1978 – Spring ’20 Class Letter

March 3, 2020

1978 – Spring 2020

Gregg Petersen ’78

10829 Hilltop Lane, Columbia, MD 21044

(410)-884-0407 / [email protected]

Dear Classmates:

Happy 2020 everyone! It seems like it was Y2K just yesterday and now it’s 20 years later! As I read about Melanie Kenion Civin and Erika Doss hiking near Lake Bled in Slovenia in our letter, it reminds me of when I visited there in 1979, but at that time, the country was Yugoslavia! Time marches on and apparently so do we as a class. In this letter, we have a marriage in Myanmar, a safari in Africa, visits to monasteries in Armenia, business trips to Slovakia, mini-reunions in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, and Florida, and yes, Meyer is still in Moscow…Idaho that is. What we don’t know, is what the rest of you guys and gals have been doing. I reckon that we are missing out on many, many more adventures, moves, new jobs, semi-retirements, retirements, and reunions that the rest of us would be very interested in reading about. Plus, I know some of you are writers like Tammy Boden-Ellis and Rod Haynes. That said, please read on about what some of our classmates have been doing.

HEADLINES FOR THIS LETTER:

  • ’78 Classmate Updates
  • #OneDayRally April 29th’78 Classmate Updates:

DANI CALDWELL ’78 of Henderson, Nevada writes, “On December 25, Alan and I left for a great adventure in Thailand and Myanmar. The occasion for our travel was our son Sam’s wedding in Myanmar on January 3. His fiancé (now wife) Suyi Lynn was a student at Carroll University in Waukesha, where he met her. Long story short, her student visa expired after her graduation from Carroll, and she had to return to Myanmar. Sam decided he couldn’t live without her and proposed. She accepted and their quest to get her back to the US began. Sam applied for a fiancé visa in early 2019 and unfortunately, they are still waiting and now hoping that the recent travel ban (don’t get me started) that includes Myanmar doesn’t adversely affect their plans to be together here.


Last spring, Sam and Suyi decided that they would have a Buddhist wedding ceremony in Yangon. They set the date and informed family. While home for a visit last July, we met with one of my high school friends who has a travel agency and we started our plans to travel for the ceremony.


Myanmar, formerly Burma, is an interesting country. Until just a few years ago, it would have been very difficult for us to travel there. Now, they welcome tourism. Visas are required to visit there, but as we learned, a bit painfully, they have an e-Visa system that is easy and inexpensive.

Suyi asked us if we would consider wearing traditional clothing to the ceremony and we agreed. That wasn’t such a big deal for me, as it required a long skirt and blouse, but for Alan it was a little more of a consideration as the men wear long skirts called a longyi or paso.
We arrived in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Rangoon, and still called that by some of the residents) on December 27th after traveling from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, then to Taipei and finally to Yangon. We were met at the airport by Suyi and she drove us to several locations in the city, the most important of which was to the designer who was going to make my wedding outfit. Fabrics were chosen for both of our outfits, measurements taken, and then we went to a restaurant to meet Suyi’s parents. After a pleasant meal, we went back to the airport to board yet another plane to fly to Phuket, Thailand for a 5-day vacation before returning to Yangon for the wedding ceremony.

We had a pleasant stay in Phuket, but when we got to the airport in Phuket on New Year’s Day, we were told that the visas we had for Myanmar (which we paid a company to obtain for us) were only single-entry visas and were therefore no good for returning to Myanmar. We were also told, much to our great distress, that as it was Jan. 1 and a holiday, no arrangements could be made for new visas until Jan. 2, and it would probably take 2-3 days for new visas to be issued. At this point, we were traveling with Alan’s brother, who had joined us in Phuket and planned to go to Myanmar for the wedding. We said goodbye to him and then contacted Sam with the bad news. That is when we found out that contrary to what the Air Asia staff told us; we could go online to get an e-Visa. Thankfully, there is free Wi-Fi in the Phuket airport and we went through the process to apply for the e- Visas. The government website we used said there would be a 24-hour turnaround time for the visas, so we found a hotel close to the airport that had a free shuttle and traveled there to wait for the 24 hours. However, once at the hotel, we accessed our email and found that our visas had been issued! We quickly repacked, got the hotel staff to print out the visa letters and hustled back to the airport to try to fly to Yangon. After a short wait on standby, and $600 later, we were rushed to a plane and we were on our way. We arrived 4 hours later than we had planned and were extremely thankful to be there at all!

