Events

Ripon Alumni Remember Al Jarreau '62

Al Jarreau Memories

Al Jarreau Memories

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Al and I were one year apart, but we had a deeper relationship out of college. We both ended up in Hollywood and pursued our separate careers in show business — he as an entertainer and I as a Hollywood publicist. Our paths crossed frequently, and the last time we were together was just a few years ago at The Festival of the Arts in Laguna Beach, California, where he performed before a VIP crowd of other celebrities at The Pageant of the Masters. Whenever we got together, we always talked about our days at Ripon College. We in Hollywood miss him greatly. May he rest in peace.

David Mirisch ’59
Westlake Village, California

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I have a very special memory of Al Jarreau. In 2006, he did a concert on campus and it was sponsored at least in part by Boldt. It happened to be my 49th birthday the day of the concert, so Boldt asked my husband and I to sit with them. We sat front and center in the second row. After the concert, there was a reception. As things were winding down, Lisa Diedrich came and got me when Al was leaving and I met him by his vehicle and he gave me a great big hug for my birthday and sang to me. And then he wanted to know what perfume I was wearing — he loved it. I told him it was Amazing Grace. I purchased a bottle that I gave to Pam Klinger in the President’s office along with a letter and asked Pam to send it along with a package she was mailing out to him. I had purchased a bottle for his wife. Very special birthday, very special man and an awesome concert.

Christina Sabel
Administrative Assistant to the VP for Finance
Ripon College
Ripon, Wisconsin

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In September 1980, I was a Ripon student on a semester away through the Urban Studies Program in Chicago. Our group of students from smaller Midwestern colleges were on a Saturday morning trip down to Hyde Park in Chicago to hear the Rev. Jesse Jackson speak at P.U.S.H. headquarters. On this day, Jackson would endorse Jimmy Carter for president (ironically in 1984 and 1988, Jackson, himself, would run for president).

Also on this day, the Rev. Jackson introduced Al Jarreau to the group to say a quick hello (apparently Al had a concert in Chicago that weekend). He came up on stage, greeted the assembled and then dashed to the side door.

I happened to be standing by that door making photographs and smiled and said hello to him. He smiled, but was in a hurry and as he almost out the door I said in a loud whisper: “I go to Ripon College.”

He immediately stopped, turned around and smiled and came over to me and warmly shook my hand. It was such a nice gesture and kind of took me by surprise, that I forgot to tell him that my name, though spelled differently, was pronounced just like his. I would often say to folks who couldn’t figure out how to pronounce my name (up until about 2000) that my name was Gero, just like Al Jarreau (and sometimes joke that we were distant cousins).

I won’t ever forget that day and the moment Jarreau met Gero on the south side of Chicago and how Ripon College united us.

Paul Gero ’82
Ladera Ranch, California

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And another Gero (me) met him when he came back to Ripon in 1982 when he received the Distinguished Alumni Award. One of my sorority sisters, Teresa Pavlovitch, was his personal assistant, and she brought him up to the ADPi area of Johnson Hall. I met him in the hallway and told him I was also a Jarreau, but I spelled it differently. He let me take a snapshot of him and was very pleasant to meet all of us who were a little starstruck. God rest his soul.

Ruth Anne Gero Adams ’85
Clemmons, North Carolina

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The last time Al was in Ripon to sing at the homecoming activities, he needed transportation from the football field back to the gym after halftime. I drove him and was quite struck by the fact that he talked to me the entire way. I wish the gym had been farther away. I could have listened to him talk for hours.

Penny Gillespie, Parent ’03, ’11
Minoqua, Wisconsin
Wife of Coach Bob Gillespie

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Al Jarreau was performing at Wolf Trap National Park in Virginia, part of the Washington, D.C., suburbs. The Washington, D.C., alumni chapter organized an outing and arranged for a backstage meeting after the show. Al provided the full house an outstanding show, even mentioning the Ripon College group during one of his songs. After the show, the 30 or so Ripon alumni were ushered back stage, and Al was gracious in talking with everyone individually and signing autographs. Before we could leave, Al insisted on leading us in singing Ripon College’s alma mater song, not once but twice! And Al had copies of the song for us as he sang it from memory!

