. In our unheard-of free time, we enjoy camping, hiking and traveling as much as possible.”

MICHAEL TIMM ’04 shares: Through his role as Milwaukee Water Storyteller for the nonprofit Reflo, in partnership with the online publication Urban Milwaukee, and thanks to the generous support of the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, Michael is excited to develop a suite of water-related environmental journalism in the style of National Geographic in 2023-2024. The contextual storytelling will be accompanied by compelling illustrations that promise to endure as engaging resources that support Great Lakes education for the next generation of Lake Michigan’s stewards. The hope is that attention to local water stories helps to elevate the profile of impactful water projects in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin. For more info: [email protected].

Book a room in Ripon for next June. Do it.

Go Brewers.

Nick ’04