The wedding ceremony was beautiful. It took place at a Buddhist monastery and was officiated by 8 monks who sat in large, throne-like chairs on a low, long stage. Rugs of various patterns were on the floor in front of the stage, and Sam and Suyi knelt on the rugs. The rest of the family either sat or knelt on the rugs or chairs behind them. One monk spoke (in Burmese, so we didn’t understand anything being said), but Suyi’s sister, Lynn, sat near us and explained most of what was happening.

Sam and Suyi spent some time with the monks and then came back and posed for hundreds of pictures with friends and relatives who came to eat and greet the newlyweds. Suyi’s father, Tsin Lin, is a commercial photographer and teaches photography, so the videographers and photographers (there were many) were all students of his.

Over the next 4 days, we traveled to Bagan and Inle Lake, both interesting and beautiful in their own right. We traveled with Sam, Suyi and her parents, who provided us with drivers, tour guides, meals, and an amazing time.

We returned to the US well ahead of the coronavirus scare, tired but happy for the wonderful experiences and so happy for our son. We are very hopeful that Sam and Suyi’s visa application will not be affected by the latest permutation of the travel ban and that she will be allowed to come to the US very soon.

Of course, no experience would be complete without a Ripon connection, would it? Suyi’s sister LYNN WHUT HMONE ’12, who I mentioned above, is a Ripon graduate!”

JOE JR. ’77 AND JULIE SCHARON CHOVAN ’78 of Maineville, Ohio were spotted at last July’s Cincinnati Rally Hour with JENNIFER STAMBAUGH VOORHEES ’77, DAN NEWYEAR ’79, and DEBBIE FOSTER LIN ’75 and Peter Lin. Joe wrote: “That’s the last time I ever let Dan Newyear have a picture taken of us –never know where it will end up! We love meeting with our fellow Riponites in the Cincinnati area. Julie and I moved here in 1988 from Burlington, Wisconsin. We celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary (I gained a pound each year just to match 🙃) on Monday, the 19th of August….I met her the first day at Ripon and we’ve been together ever since! We went on vacation in Door County to celebrate- we go almost every year to get our Wisconsin fix.”

HELEN HOLTER ’78 of Seattle, Washington writes: (I had a) “wonderful opportunity last summer, when I was invited to be part of a Smithsonian/State Department project to assess rural development opportunities in Armenia. It was incredible! Beyond 1,000-year-old monasteries, stomach-spinning mountains passes, hospitality in spades, and so much good food and wine I’ll never eat a McDonald’s hamburger again…. I’d say the personal highlight for me was visiting the town of Gyumri, which back in Soviet times was called Leninakan – site of a devastating earthquake in 1988 that killed more than 25,000. I covered it as a TV reporter back in the 1980s, so actually seeing it decades later — much of the earthquake damage exactly as it was then — was sad and sobering. I’m thrilled to add that I’ll be returning this spring to Armenia, as well as to Azerbaijan and Georgia.”

MEREDITH VALENTINE JOHNSON ’78 of St. Louis Park, Minnesota visited with recent Eden Prairie arrival, retired Reverend Paul Nancarrow, serving as a substitute priest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis with her and her sister-in-law Judy Smoot Johnson ’80.

MELANIE CIVIN KENION ’78 of Brighton, Massachusetts: “August 10, 2019. It’s official. I’ve retired from the Medford Public Schools and will be starting at The Rashi School. A private Jewish day school. I look forward to third graders, a safe environment, and new challenges. So, ERIKA LEE DOSS ’78 (South Bend, Indiana) and I did a 9-day women’s hike in Slovenia. We hiked in the Julian Alps, Velika Planina (alpine highlands), Lake Bled, and Lake Boninj. We hiked between 8-10 miles a day with a group of 12 women with a tour company called Adventures in Good Company. It was challenging and great to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. This was our third trip together…we previously hiked the Inka Trail and traveled in Cambodia and Thailand. We’re tossing around ideas for two years from now.”

LARRY LAUX ’78 of Dousman, Wisconsin continues to enjoy his retirement. Whether he is on safari in Africa with his wife Nina Wulff ‘77, visiting distilleries and taking samples home from Kentucky, making ice at the national curling championships near Spokane, or giving sermons at his local church, he seems to be getting the most out of his free time.

