2005 – Spring ’21 Class Letter

Greetings, Class of 2005!

I (AMANDA ZAHN PRZYBYL ’05) just re-read my Class Letter to you all from last year and it was so clearly pre-COVID-19 that I’m blown away by its simplicity. There was no talk of masking up, schooling from home, working from home, restaurant pick up only, quarantine, sourdough starters, Zooming, being scared, missing the family that you can’t see, travel/concerts/everything being cancelled, being tested, testing positive, or any of the other things that came with the last year.
This past year has been different for all of us – so many gains and losses that it’s hard to know where we stand a year later. Did our lives change? Do we feel like we lost a year of our life with nothing to show for it? Did we lose so much more than we were prepared for? Did we gain a deeper appreciation for what we have? Did we sharpen our goals for our future? Did we make significant gains towards our life goals? Did we realize we’ve been doing too much? Not enough? Did we start new adventures in our lives? No matter which of these fits you, I hope you realize that simply surviving the last year is enough. It’s enough to know you can survive the next year because you survived the last one. I truly believe in ten years you’ll look back at this time in your life and realize just how strong you were to survive.

My last year has been a roller coaster of emotions that have rocked me to my very core. I spent the first few months of lockdown in flight or fight mode. I went to work (hard to sort mail/packages from home), my husband went to work (hard to fix cars and tools from home), and my kids went to the sitter (hard to leave an eight and four-year-old home by themselves). Not having a lot of information made it hard to leave everyday not knowing if I was putting myself and my family at risk. Or if my husband was. Or if my kids were. I’m here to tell that we are not meant to stay in flight or fight mode for long, and months at a time is too long. It took a toll on me that I’m still feeling the effects of. *HONESTY ALERT* I’ve suffered from depression/anxiety for many years and have been treated with an anti-depressant for the last seven years. Any emotional and mental reserves that I had stored were completely drained during my extended stay in flight or fight mode. When I finally found some measure of peace in the fact that we all left the house each day and came home safely, I realized I could no longer do the things I used to do to build those reserves up. So, for me, every day is a struggle to look towards the good, find the positives and participate in my life, but I know, because I did actually survive the last year (and all those hard ones before it), that I can survive the next one.

Good news regarding this year’s Alumni Weekend as well as our 15th Class Reunion, which will be celebrated along with the Class of 2006! 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.

JUNE 2021

  • 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 including our 15th Reunion, 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.

#OneDayRally, Ripon’s day of giving, is scheduled for April 28! Get your best memory and a few pennies ready to share! ☺

Here is what is going on with your classmates:

REBECCA SNITILY ELMENDORF ’05 of El Segundo, California, writes, “My new skill was apparently learning how to get pregnant without IVF. My baby girl is due July 2021.”

JACOB GRAF ’05 of Hortonville, Wisconsin, writes, “In January of 2020, I took a new position as Director of Engineering for a mattress company based out of Florida called GhostBed. I oversee all of the e-commerce for the company. The owner of the company, Marc Werner’s grandfather, started Werner Ladder in the early 1900s and is credited with the original patents on both aluminum and fiberglass ladders! Marc went on to develop and patent some pretty innovative sleep products. They’ve been around for 20+ years and are a great company to work with!”

JUANITA BAATZ GUTBROD ’05 of Sussex, Wisconsin, writes, “I hope everyone is happy and healthy!”

CHARLES JOHNSON ’05 of Minneapolis, Minnesota, writes, “I’m still living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with my fiancé, Raven, and our Daughter, Charli. I am still the owner and operator of my used car financing company here in the suburbs. I recently went from managing partner to CEO and majority shareholder. I was also able to get my daughter involved as a minority silent shareholder in my business as well. We are creeping our way back into the rental housing market, so it looks like landlord may be a job title for me once again, too. Other than that, we are just focused on making it through this pandemic safely and hoping everyone else is able to do so as well!”

PAUL LARSON ’05 and SARAH MCGILL LARSON ’05 of Green Bay, Wisconsin, write, “The kids are doing great and Sarah is teaching at Bay Port High School in Northwest Green Bay. Paul has been an actuary for Humana since March 2020 and is now working from home but hoping to get back in the office.  We have some small trips planned for the summer, but nothing more than one state away.”
RENEA VORPAHL MERTENS ’05 of Green Bay, Wisconsin, writes, “Greetings from Green Bay! Like everyone, staying in and virtual learning has been our life for the last year. We are fortunate to work during this time, and I had to get creative doing my corporate training job virtually. We camped this summer to have some social distanced fun with our kids, Georgia (6) and Sterling (4). We also recently welcomed our son, Reynold (Rex), this past November. Stay safe everyone!”

ASHLEIGH SMITH ’05 of Hohenwald, Tennessee, writes, “I started a new job in December and adopted two rescue ferrets, Kricket and Jaffe.”

A few more thoughts from me: Survival was my theme for this Class Letter and I have to say, your Alma Mater has done more than survive – it has thrived during this last year. Our faculty and staff pulled together to bring our students back to campus in the safest way we could. Our students rallied together to stay on campus for the entire first semester and the second semester is going even better. We’ve found new ways to program, new ways to teach and new ways to learn. I couldn’t be more proud of what Ripon has accomplished, and you should be proud of your Alma Mater too! However, we can’t do all these things without the donations from our alumni. I would encourage you to donate whatever you can to help us not only survive but to thrive. The website is simple: https://www.ripon.edu/give and is open 24/7.

All the best!

W2743 Cherry Lane, Green Lake, WI 54941
(920) 299-1081

3620 S. Loretta Lane, New Berlin, WI 53151
(414) 841-7210
Your 2005 Class Agents