Peter Kolakowski ’72
Jane Kolakowski ’73
Fredericksburg, Virginia

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Al was a reserve on the varsity basketball team, and I was a reserve on the freshman team. The two teams regularly scrimmaged each other at practice. Consequently, Al and I got into the scrimmage at the same time and usually guarded each other. We got to know each other fairly well just through sweating on each other. Al treated everyone the same, as though you were his best friend and his ability to remember names will always stay with me.

Chuck Larson ’65
Sun City, Arizona

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Al Jarreau touched my Ripon life in two ways, and I never even met him. The College sent me his album on CD as a recruitment tool, and I recall listening to it on headphones while in high school. I still have the CD and still listen to his music. While I edited the Ripon College Days, we launched a feature to connect current students with notable alumni. I was proud that our features editor, Sonya Sorich ’04, got to speak with Jarreau and write about him in the paper (Sept. 10, 2003, Page 12). I never would have known of Jarreau’s Milwaukee connection were it not for Ripon, and as a Milwaukeean I still associate some of his songs with the continuity of our shared experience living in both these places. “Compared to What” and “Spain” both seem to me to transcend their original contexts to resonate as true classics that underscore the importance of the liberal arts to 21st-century citizenship and a fully integrated human life. As Jarreau told Sonya in 2003: “If there is a criterion for having done well in life, it’s how much you’ve helped other people. We have so much potential … yet we’re faced with a country whose spiritual heart is failing. My message to the senior class is honesty and integrity and (relationships) that demand that.”

Michael Timm ’04
Cudahy, Wisconsin

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Nancy Steeno Behring’’62 and I have numerous good memories regarding Al. In 2016, Nancy and I attended his concert in Phoenix. After the concert, he invited us backstage where we hugged each other while singing the alma mater in front of all his backstage guests. I also recall a time about four years ago when I got a call from Al on my home phone and wanted to sing the alma mater. So, there we were, singing together on the phone for our own enjoyment. Nancy and I are grateful to be able to consider Al a part of life experience. He is a remarkable man.

Dan Behring ’62
Manistee, Michigan

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… listening to him sing “Misty” at the Union and other Johnny Mathis songs.

Mary Miller ’61
Mauston, Wisconsin

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My favorite memory of Al Jarreau is winning his third Grammy category win in R&B. He had already won jazz and pop. Many critics didn’t understand Al’s style and approach. They thought he wasn’t “jazzy” enough. They were wrong. More importantly, they missed the point of our Al.

Al broke ground. He could not be encumbered by labels. I am a musician, singer and songwriter, and performed and hosted at Ripon many times. I get it. I get Al. He wanted to reach many people. Restricting himself to only a jazz audience would cheat his own talent, himself, his fans, and the public at large. Al understood this. Early on, from the mid-’70s thru the early ’80s, I “got” this about him, and I was delighted. FINALLY, an artist who does not restrict himself to labels.
Very few artists can accomplish this great feat. They battle the critics-see above. They battle the record companies.

But Al knew that he was broadening his “base” by singing jazz, then pop, then R&B, and would benefit from it, as well as his record label. Few can pull it off, BUT, with Al’s superior talent, the “acrobat of scat,” as we like to call him, he superseded these boundaries in a way few, if any, others did. I always felt Louis Armstrong at least did jazz and pop. Not sure about the R&B. But with Al, there is no doubt.

THAT is why he won Grammys in the aforementioned categories, why he should be celebrated throughout musical history, and be a positive role model for those who attempt as artists to NOT succumb to labels. That frees them to be creative, and that is the essence of art, musical and otherwise. That is a formidable task, but is often the case, Al made it look easy. I loved that specifically about him, and it added to his charm as an artist and as a human being. The self-described “kid from Milwaukee,” ever so modest, and our own Ripon alum makes us all proud for the above, as well as everything else. Thank you, Al. We are so proud of you.

Michael “Mike” J. Tollifson ’82
Shepherdstown, West Virginia

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I remember in October 2006 during our Homecoming, Al Jarreau performed at the gymnasium. I went with a couple other members of my sorority (Delta Psi Delta), and it was such a huge moment for me. It was an honor to see Al perform, but most importantly, I remember how happy he was to be at Ripon College performing, and how proud I felt to be a part of a school that had given such a phenomenal legacy in someone like Al Jarreau. Wherever he went in life, as successful as he became, he never forgot about Ripon College — and that was hugely inspirational for me.

