Maria Dietrich to receive Ripon College’s 2020 Founders’ Day Award

Maria Dietrich

Maria Dietrich, interim executive and artistic director of the Green Lake Festival of Music and a retired adjunct instructor of piano at Ripon College, will receive the College’s Founders’ Day Award during the 154th Commencement ceremony Sunday, May 17.

Ripon College was officially founded Jan. 29, 1851. Each year the College celebrates its birthday by honoring a community partner with the Founders’ Day Award, presented to an individual or an organization in the greater Ripon community who exemplifies the ideals of the founders of Ripon College and who has contributed above and beyond to the mission of the school.

Previous recipients include: Thomas Caestecker; Rob Webster ’73; Joan Karsten; Laurie and Peter Kasuboski; Todd and Betty Berens; Dave and Karen Stoddard Duehring ’72; and State Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-41. Visit ripon.edu/founders-day for a complete list of past recipients.

The theme of Ripon’s 2020 Commencement will be based on Wisconsin’s musical heritage, and Dietrich exemplifies the mission of bringing music before the public. “Music plays a vital role in bringing people together to appreciate the things that unite us,” said Zach Messitte, president of Ripon College. “Maria Dietrich has inspired a generation of students in the Ripon community as a remarkable teacher with a dedication and passion for music.”

Dietrich is a native of Indiana and received a degree in music from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. Before retiring last year, she had been an adjunct instructor of piano at Ripon College for 30 years and accompanied student musical productions, student choirs and individual soloists.

In the wider community, she worked for the Green Lake Festival of Music from 1991 to 2006 as administrative director. She also served on the board and as development director and executive director of the Thrasher Opera House in Green Lake, from which she retired in August.

She has been pianist and organist at First Congregational Church in Ripon since the late 1980s, plays for weddings and funerals and teaches private piano lessons. She also has done non-musical volunteer work in the community and is a member of the League of Women Voters.

“I am greatly honored to receive this award,” Dietrich says. “I’m thrilled the theme of Commencement is related to music and that the College values that. Music is a way of bringing beauty into the world. It’s a special way of communicating that doesn’t need language. It cuts across languages and boundaries. Everybody can appreciate music. If we musicians can communicate our joy to the audience, too, that’s a special connection.”

Dietrich feels she can make a difference in the community through her musical abilities and volunteer work. “I feel like it makes our community better to have people interested in helping out and doing things for the community,” she says. “Also helping young kids and nurturing their abilities. It’s a really meaningful contribution I can make through music.”