2004 – Spring ’21 Class Letter
Greetings, Class of 2004!
Writing this to you a week shy of the one-year anniversary of things shutting down leaves me feeling optimistic for the future. Vaccines are rolling, the Brewers are welcoming fans back to games, and the snow is melting, so let’s focus on the positives! As you’ll see below, some of our classmates have continued to thrive through the insanity of this past year.
A special thanks to AMY GABRIEL GERRETSEN ’04, director of constituent engagement at Ripon College, whose update below provides some excellent insights into how our old home is doing. Given my work, I’ve been intimately aware of how colleges and universities have responded and adapted over this past year. You should be proud of your alma mater; few institutions have managed this all as well as Ripon. There is no playbook for this. It’s messy and controversial. But through my lens, the College is headed in the right direction. Challenges remain, no doubt, but with our continued support, I’m very confident in Ripon’s future.
JENNY FITZGERALD ’04: I made a career change into the government accounting world and accepted a position as accounting supervisor at the Village of Mount Prospect in October 2019. Shortly after in April 2020 I was promoted to Assistant Director of Finance. It has been really interesting to see how a city operates and learn about property taxes and budgeting.
AMY GABRIEL GERRETSEN ’04: Life is good here is Ripon. We are lucky that the girls (Kenzie -10 and Piper – 9) go to school in person daily – a joy of living in a small town and attending a small school district! Although we were unable to visit family over the holidays, we took a leap of faith and took a family vacation to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico in early December. We were super impressed by all of the safety and cleaning procedures put in place for air travel, and the resort was on top of it too. Plus, we spent most of our time outdoors and away from people, so that helps. I highly recommend getting away!
I continue to work at the College overseeing all alumni, parent and friends communications, programming and volunteers (like Nick!). It is hard to believe that I am coordinating my 15th commencement on campus, one like any other, to say the least. Overall, the College is doing really well given the pandemic. Students are on campus for a mix of in-person, virtual, and hybrid learning options. Although they are Zoomed out (aren’t we all), they are finding unique and creative ways to stay connected and involved with athletics, orgs and Greek life, creating their own unique Ripon experiences. Recruitment remains strong and we are optimistic that when the Class of 2025 (that’s wild) joins us in the fall, they’ll be one of the largest in history.
That isn’t to say that the College doesn’t need our financial support as alumni. Gifts (of all sizes) to the College go a long way, and those before us provided our scholarships, financial aid, and experiences (although I don’t know that we understood that then). I would encourage you all to join me in being a donor to Ripon, so please mark your calendar for April 28, our fourth #OneDayRallly giving day, where your gift can help us reach our goal of 2021 donors in 20 hours and 21 minutes. Even if you’ve already given this fiscal year, making a small gift on #ODR can help move the Class of 2004 up the leaderboard on April 28, while making my co-workers jealous of how great we are!
I truly miss seeing so many of you at regional events or on campus for Alumni Weekend, and I hope to be able to catch up in person later 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 will feature other outdoor events like Rally Run and prairie walk.
- Additionally, the Class of 2020 will officially be welcomed to our alumni community with a special commencement ceremony.
KATE HERSEY ’04: Quarantine has meant spending lots of time together as a family. We took full advantage of summer at the cabin and a backyard playset which made our COVID’19 bubble easily bearable until the snow and cold hit. This winter, the girls have channeled Craig and become very familiar with every game system known to man. Our eldest (6) is already a master at procrastination via games, and it’s become painfully clear why I taught college versus elementary students : )
I can most often be found hiding with a novel as the luddite of the house; but even I binged Animal Crossing in an ode to sophomore year.
Work has been super busy for both CRAIG THALACKER ’03 and I. He continues to do the computer thing and ask people whether or not it’s plugged in and if they’ve tried turning it on/off. I’ve been busy engaging volunteers to build desks for distance learners and generally loving my job as Executive Director of the MN Tool Library.
TAMMY JOHNSON ’04: I married my best friend, Rebecca Havens (Busseyville, WI), on July 16, 2020, in a small ceremony here in Antioch, IL with our parents in attendance. We’re also excited to announce that we’ll be parents again with the addition of baby boy Johnson due May 3rd. Big brothers Ryan (8) and Reed (6) cannot wait to meet him and I cannot wait to see my toes again!
BETH WILLIAMS KOEHLER ’04: My family built a house in Chaska, Minnesota, and we moved in January. I am still teaching math – this year at both of the high schools in my district (Chanhassen HS and Chaska HS).
LINDSEY GORSKE MICHELS ’04: A new position was created within our police department. The position is that of a School Resource Officer/Community Liaison Officer, and I officially started in this position in January. I am in the schools during the school year and will be doing community outreach during the summer. It’s been a great change 🙂
SARAH MILLER ’04: I am working as a medical assistant/scribe in Milwaukee and I survived COVID-19!! I spend my free time painting, reading, creating collages and taking photographs, studying healthcare communications, billing, and coding.
RACHEL SCHMIDT PUFALL ’04: In October, I started a new position as a Statewide Coach for the Wisconsin Center for Resilient Schools. The Center uses coaching to help schools and districts build their capacity to implement and sustain trauma-sensitive social-emotional learning and school-based mental health. I am honored to serve all public, private, and charter schools in the state alongside eight other talented educators.
MISSY SKURZEWSKI-SERVANT ’04: My husband, Joe, and I welcomed our first child into the world, a baby girl, Jennifer Jocelyn “JJ” Servant, on January 13, 2021.
ROZ KORF VANDAALWYK ’04: I work as a dental hygienist in Green Bay. My husband JAKE VANDAALWYK ‘06 and I have two children, Beckett (5) and Kinley (2).
ELLEN VOSSEKUIL ’04: I’m finishing up my fourth and final year of serving on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Zoo Keepers. I am the board oversight for Education, which oversees our Resource Committee and our International Outreach Committee (IOC). IOC works with zoos and zookeepers in Mexico and Central America to elevate animal care in developing countries.
Zookeepers have had to work through the pandemic, with the added stresses of making sure we are protecting our animals from COVID-19 as well as our colleagues and guests. It’s been a challenge, but it has also been rewarding to find new ways to connect virtually with visitors while facilities are closed!
Be sure to send updates to [email protected], and as always, be safe and be well.
NICK SPAETH ’04
W173N8462 Robert Ave. Menomonee Falls, WI 53051