Erin Maguire ’08
Ripon, Wisconsin

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While I was too young to recall early memories of Al back in the ’60s, I do have some very fond memories I’d like to share. First and foremost, I recall coming back to our Woodside Avenue home from school. As I walked into the door, I always passed by the daily mail that was neatly placed and organized on the pedestal by mother. One thing stood out that day, was a large package that came addressed to my father from California. Being the young curious man I was, I asked my mother if I could open it. She politely stated, “Wait until your Father comes home.”

That day, my father rolled in the door and I scurried down the stairs to point out the package and eagerly handed it to him to open. He acknowledged my wish and proceeded to open the package. Once the package was carefully opened, I observed six or seven albums that were all made by Al Jarreau. I put the first album on our parents’ Curtis Mathes vintage stereo and began to listen to my first experience of Al. While listening to Al, my father shared stories of Al coming to Ripon College, playing basketball and coming to the house. I listened to all those albums and had instant gratification of his fine work.

Years went by and while I had not yet met Al personally, he had come in and out of Ripon for alumni events. Finally in October 2006, I met this wonderful man for the first time. We had a brief interaction and when I introduced myself, he looked deep into my soul and embraced me and whispered in my ear, “Your father means the world to me, I love that man!” We separated and then Al went on to perform in the very same gym that will soon be named in my father’s honor.

K.G. “Doc” Weiske passed away March 17, 2016. I rode up to make it in time from Chicago to be with him in his final hours. We began to make final arrangements the next day and received numerous phone calls at the house. One of those calls came from Al’s management team stating that Al would be making the trip from Los Angeles to attend the services. After the services, Al came to our home to spend time with the family and reminisced about his fond memories of our father. It was a memory that I will cherish forever.

Lastly, I attended an awards ceremony in Milwaukee on Oct. 8, 2016, where Al received the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music’s Lifetime Achievement Award. My last and most fond memory was approaching him to congratulate him at the end of the ceremony. I was armed with a “Remember Doc” button that Ripon College handed out at the Alumni Golf Scramble earlier that year. The Pfister Ballroom was packed with folks and as I finally made my way through the line, there I was in front of this gifted man again. I shared some words in his ear while we embraced, and I passed the button on to him. He looked at it and pulled me in and gave me a kiss on my cheek. I returned the gesture, and we stared at each other. This was not a simple glance; he was communicating his deep-down love for my dad, and I will never forget that or that kiss on my cheek!

On Al’s website after he passed away, a post by an unidentified author had this to say:
“A few days ago, I was asked to describe Al to someone who knew of his success, but did not know him as a person. I responded with this: His second priority in life was music. There was no third. His first priority, far ahead of the other, was healing or comforting anyone in need. Whether it was emotional pain, or physical discomfort, or any other cause of suffering, he needed to put our minds at ease and our hearts at rest. He needed to see a warm, affirming smile where there had not been one before. Song was just his tool for making that happen.”
Godspeed, Al Jarreau, Godspeed.

David Weiske
Chicago, Illinois
Son of Coach K.G. Weiske ’50

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I’m notorious for taping concerts. I once created fake letterhead featuring at its top a logo for the band Chicago and on it, typed an official letter granting me permission to tape the band. I once stuck a voice recorder down my pants and walked through a metal detector at a Paul McCartney concert in Chicago. I was threatened with being kicked out of Waterfest in Oshkosh for trying to record the Little River Band.

I don’t sell these bootlegs; I just like to capture the magical moments that occur during live musical performances.

When my wife and I decided to attend the Al Jarreau concert at the Ripon College athletic center, I debated whether to record it (despite the ticket clearly stating no audio or video recording devices would be allowed). I decided against bringing my recorder, not because of the rule, but because I wasn’t a big fan of Jarreau’s vocal stylings.

Of course, I made the wrong decision.

The entire concert was magical, from Jarreau performing “Your Song” at the beginning to President David Joyce, to the standing ovation at the end. Jarreau was at the top of his game musically, with a stellar band, a neat mix of pop and jazz hits and covers, and an entertaining stage presence that found him joyfully effusive in his praise for his alma mater. The only music review I wrote in my 27 years with the Commonwealth reported the next week that “the 66-year-old moved about the stage like a man 40 years his junior. A whirling dervish of music and movement, he performed his own hits as well as one of Beethoven’s, and scatted to jazz pianist Dave Brubeck’s signature ‘Take Five,’ which Jarreau said he first heard when Brubeck performed it in 1959 at Ripon College’s old Red Barn Theater (located just north of where Johnson Hall is today).”

