1978 – Spring ’21 Class Letter

1978 – Spring 2021 Class Letter

Greetings, Class of 1978!

I hope this first Class Letter of 2021 finds you and your families in good spirits and most especially in good health! At the start of 2021, most of us are qualified (or just about qualified) for a priority COVID-19 vaccine group at age 65. Perhaps our fall letter will finally be when we have arrived at our new normal, post-virus, with vaccinations, and without masks and trepidation. 

As a class, it appears we have weathered the last year in fairly good health, but I expect that all of us have friends and family that have been affected and others of us are facing some very serious health challenges unrelated to COVID-19. That makes this an important time to reach out to our fellow classmates and faculty. I see that LARRY LAUX ’78 checked in on retired Professor Wayne Larsen in the last few weeks. MIKE CHAMBERLAIN ’78 and CHIN-WEI FONG’s ’78 request for publisher recommendations for their book detailed in our updates below gave me a chance to reach out to Professor Doug Northrop and Ripon College President Zach Messitte. The Ripon faculty and administration were happy to assist just like when we were students. Doug and Zach were immediately responsive to Mike’s request with recommendations for publishers.

If any of you would like to reach out to other classmates or faculty and need contact information, please let me know. I will do my best to find a way to help you reach out to them. 

The college continues to respond to other issues of great importance to us. You may recall from our spring letter last year that DANNI CALDWELL’s ’78 son is engaged to a woman, Suyi, from Myanmar. In January, Suyi was still there since getting her visa proved to be challenging in the former administration, compounded by COVID-19. Next, there was the added complication of the military coup following a general election on February 1. Suyi’s sister LYNN WHUT HMONE ’12 is a Ripon grad. Danni reached out to make sure Ripon leadership was aware of Lynn’s and Suyi’s plight. On February 9, President Messitte responded to Danni and other Ripon alumni and students by sending a letter of concern to United States Secretary of State Blinken urging him to “do everything that you can to protect democracy in Myanmar.” In the last decade, Ripon has graduated more students from Myanmar than from any other country outside the United States. Messitte further opined in his letter that “On behalf of our Burmese students and alumni, we stand with the people of Burma in their aspirations for democracy, freedom, peace and development.” As of this writing, Suyi is still in Myanmar, but it was heartening to see that the college shares Danni’s concerns and did its best to help call attention to the issue and petition for a solution with the US government.

President Messitte has also led two very informative Zoom Town Hall meetings in the last six months to update Ripon alumni and to answer any questions. Any alumni are welcome to listen in to these updates and pose questions for Zach, his staff, and faculty representatives. If you cannot attend future iterations of these virtual sessions, please feel free to pass me your questions and I will pose them for you to the Ripon leadership.

Two key topics you may have interest in from those Town Halls is how Ripon is dealing with the COVID-19 issue for classes and how fall enrollment is coming along. Classes officially started on January 25 with a mix of in-person, online, and hybrid (part online and part in-person) formats. The weekend before classes started, the entire campus community (all students, faculty, and staff) were required to take a COVID-19 test, which was administered on campus in Great Hall resulting in a less than one percent positivity rate. Beginning on February 1, the College began random weekly surveillance testing where approximately a quarter of the College community will be tested. With regards to enrollment, fall enrollment is projected to be the best in eight years!

I continue to work with our online class page on R Connections to add recent Class Letters to the archive and was able to add the list of our past Class Agents to the cover page in the last month. The past service by JEFF JOHNSON ’78 (78-84), HOWARD MOFFET ’78 (84-88), DANNI CALDWELL ’78 (88-95), JEANNE SPYCHALLA LIETZAN ’78 (95-99), and ROB MEYER ’78 & LYNN BANNON ’78 (01-07) is very much appreciated and should not go unrecognized.

Finally, congratulations to LISA WOLLAN ’78 on her selection to the Ripon College Board of Trustees! Our influence at Ripon continues to build as Lisa joins LIZ PECHA-POELKER ’78 on the Board. See some details in the classmate news section below. Take a minute to send Lisa a note of congratulations for accepting this honor to help guide the college during these very challenging times. Remember that both Liz and Lisa can help channel your issues and questions to the Board and provide a very accurate, up-to-date perspective with regard to the goings-on at the College.

HEADLINES FOR THIS LETTER: 

  • ’78 Classmate Updates
  • Faculty Updates of Interest
  • Sad News
  • #OneDayRally on April 28th 
  • Alumni Weekend 2021 Updates
  • Class Letter Updates for Fall Letter

’78 Classmate Updates

MICHAEL CHAMBERLAIN ’78 of Auburn, New York writes, “CHIN-WEI FONG ’78 and I spent the first six months of lock-down (March to August 2020) working on a book, tentatively titled, A Comprehensive Guide for International Students Applying to College in the United States. As you know, the landscape is littered with college guides geared toward high school students here in the United States, but there are no such guides for international students seeking admissions to US colleges. 

