1981 – Spring ’21 Class Letter

1981 – Spring 2021 Class Letter

Greetings, Class of 1981!

Forty years ago, we were already into our final semester at Ripon College. Ready to go out and face the world and meet or make the destinies that Ripon prepared us for. Careers, families, and other adventures and challenges loomed ahead. Today, many of us are preparing for, or engaged in, new adventures, being empty nesters, grandparents, or even retirees. Overall, I think our class has done well by our alma mater. 

2020 was a year of unprecedented challenges for many, but the isolation imposed by COVID-19 forced many of us to think about how much we value our relationships with family and friends. I know it prompted me to reach out and reconnect. Hopefully, for you as well.

On the list of things to be proud of this last year was the $240,789 that the Class of ’81 contributed to the College. Not bad, but there are still a few classes that came in ahead of us. On April 28th, the College will hold this year’s #OneDayRally. Please keep it on your calendar and let us see if we can beat last year’s giving. Thank you all, for your generosity and your investment in the future.

Each time I hear from or read about Ripon or one of our classmates, I think about how lucky I was to have part of the Class of ’81. I had the pleasure to listen to a live virtual Valentine’s Day concert performed by WANDA HOUSTON ’81 and her band. Beautiful music that brought back some great Ripon memories. 

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 video 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 including for our very own KENT TIMM ’81, a 2021 Distinguished Alumni Citation Winner; 2020 and 2021 reunion celebration, and will feature other outdoor events like Rally Run and prairie walk.
  • Additionally, the Class of 2020 will officially be welcomed to our alumni community with a special commencement ceremony.

We are looking for volunteers to help plan events and activities for the Class of 81’s Class Reunion. If you are interested, please reach out to me.

Class Notes:

TOM ABENDROTH ’81 of Evanston, Illinois, writes, “Terri and I continue to do well living in our little circle of safe family and friends. Since the cold weather, it has shrunk to our daughters Kate, Eliza, and the men in their lives. I have now been Chair of the Ripon Board of Trustees for four meetings and three of those have been virtual. I never would have imagined that. We did make it to Tanque Verde Ranch in Arizona for Thanksgiving this year, keeping the streak alive. Kate and her long-time beau Rob got engaged there. We are thrilled. We also got a couple of outside visits with my dad, BOB ABENDROTH ’51 and stepmom when the weather was still nice – meeting them at the stable where they keep their horse. They just got their second vaccine dose. Very grateful for that.”

TERRY CRAMER ’81 of Cable, Wisconsin, writes, “BRENDA JONES CRAMER ’82 and I moved permanently to Lake Namakagon in Northern Wisconsin, two years ago. We really enjoy every season and everything the area has to offer. We are just finishing up snowmobile/snowshoe/XC ski/ice skating/ice fishing season and preparing for the maple syrup season. After that, we are adding a puppy to the family – a flat-coated retriever. That and the lake should keep us busy through the summer. I will definitely be at our Reunion. I actually go every year to play in the Doc Weiske ’50 Memorial Golf Scramble. Over the holidays, we drove to Beaver Creek, Colorado for our nephew’s wedding (KEVIN ’82 and LORI JONES KING ’84’s son). Then onto Houston to play with the grandkids for a week. Then back to the lake. It was a nice little 4000-mile road trip.”

BLAINE GIBSON ’81 of Grafton, Wisconsin writes, “My daughter gave birth to a son last month, so I am a second-time grandfather.” Blaine was a featured panelist for a program through the Ripon College Center for Diversity and Inclusion featuring Ripon College’s black alumni during Black History Month on February 11th with fellow classmate, KEN PINCKNEY ’81.

CAROLYN GUY ’81 of Robbinsdale, Minnesota, writes, “My wife, Crystal, and I are planning to join all of you for the 40th Class Reunion and we hope to enjoy some golf for the Doc Weiske ’50 Memorial Golf Scramble.”