It was a pinch-me sort of night that I knew would never be replicated. And I had left my recorder at home. Far as I know, no one shot any video or audio of this very special evening. Too many folks followed the rules! All we have are still photos — and warm memories — of a man whose talent was matched only by his humility.

Tim Lyke
Publisher, Ripon Commonwealth Press/Express
RiponPress.com

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Al was a junior my freshman year. He was known on campus for his role on the basketball team and his delightful musical performances. He often performed with a small group which included Duffy Ferrand. He seemed to always have time for others in a pleasant and kind manner. It was nice to see how his career progressed. When we saw him perform in Milwaukee years later, a large number of Ripon alums gathered to see him. Good memories.

John Hyde ’65
Pensacola, Florida

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I have a good memory of Al Jarreau. I was a new freshman on campus. I had come from getting text books, was standing at the street crosswalk by Theta Chi when Al approached and started a conversation with me. He was energetic, enthusiastic about Ripon College, inquisitive, positive, happy, upbeat. He had the energy of the type of student Ripon wants, a type of person new students like myself would feel pride in also selecting Ripon College. I purposely returned to Ripon to attend a party for Al at Ripon College years later to congratulate him on his successes.

Judy Filek Kessler ’62
Westchester, Illinois

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Not a single instance, but a lifetime of wonderful memories. The first time I saw Al Jarreau perform, I wanted so badly to be able to sing like him. His music became a mental lynchpin, sometimes inspiring, sometimes steadying. The first music my children heard was his. When they were old enough to appreciate him in concert, we went together. On the day he died, my son called. We shared memories and lamented our loss. I spent the next two days singing his songs.

A remarkable talent. A remarkable man.

Richard A. Wueste ’71
Winchester, Virginia

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Was sad to hear that Al Jarreau ’62 had passed away. Al and I spent many late evenings playing pool in the Union basement during my sophomore and junior years. He was a really nice fellow. My wife and I went to his concert here in Scottsdale last year. Did see Dan Behring ’62 and his wife, Nancy Steeno Behring ’62, at the concert. They were lucky enough to get backstage to talk with Al.

Norm Behn ’63
Scottsdale, Arizona

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(A death announcement for Al Jarreau ’62 has) even been on the German news broadcasts coming over the Internet. Quite a lovely tribute to him from the other side of the little pond! Will always remember his smiling face and lovely voice from my days at Ripon.

Susan Keller Matthes ’63
Carson City, Nevada

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I was always an avid fan of Al Jarreau’s music and was lucky to attend a concert he gave at Wolf Trap in the D.C. area many years ago. We turned it into a Ripon College get-together and held an RC sign well above the crowd so he might be able to see us. Much to our excitement, he invited us backstage to meet with him! Mr. Jarreau was incredibly kind and gracious — a “class act” through and through! On parting, he gave me a kiss on the cheek! Needless to say, I didn’t wash my face for weeks after that! His massive accomplishments prove once again that the value of a liberal arts degree and vast opportunities Ripon College offers are outstanding!

Birgit M. Abromaitis Retson ’77
Centreville, Virginia

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I have several memories of Al. I remember we watched the aurora borealis outside of the dorm and were enthralled at the changing colors and shapes. After we graduated, I attended several of his concerts in various cities. Each time, he graciously welcomed me backstage after the concerts, and we reminisced about our Ripon days and spoke of our current situations.

Andrew Feinstein ’63
Hobe Sound, Florida

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I remember Al at Ripon very well, as he conducted concerts and I always enjoyed his talent during those years! I was two years ahead of him then but recognized his talent at that stage of his career! He was always very personable and kind. His career was among the tops in the musical industry, and saw him “live” in Toledo many years ago! We will miss his talent, and listening was a pleasure.

Bob Borger ’60
Waterville, Ohio

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Meeting him when he was given an honorary doctorate at Commencement.