“The manuscript, now completed, has a heavy emphasis on liberal arts colleges with details on over 200 schools – including Ripon. The problem we’ve run into is the publisher that Chin-wei had lined up is no longer able to go forward with the project due to geo-political circumstances. That has left us scrambling a bit to find another publisher. What I am wondering is whether any of our classmates may have some leads or suggestions for nonfiction publishers or agents that we could contact? If so they can contact me or Chin-wei, with both our thanks.

Other than that, Chin-wei has been spending his time locked down in Malaysia and Singapore while I have been enjoying forced isolation here in Auburn. So, in addition to collaborating remotely and electronically, we have had frequent three-hour phone calls during the narrow windows when we’re both awake.”

KAY DREXEL HOLT ’78 of Sylvania, Ohio writes that she is “Still teaching at McCord Junior High. It’s been an interesting year, to say the least. There have been many challenges, but I have wonderful students who work hard and we have managed to persevere. I am still having fun teaching – plan to teach one more year for sure and maybe two. Speaking of small worlds: Bill & I went to Disney for Christmas, golfed almost every day. We got paired up with a cousin of one of my current students! Last, but definitely not least: My first grandchild was born in April 2020 so I will never say 2020 was the worst year ever — It ranks right up in the top for me!”

Smokin’ JOE KEEGAN ’78 of St. Petersburg, Florida challenged me on Facebook to the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Pushup Challenge in September. So, we recorded our efforts doing 25 push ups for 25 days and posted our videos to raise awareness for the plight of folks with PTSD. It wasn’t a fundraiser per se, but we did raise some funds for PTSD assistance organizations and definitely raised others’ general awareness of those both from the military and all walks of life that struggle with PTSD.

ROB “Tex” MEYER ’78 writes that he “Celebrated Birthday #10 on Feb. 28th for Cooper, the Super Duper Pooper Scooper Coonhound. Cooper has been keeping me alive here in Moscow, Idaho.”

The Reverend PAUL NANCARROW ’78 of the Twin Cities in Minnesota writes, “Thanks for checking in with us alumni/ae of ’78. It’s been a crazy year for all of us, I’m sure, and it’s kind of reassuring to be remembered by our class agent and our alma mater. When disruption and isolation can be such prevalent experiences for people, it’s always good to maintain the connections we have. 

“I don’t have much news to report: I’m just enjoying retirement. We’re sort of homebodies anyway, so when the pandemic required social distancing and staying at home, we were pretty much already there- we just had to start wearing masks. Not having a job to go to daily (and on weekends) meant I could do a lot more bicycling this past year: in 2020 I logged over 2,600 miles on streets and paths around southeastern Minnesota. That’s a big personal best for me–and a big step up from riding my old touring bike around campus at Ripon. While I haven’t published a new book, I have been writing a blog of theological reflections at paulsnancarrow.wordpress.com. That’s been a great way to gather up my academic studies and my parish experience into thinking about Spirit and life. Thanks for being in touch.”

GREGG PETERSEN ’78 of Columbia, Maryland has pursued birding and bird photography since the advent of the pandemic last March in lieu of teaching watershed classes that were cancelled by COVID-19 restrictions. He has used the nearby Gunpowder Valley Conservancy and Howard County Conservancy fundraising challenge events as forums to improve and showcase his photos of birds and other outdoor subjects. During a recent bird walk seeking Short-eared Owl sightings, he coincidently met Professor Doug Morris’ (see also Professor Morris’ obituary below) daughter Carla during a discussion about birds in Wisconsin. He now has another new local friend with Ripon ties. Carla said one of her best friends is Jenny Bowen who she attended Ripon High School with. Jenny is the daughter of our recently departed Professor John Bowen. It’s a small world. 

A classmate said you might be interested in his participation in a COVID-19 vaccine trial, so here it is: “I’m last in priority for vaccination at age 64 here so I volunteered to be part of an investigative vaccine protocol. I am a lab rat two shots into Phase 2 of an experimental protocol for the ARCTURUS-0021COVID-19 vaccine…which means I either have been given the placebo or one of three different levels of the experimental vaccine in a series of three shots given over a period of three months. Phase 1 is where they make sure the vaccine is not a danger and folks won’t have major adverse reactions. Phase 2 is to test the efficacy of respective doses. The protocol does not require me to be exposed to the COVID-19 virus. However, if I am infected with COVID-19 through day-to-day contact, I then report the infection to the vaccine investigation team that is led by two doctors and they bring me in for additional visits for interview, blood draw, and treatment if needed. After each of the three respective shots, I keep a daily diary of symptoms for a week, and after that, if I experience symptoms that may be COVID-related, I log those and if needed, make an exceptional visit to the research facility. Each time I visit, they take a few vials of blood and check vital signs to see how the vaccine is percolating in my system. For all of this, there is also a nominal fee paid for volunteering of up to $750 total. When I first signed up, the protocol duration was 14 months, which I thought was reasonable, but then they amended the protocol and extended the trial time to 20 months. At the end of the 20 months, they tell me if I received the experimental vaccine and in what dosage amounts. If at any time I decide I do not want to continue in the trial for the full 20 months and get vaccinated with an approved vaccine, I can opt out and do an exit physical. So, it’s possible that I may bail out if some activity I participate in requires vaccination, but I am in no rush to opt out now. And that classmates, is what is entailed in volunteering for a COVID-19 trial.” 