ROB “TEX” MEYER ’78 of Moscow, Idaho “…continues to pen pointless poems, prose and pointless Letters to Editors of various publications, some of which are published (and most of which are not). Political Progressivism continues to be (politely) impossible in Potato Land. Meyer continues to refuse knee-replacement surgery (first recommended in 2015) or brain-replacement (first suggested in 1974). Cooper the Coonhound continues to cooperate as Rob “Tex” Hobbler’s Personal Trainer (Exercise Guru), Entertainment Provider (no Internet or TV at our house) and Super-Duper Pooper Trooper Security Sentry. Cooper turns nine years old on February 28, 2020. He thinks he is nine months old. Meyer is reachable at (208) 874-7399. “Tex” thinks he’s 9,000 years old. Go Red Hawks…”

GREGG PETERSEN ’78 of Columbia, Maryland displayed his Environmental Education Macroinvertebrate Health Scoresheets at the Southeastern Wisconsin Conservation Summit at the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory in Port Washington, Wisconsin in November at the request of NANCY HINTZ ’82 P’10. He had a great visit with Ripon biology professors Memuna Khan and Ben Grady and some of their students who were in attendance. In an unrelated note to the conference, Gregg found out this last fall that the volunteer coordinator at the nature center down his street was taught by LOUISA GEBELEIN JONES ’78’s husband at the Pomfret School in Connecticut. Small world!!

Congratulations to SUE FEITH SHANNON ’78 and husband Tom (Saukville, Wisconsin), and HORACE ’78 and MARLA BRENDEN GARFIELD ’78 (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) who celebrated their respective 40th wedding anniversaries at Johnny Manhattan’s in Hubertus, Wisconsin in October! Sue also made a road trip with her dog Rocker to visit recently retired Joe Keegan (St. Petersburg, Florida) and George Mort ’80 on Marco Island, Florida in January.

LISA WOLLAN ’78 of Minneapolis, Minnesota writes, “It’s been just over a year since my retirement from Wawa and I’m loving this next stage of this journey. I moved back to Minnesota in June and have reconnected with friends from all parts of my life.” She got together with “four fabulous Ripon women: ANITA WALLACE ’78 BETH BENEZRA ’78, JULIA CLASSEN ’79 and ADELE BINNING ’79” recently – and is “looking forward to connecting with other Ripon folks as the weather warms up. Lots of fun travel planned this year, including several weeks in Germany to reignite my (dormant) language skills.”

JOHN ZINDAR ’78 of West Park, New York “enjoyed his usual traveling for both business and pleasure in 2019, having been to Panama, Costa Rica, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Colombia, and then back in Panama. Somehow, between all that he purchased and moved into a 107-year-old home in the historic Hudson Valley, just across the river from the FDR estate. It is complete with three springs, creek, pond, forest, and lots of animals, birds, frogs and dragonflies. After nearly 20 years in New York City, it is a wonderful change of lifestyle. I would be very pleased to host any and all Riponites in the area or just passing through.”

#OneDayRally April 29th: April 29th is the third annual #OneDayRally for The Ripon Fund. Or as I proudly like to call it, “Class of ’78 Spirit Day”! President Zach Messitte, VP of Advancement SHAWN KARSTEN ’09, and the rest of the College staff have worked successfully with the faculty to streamline and optimize the curriculum and operations at our alma mater, but they need our continuing support. LOUISA GEBELEIN JONES ’78, I, or other intrepid classmate volunteers may reach out to you for charity and an update for the fall class letter on that day.

Please make your donations via phone or electronically on the 29th, or if you will be mailing them in, you can send your check before then with a designation for the #OneDayRally. If you run late for mailing, you can make a pledge on the 29th and follow it up with a mailing as well. Our donations count twice in that in addition to our support, Ripon is rated by the robustness of its alumni support by some of the college rating systems and services- so our support is doubly important! There are also matching challenges during the #OneDayRally that multiply our philanthropy. By the time you see this letter, my donation will be in the mail. Please join Shirley and me supporting our beloved Ripon.

Class Letter Updates: If you didn’t have an update for this letter, then it’s time for one from you for our next letter by the end of June. For this letter, some of you said that you did not want to be “that guy or gal” as you shared your activities. I hope I speak for all of us when I say that you should be reassured that we like to hear about what you are up to. If some of you had not shared, how would we have found out that one classmate had to go to Myanmar to discover that a new in-law was a Ripon grad or that the lady at the nature center down the street was taught by the husband of one of our classmates? For the next letter, please send me your thoughts about Ripon or what you and your family are doing and include a picture. In the meantime, have a great happy, healthy spring and summer!

Best wishes and warm regards,

Gregg