George Quarshie ’83
Moseley, Virginia

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I had the pleasure of meeting him on campus when he came back to visit during Homecoming. He stopped to talk with some of us students and joked with me about being a black president of the Student senate at Ripon College in Wisconsin.
Great sense of humor! Later that day, he left campus by helicopter to sing the national anthem in Milwaukee at a Brewers game. What a pleasant surprise. For as much of a fan I was of his, I honestly did not know he was an alumnus until I attended Ripon. I had the opportunity to see him in concert many times afterwards, and he was always incredible. What a great talent. He will be missed.

Steve Harris ’84
Lorton, Virginia

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Al used to hitchhike home from time to time, going east to Fond du Lac and then south on Highway 41 to the Milwaukee area. He once said that to put motorists more at ease about the possibility of his presence in their cars, he used to hold up a sign that read: UNARMED. Humor was but one of his many charms, his fabulous voice being at the top of the list. A class act and genuinely nice person. I’m glad to have been on campus while he was.

Bob Blair, ’66
Berlin, Massachusetts

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My favorite memory of Al Jarreau was when I attended the Ripon College Homecoming weekend as an alum in October 1982. Al came back to campus to attend one of his class reunions and was sitting in the Commons eating, talking with friends, and signing autographs during Sunday brunch.

When the brunch was over, a helicopter landed behind Bovay Hall and flew him to County Stadium in Milwaukee before the start of a Brewers/Cardinals World Series Major League Baseball game that afternoon. I drove back to Madison after brunch and turned on my TV a few hours later to see Al (a Milwaukee native and multi-Grammy Award winner) sing a wonderful a capella version of the “Star-Spangled Banner” before the game.

My friend, Tim Kingston ’77, and I agreed it was the most creative, original version of that famous anthem we have ever heard before a sporting event .

Rick Roseneck ’80
Madison, Wisconsin

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A small group of Ripon alums/friends went to see Al perform at Ravinia years ago. We preferred his classic music over scatting. And so did another young man in the crowd who kept shouting “do your good stuff, Al.” It was a pleasant night with friends under the stars. Still prefer his good stuff over scatting.

God speed, Al.

Mary Breese Ray ’74
Plainfield, Illinois

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I have several fond memories of Al Jarreau:

1. Singing with him at Tuscumbia. Al was an infinitely better singer than I. I was singing folk songs and ballads, he sung jazz with his quartette. We would perform out there on Friday and/or Saturday nights. My group was rewarded with a free drink or two; I believe Al and his quartette got paid, and deservedly so.

2. Listening to Al sing “Misty” at various gatherings on and off campus.

3. Playing baseball with Al: We both played on the varsity baseball team. I was maybe a slightly better shortstop than Al, but, as I said he was a far better singer. And basketball player.

4. Hearing Al perform at Summerfest, probably in the 1980s.

5. Attending his benefit concert for Ripon a few years ago — a magnificent two-hour plus show, delivered with the skill, heart, generosity and grace that simply was who he was as a person and performer. Making it even more special was the fact he recognized me at the reception after the show, and we talked for a time.

This all says nothing about the work that he did with children over the years. Al Jarreau was among the finest human beings it has been my fortune to know. He’s irreplaceable, but will be part of the Ripon family forever.

Jackson Parker ’61
Kansasville, Wisconsin

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Back in the early 1960s, Ripon had a Spring Sing competition between living units. Al and I and others were in the Independents group, and together we sang quite well. One of the songs went, “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, marry a woman uglier than you.” My memory is that Al and the rest of us sang it with gusto with a calypso beat.

Dave Hartman ’64
New Providence, New Jersey

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Al and I met very soon after the start of my freshman year in 1960 — I don’t know just where or how. I think freshmen had to wear nametags showing our home town, so maybe he talked to me because he saw that I was from Milwaukee, as he was also. Little did either of us know that he already had connections to my family.

During parents’ weekend in October, my parents and I were entering the Union Building, and Al was coming in from the opposite direction. He saw my dad and called out in surprise, “Mr. Ashton!” Then he looked at me, then at my father, then at me again, and said, “I didn’t know he was your father!” I then learned that Al lived a couple of blocks from my father’s variety store on Third Street and would come to my dad’s store to buy toys when he was a youngster. It was a lovely and memorable surprise meeting that we all enjoyed. Years later, I learned that my brother (age 6 or 7) had met Al and his brother at Dad’s store; Al was then a teenager, and he and his brother engaged in some good-natured teasing of my kid brother.