LISA WOLLAN ’78 of Minneapolis, Minnesota is a new member of the Board of Trustees at Ripon College. Lisa earned an MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management. She has worked for Dun & Bradstreet; in consumer-packaged goods brand management for General Mills (Minneapolis) and Kraft (Chicago); as vice president of marketing for a division of Keystone Foods; doing international consulting projects in India, Argentina and Thailand; and in marketing for Wawa Inc. in Philadelphia. She retired in January 2019. The official announcement can be accessed here.

Faculty Updates of Interest:

Paul Schoofs, professor emeritus of economics, and Patricia Parker Francis, professor emeritus of economics, are quoted in an article in the September issue of Insight on Manufacturing, based in Appleton, Wisconsin. “New Deal: Dairy Industry is optimistic USMCA can deliver a boost” states: “2020 was poised to be the year Wisconsin’s long-suffering dairy industry finally began to rebound, but just as the future was brightening, the pandemic hit. … One bit of help for the dairy industry could come from the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, which went into effect July 1.” They also continue to give interviews about current economic issues for area radio stations.

William Woolley, professor of history emeritus, was profiled Sep 2, 2020 in the Ripon Commonwealth Press. The Ripon Rotary Club had awarded its highest honor, the Paul Harris Fellowship, to Woolley for having made significant and lasting contributions to the community.

Sad News:

WAYNE G. DAVIS ’76 of Winterset, Iowa died on November 6, 2020 at the age of 66. At Ripon, he majored in art, worked at WRPN Radio and the College Days student newspaper, and was a member of Beta Sigma Pi. Survivors include his wife, Kim, and one son. His first wife PATTI CARVER DAVIS ’76 died in 2002. More details in the Ripon Magazine.

THOMAS A. HOEHNE ’83 of Oshkosh, Wisconsin died January 13th, 2021. Thomas was the brother of TED HOEHNE ’77 and brother-in-law of KAREN STOCKDALE HOEHNE ’78. More details in the Ripon Magazine

Professor Doug Morris of Middleton, Wisconsin professor emeritus of music and founder/artistic director of the Green Lake Festival of Music, died Dec 4, 2020. He received his Bachelor of Music from the University of Tennessee, his master’s from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, and his Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was a baritone soloist, lecturer, conductor, composer, adjudicator and clinician, and led numerous choir tours abroad. He was at Ripon for more than three decades, teaching, coaching voice students and conducting the choirs, and won numerous teaching awards. He founded and served as artistic director of the Green Lake Festival of Music, and also was the choral director at First Congregational Church and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Ripon. He was an avid tennis player and won several state championships. Survivors include his wife, Sharon Fitzmorris; one son, two daughters and two stepdaughters.

Louise Shang of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, a former archivist at Ripon College, died November 22, 2020. Survivors include one son. Her husband, Professor Emeritus of English William Shang, died in 2015. More details in the Ripon Magazine.

#OneDayRally on April 28th

Our goal for the next #OneDayRally is “78 for ’78” (donors). We had 63 donors last year, so we ask that 15 more of you to give this year. Please be kind (and responsive!) to LOUISA GEBELEIN JONES ’78, LISA WOLLAN ’78, LIZ PECHA-POELKER ’78, SUE FEITH SHANNON ’78, and me if we call or email you around April 28th for your support. Oher class agents are calling me to find out what our secret to participation is. It is quite simply each of you donors continuing to demonstrate your affinity for Ripon in its “Most Loyal Alumni Class” as Louisa Gebelein Jones has named us. If you prefer, you do not need to wait until April 28th to give, you can mail your contribution in now with a note designating the funds for the #OneDayRally. The mailing address is: Ripon College Ripon Fund, PO Box 248, Ripon, WI 54971-0248.

Here are some school year 2019-20 class giving ranking statistics that embody our class’s generosity: Class of ’78 #1 in Total Number of Donors (85, next closest class is ’69 with 68), #3 in Total giving percent (behind ’47 & ’48 who have a total of 4 and 12 solicitable donors), and #9 in Total (Amount) Giving ($143, 820.21). We continue to climb the total giving board as our circumstances allow, but our main goal is to have as many classmates participate as possible.

Alumni Weekend 2021 Updates:

I know many of us can’t wait to travel again, so I wanted to mention that the College has announced plans for this summer’s Alumni Weekend. 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

AUGUST 2021

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 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.

Class Letter Updates for Fall Letter

We always want to hear from you! In a serious final note, ROB MEYER ’78 said I could share with you that he is recovering from throat cancer surgery. I request that you please keep Rob and our other ailing classmates in your thoughts and prayers. Despite the expected bills from his extended hospital stay, Rob will still be giving to One Day Rally, just like every other year. That’s a great example of the indomitable Class of ’78 spirit!

Best wishes and warm regards,

GREGG PETERSEN ’78

(410)-884-0407 / [email protected]

Your 1978 Class Agent