Ripon College’s 2018 Commencement will be held Sunday, May 13, at 1 p.m. on the lawn of Harwood Memorial Union.

Each year, the College organizes Commencement activities around a theme. The 2018 Commencement theme celebrates “Civil Discourse and Dialogue” by recognizing individuals and institutions who are dedicated to supporting these values and creating space for crucial conversations.

Honorees will share their insights regarding “Civil Discourse and Dialogue” during the Senior Brunch and Forum at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 13.

Graduates who will participate in the Commencement ceremony and Senior Brunch and Forum are required to fill out the registration form below and include information on any guests who will attend the Senior Brunch and Forum. The Senior Brunch and Forum is free for graduates. There is a charge of $15 per guest.

Register now

Speakers and Honorands

Ripon College's 2018 Commencement theme celebrates “Civil Discourse and Dialogue” by recognizing individuals and institutions who are dedicated to supporting these values and creating space for crucial conversations.

Keynote Speaker & Honorary Degree Recipient: Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour

Woodruff has covered politics and other news for more than four decades at CNN, NBC and PBS. For 12 years, she served as anchor and senior correspondent for CNN, where her duties included anchoring the weekday program, Inside Politics.

“Judy Woodruff is one of most widely respected journalists of her generation,” said Zach Messitte, president of Ripon College. “She is balanced, thorough and interested in getting to the truth. Her commitment to excellence has made us all better-informed citizens about the most important issues facing our country and the world.”

At PBS from 1983 to 1993, she was the chief Washington correspondent for The MacNeil / Lehrer NewsHour. From 1984-1990, she also anchored PBS’ award-winning weekly documentary series, Frontline with Judy Woodruff.

In 2006, Woodruff was a visiting professor at Duke University's Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy. In 2005, she was a visiting fellow at Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. She is the recipient of the Cine Lifetime Achievement award, a Duke Distinguished Alumni award, the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Broadcast Journalism/Television, the University of Southern California Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, the Al Neuharth / University of South Dakota Award for Excellence in Journalism and the Gaylord Prize for Excellence in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Oklahoma, among others.

Woodruff is a founding co-chair of the International Women's Media Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting and encouraging women in communication industries worldwide. She serves on the board of trustees for the Freedom Forum, the Newseum, the Duke Endowment and the Urban Institute. She is a former member of The Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. Woodruff is a graduate of Duke University, where she is a trustee emerita.

Founders' Award and Honorary Degree Recipient: Rep. Joan Ballweg, Wisconsin's 41st District

Ballweg has represented Wisconsin’s 41st district in the State Assembly since 2004 and served as Majority Caucus Chairperson in 2011 and 2013. She lives in Markesan where she and her husband own a farm equipment business. She was on the Markesan City Council from 1987 to 1991 and mayor from 1991 to 1997. She also is a member and former treasurer of the Markesan Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Waupun Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Green Lake County Farm Bureau.

“Rep. Ballweg has done so much for Ripon College throughout the years, whether by hosting student internships or as an active participant in numerous campus workshops, discussion forums and town hall meetings,” Messitte said.

Now in her seventh term as a state representative, Ballweg is co-chair of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, and is a member of the following committees: Colleges and Universities, Children and Families, Mental Health, Rules, Joint Legislative Council, Jobs and the Economy, International Affairs and Commerce, and The Speaker’s Task Force on Foster care, and Tourism.

She has served on these special committees: Symposia Series on Supporting Healthy Early Brain Development, 911 Communications, Emergency Management and Continuity of Government, Continuity of Legislative Operations, Review of Higher Education Financial Aid Programs, Differences in Laws Applicable to Cities and Villages, and Review of Emergency Detention and Admission of Minors Under Chapter 51.

Her leadership in education, business and health care include writing legislation impacting agriculture, small businesses, health care, and education in the State of Wisconsin. She is spearheading Red Tape Review, a comprehensive look at Wisconsin’s administrative rules, and initiatives relating to strengthening families and early childhood education. She has achieved passage of Donate to Life Wisconsin license plates in an effort to raise awareness and funds for organ donation; and has achieved the opportunity for residents and non-residents to purchase on-day fishing licenses; and is working to modernize and provide greater access to the small claims courts process in Wisconsin.

Distinguished Educator Award: Richard Zimman, Retired former superintendent of Ripon Area School District

Richard Zimman will receive Ripon College's Distinguished Educator Award. Zimman retired from the Ripon Area School District in 2013 after 40 years as a public school educator. During his time as superintendent from 2004 to 2013, he worked to revise, reinvigorate and reinvent the educational program for all grade levels.

Among his accomplishments were a 4-year-old preschool program, an off-site charter school for at-risk students, an in-district program for cognitively disabled and autistic students, a K-12 program for English Language Learners with a certified teacher at each building, online learning courses for high school students, the Senior Tax Exchange Program (STEP), the AlertNow emergency message system, the creation of a continuum of four project-based learning charter schools for K-12 students, a public communications program pioneering the use of social media, and an innovative salary plan based on a collegiate model.

“Richard Zimman wanted Ripon Public Schools to achieve excellence,” Messitte said. “His commitment to our community and education is a model for teachers and administrators around the state and the nation.”