Certainly Al’s performances with the Indigos were always highlights of my college days, when people would say, “Al sounds more like Johnny Mathis than Johnny Mathis.”

I think it was shortly after Al graduated that he performed in the lounge of Milwaukee’s finest, most prestigious, old-line hotel, the Pfister. My parents and I went to see him perform in those elegant surroundings. He was most impressive and definitely in his element.

My family moved to Fresno, California, in 1967, and a few months later I moved to San Francisco. At the time, Al was also living in San Francisco; he found out I was a dancer in a Middle Eastern night club there, and he came to see me at work. That was quite an honor for me, though at the time it just seemed like old friend Al was coming to say hello.

Some time later, when he was about to give a concert in Fresno, he knew my parents would be attending. They had seats in the back and Al had someone take them to seats up front and then bring them backstage after the show. When Al saw them, he called out and went to them, greeting them with hugs. They were delighted! He was so welcoming of old friends.

In 1989, on a trip from my home in L.A. to Milwaukee, I saw Al in concert during African World Fest. There were other Ripon College alums in the greeting line for him after the show. On another trip to Milwaukee I attended his concert in Ravinia, the outdoor venue in Highland Park, Illinois.

In August 2016, Al appeared at the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. As usual, during the show Al mentioned his high school and college with affection. I was able to get a backstage pass. Al greeted us enthusiastically, talked of my dad’s store and Ripon College, and gave me a big bear hug, which will have to be my last bittersweet memory of Al Jarreau.

Sylvia Ashton ’64
Bayside, Wisconsin

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Sad to hear the news about Al’s passing. Knew him well doing our time at Ripon.

In 1962, I was involved with what we called Freshman vs. Upper-Class night. It was held in the old theater that later burned down. It was located in front of the Tri-Dorms at the path leading to Scott Hall. Each campus group was asked to prepare a song or act and to compete. I was a Merriman, and we tried as hard as we could to do a group sing. We were not very good, so most of us just made noises. But we did get through a song as best we could. Other groups also struggled with their acts/songs.

When Al Jarreau sang his song, we all knew he would win the competition. And he did win for the freshmen. His talent was very obvious, even in those days. Al also played basketball and was a good player. I was on the varsity, so I did see him play often.

After Ripon, I served two years in the Army. I married Patricia Carter, and my daughter was born in New Jersey before we were discharged. After many moves, we ended up in Wisconsin. First in Milwaukee, then Madison.

Years later, I heard that Al Jarreau was singing in Milwaukee at the Pfister Hotel. Went to see him. He was great. He later moved to the West Coast to further his career. Saw him in Madison years later and again he was great. His multiple talents in terms of singing many types of music was one of a kind.

Eventually, we bought all of Al’s albums and wore them out from playing them so often.

To this day, I start many of the classes I teach with an Al Jarreau song. Wakes everybody up! He was a very unique talent and will be missed.

Jim Lane ’61
Madison, Wisconsin

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A long-time fan of Al Jarreau’s brilliant musical artistry and his seemingly gentle soul, I was blessed to have two special interactions with him.

The first occurred some years ago when my husband and I attended a concert Al performed in Milwaukee. I knew of Al’s love of Ripon, and I had been highlighted in the alumni magazine shortly before the concert. I decided to send a note to him backstage with the article, letting him know a Ripon alum was cheering him on in the audience that night.

His performance was inspired. I sat in awe of his talent for more than two hours. Then — just as he was finishing — I heard him say, “Barbara Stack … is there a Barbara Stack in the audience? Please come up to the stage.” As my husband tells it, he looked over at my seat and I was already gone. All I recall was my jaw dropping while I heard Al start singing the Ripon alma mater.

Al (and a security guard) greeted me at the edge of the stage to tell me I was welcome to come backstage after the show to meet Al. My husband and I proceeded to have about 15 minutes of uninterrupted time with Al backstage after the show discussing Ripon, jazz, basketball, Al’s Ripon mentor, Doc, and a number of other topics. It was exhilarating and low-key at the same time. A moment I will always treasure.