WANDA HOUSTON ’81 of Sheffield, Massachusetts, writes, “There’s been a lot going on and 2020 has not been easy, but we keep moving forward. COVID-19 has forced all of us to do old things in new ways. As an entertainer, my world was turned completely upside down. Suddenly, what I do for a living was deadly to myself and others; every performance a super spreader event. So, we’ve bonded together and Zoomed, live-streamed, and recorded performances so that those accustomed to weekly shows could get their “fix”. It was also a way for us musicians to have the relief we get from being together and playing. The response from our fan base has been eye-opening and heart-warming.”

DAVE ’81 and KRISTEN KOHLES JANSSEN ’82 of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, writes, “We traveled to Boulder, Colorado, this fall to celebrate the wedding of our son, Greg, (Ripon College men’s tennis coach in 2013) and Lindsey Sadler. Also found time to take a trip to Maui in February to escape the Wisconsin chill.”  

SUSAN FORREST-LOBB JEFFREYS ’81 of Phoenix, Arizona, says, “2020 was actually a good year for us. Mike is still in IT for Wells Fargo and made the work-from-home pivot fairly easily. I’ve really enjoyed seeing him more during the week! We’ve all managed to stay COVID-free and we got out a bunch of times in our self-contained motor home. The national parks were blissfully uncrowded! I did a lot of soul-searching this spring. I have realized after retiring from my corporate IT career that I would rather wear out than rust out on the couch. I did a number of powerful exercises to discover what would bring me joy and energy in the future. Long story short, I discovered that my Behavioral Super Power is Influencer and I’ve decided to become a Life Coach. I have named my business Courage Rises. This year will be all about creating video interviews on everyday stories of courage and bravery, teaching productivity and time management in a MasterMind format and gaining coaching skills. I’m excited (and a little nervous) about this new endeavor. Website to come, but for now, you can find my video interviews on YouTube by searching for @CourageRises. The first ones are a little rough, but they get better. :-)”

DONNA LESLIE ’81 of Mount Holly, North Carolina, writes, “Like most people I have been pretty much hanging out at home- although I am getting better at pickleball and the dog gets LOTS of walks. I hope to be able to make our Class Reunion, but that will be contingent on the speed of the vaccines here in North Carolina.”

LARRY NIKOLAUS ’81 of Colorado Spring, Colorado writes, “As for KATHY HARBUT NIKOLAUS ’81 and I, we have faced COVID-19 with lots of outdoor time, neighborhood walks, mountain trail hikes, some skiing, and tackling an overdue kitchen remodel. Like many of you I have been working from home 90% of the time still supporting the Space Force and mastering the art of Skype, Teams, and Zoom. Teaching my 86-year-old mother how to Zoom led to weekly Sunday Zoom meetings with her and all my siblings. Keeping my Boy Scouts engaged during COVID-19 has been a challenge, but I have managed to keep it going with virtual meetings and even a few virtual campouts. We plan to make it to the reunion and are looking forward to seeing all of you soon.”

KEN PINCKNEY ’81 of Glendale, Wisconsin, appeared with his wife, Lora L. Hyler, and their son, Will, on Thursday, Sept. 17, via Skype on the national television program “Live with Kelly and Ryan.” Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest were the hosts. You can access a feature of this story here.

ANDREW ’81 and SUSAN ANGELL SCHMIDT ’80 of Wausau, Wisconsin, write, “Our son, Alex, will graduate from UW Madison’s School of Law this May. He is the fourth generation, fifth Schmidt to be an attorney. We are very proud of him. Sue and I also contributed to the first dog park for Wausau. This summer we can finally take our dog, Topaz, for a run in our city’s new dog park.”

Some sad news:

MARSHA L. BILLUPS-WEST ’81 of Richmond, California died July 30, 2020. At Ripon, she participated in volleyball. She previously had been a quality control manager for Greenworks USA. She was an active member of the Berkeley Mount Zion M.B.C. and was involved with numerous of its ministries, including culinary and greeters. She was an avid fan of the 49ers and the Golden State Warriors. She enjoyed playing tennis, shopping, reading, watching old movies, and attending concerts. Survivors include her husband, Larry D. West; her mother, Catherine Billups, of Richmond, California; one daughter and one stepson. 

Thanks to all of you that sent me notes for our Class Letter. Keep them coming.

Best wishes,

Larry

(719) 314-5531

Your 1981 Class Agent