The second time was on Ripon’s turf a few years later. Al was the featured performer at a scholarship fund-raising concert on campus. It was the first time my husband had been to Ripon, so I took him on a little tour before we joined the pre-concert dinner. We drove down to lower campus so I could show him the Rodman Center (where I had spent many hours as a student) and Storzer (where the concert was taking place). As we drove around the parking lot, we saw Al riding in an SUV. I waved and smiled, and he waved back.

We proceeded to the dinner and then to the concert, where we were very pleasantly surprised to find our seats in the front row. Again, we were treated to an exquisite performance by one of Ripon’s favorite sons. His affection for the College was so genuine and the evening was truly magical. Because we were so close, it felt like we were enjoying our own private concert. Indeed, Al was able to look directly at us, and pointed at me and remarked, “Are you the beautiful lady who was waving at me in the parking lot earlier?” Best. Compliment. Ever.

Al was generous in sharing his time following the concert by having his picture taken with his many Ripon fans at a post-concert reception, and my husband and I eagerly recounted our previous interaction with him as we had our photo taken with him. Again, we found him to be exceedingly approachable, humble and clearly devoted to Ripon.

The combination of Al’s unique musical abilities and his gracious persona are combined qualities that do not come along often. How I wish he hadn’t been taken from us this soon. How fortunate I was to have these opportunities to experience his talent and infectious smile in person. And how wonderful that we have his remarkable music to continue to enjoy and remind us of him.

Barbara Tincher Stack ’87
Menasha, Wisconsin

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43 up to Barbara Tincher Stack

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Here are two — but you might want to use both, given their connection to the College. If you’d prefer an attachment, let me know. Certainly feel free to cut out the due date of my book, if it seems inappropriate (in parentheses).
Kurt

Before he returned to Ripon for the 50th reunion of his class in the summer of 2012, I had only met Al Jarreau twice – when he came back to the College for homecoming in 1982, and when he gave his fantastic concert in the Storzer Center in 2006. We had only exchanged a few words, but on each occasion, he was extraordinarily gracious. Since I have been writing a book about Wisconsin jazz musicians (due out in April 2018), the Advancement Office generously set up some time in 2012 for me to talk with Al, for the book. We arranged to meet on the lawn in front of the Evans Center in the evening. Of course everyone else at the reunion was going to show up there, too. So my interview with Al ended up being a quick question here, with part of an answer, interrupted by well-wishers, another question, a few words before the next interruption, and so on. But I couldn’t be at all resentful, because who wouldn’t want to say hello to Al, and get their picture taken with him? And he was happy to speak with everyone – especially kids. But Al and I did talk a little bit about his youth in Milwaukee, and he told me about spending a good part of his childhood living next door to a polka hall. He told me that he knew more polkas than Frankie Yankovich, and broke into a rousing chorus of “Too Fat Polka.”

Just last October I had the good fortune of attending, along with two Ripon College students, the event in Milwaukee’s Pfister Hotel at which Al was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music, and where the scholarship in his name was announced that will allow many Milwaukee Public School students to attend music camps, workshops and competitions. Once again, Al was glad to say hello to anyone who went over to his table. And he was always happy to greet Ripon College people. He embarrassed the students by asking them to sing the College’s alma mater – which he knew by heart. He gave such an inspiring speech that night. As we were in the throes of the ugly presidential campaign, I know that as he spoke, I wanted to vote for Al Jarreau for president. It was such a joyous night. How could we know that in a few months he would be gone?

Kurt Dietrich

Kurt Dietrich
Professor of Music and Barbara Baldwin De Frees Chair in the Performing Arts

Roomed across the hall from Al for four years. Many memories of Al. Sang with him in the Spring Sing.

George F. Vesley ’62
Marana, Arizona

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Having missed him on several previous trips to the Phoenix area, on Feb. 5, 2016, I attended an Al Jarreau concert at the Highlands Church in north Scottsdale. The church holds up to 2,000 people and it was very full. The age spectrum was broad, yet mostly middle-aged and senior people (like me). Al’s bad leg limited his mobility, but his voice was strong, and the audience was most enthusiastic. I was a 1962 classmate with him and had arranged to go backstage after the show. There were numerous people, and Al spent time with many of them individually, while managers tried to move him along to a donors’ gathering. When he knew that some people were Ripon graduates, he broke out into the good old Fight Song. It was a very special evening.

Joe Comfort ’62
Tempe, Arizona

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