Schedule of Events

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

  • 5:00 P.M. Senior Class Champagne Toast. The Spot, Harwood Memorial Union

Friday, May 11, 2018

  • 1-11 p.m.: Bovay’s Study Bar & Mercantile Special Commencement Hours, 329 Watson Street, downtown Ripon
  • 3 p.m.: Senior Photo, Harwood Memorial Union Steps (Rain site: Bear Auditorium)
  • 3:30-5 p.m.: Senior Rehearsal, Bear Auditorium, Farr Hall of Science

Saturday, May 12, 2018

  • 8 a.m.-9 p.m.: Ripon College Senior Art Exhibition, Lobby, C.J. Rodman Center for the Arts
  • 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. Bovay's Study Bar & Mercantile is open for official college merchandise and place to relax

Saturday Afternoon Academic Receptions

The following Academic Receptions are for graduating majors, minors and their families:

  • 1-2 p.m.: Communication, at the home of Professor Steve and Michelle ’98 Martin 629 Woodside Ave.
  • 1-2:30 p.m.: Psychology/Psychobiology, at Evans Admission Center
  • 1-3 p.m.: Biology/Chemistry-Biology/Psychobiology/Environmental Studies, at the McCullough Family Lounge, Farr Hall of Science
  • 1-3 p.m. Chemistry/Chemistry-Biology/Physics, The home of Dr. Colleen M. Byron and Dr. Gary S. Rodman, 908 Nordane Avenue
  • 1-3 p.m.: Exercise Science, Willmore Center Atrium
  • 1:30-2:30 p.m.: Politics & Government and National Security, at the Wensink Faculty Lounge, East Hall
  • 1:30-2:30 p.m.: Philosophy and Religion, at the Mihaly Room, S.N. Pickard Commons
  • 2 p.m.: Foreign Languages/Cultures and German, at the home of Professor Dr. Geoff Guevara-Geer and Ms. Lea Cicchiello, 206 Watson Street, Apt. #1
  • 2:30-3:30 p.m.: Business Management/Economics, at the College Museum, West Hall
  • 2:30-3:30 p.m.: Theatre/Educational Studies/Music, at Lobby, C.J. Rodman Center for the Arts

Saturday Evening Events

  • 4-5:30 p.m.: President’s Reception with Complimentary Champagne Toast, for all graduates and their families, faculty and staff and special invitees, at Great Hall, Harwood Memorial Union
  • 8-9 p.m.:Baccalaureate Service, An interfaith service featuring senior speakers and musical performances, First Congregational Church, 220 Ransom St.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

  • 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. Bovay's Study Bar & Mercantile is open for official college merchandise and place to relax
  • 9:15 a.m.: Phi Beta Kappa Induction, Great Hall, Harwood Memorial Union
  • 10 a.m.: Senior Brunch and Forum, A discussion featuring the honorary degree recipients, moderated by President Zach P. Messitte (Free for graduates, $15 for guests of graduates)
  • Brunch served until 10:30 a.m. for graduates, families, friends, Trustees, faculty and staff, S.N. Pickard Commons
  • Forum from 10:30-11:30 a.m.
  • 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.: One Last Photo: Toast your graduate with one last family picture. No registration required, free to all graduates and their families. Center for Career and Professional Development, S.N. Pickard Commons.
  • 12:15 p.m.: Commencement Procession Assembly, Graduates will line-up on the sidewalk between East Hall and Todd Wehr Hall
  • 1 p.m.: Commencement Ceremony, Harwood Memorial Union Lawn

General Information

Where can I stay and eat in the Ripon area?
Click here for a list of lodging and dining options in the area.

Where is the Commencement rain location?
Commencement will be held Sunday, May 13, whether it rains, sleets or snows. Though most of us would prefer a warm day filled with bright sunshine, the weather has been known to provide challenges in the past. Sunday’s 1 p.m. ceremony is planned to take place on the lawn of Harwood Memorial Union. If the weather turns sour, however, a decision will be made Sunday morning about whether to move the ceremony inside.

Should the conditions be questionable, an update about the location of the ceremony will be posted by 8 a.m. on the College’s Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as the College’s official website (

In Wisconsin, May weather can be balmy or downright frigid. More often than not, it is both on the same day. Please be prepared for changes in temperature by dressing in layers. The ceremony generally lasts an hour and a half, so it may be 50° F and cloudy at the beginning and 70° F and sunny by the end, or vice versa. Nothing compares to an outdoor Commencement ceremony at Ripon, and, if at all possible, the ceremony will be held on the Union lawn as scheduled. So dress appropriately for any changes in the weather.

Where can I park?
Free parking is available on the streets surrounding the Union; however, spots will fill fast and early. Click to view our Campus Map. Off-street parking, denoted on the map by a P, is available in lots behind Smith Hall, on Thorne Street, at the corner of Seward Street and Woodside Avenue and off Ransom Street across from East Hall. Handicapped-accessible parking, denoted on the map with an H, is available near the Union, outside Pickard Commons and at Evans Admission Center. Handicapped parking also will be marked on Seward Street. If the ceremony is held inside or under a tent, free parking is available.

Is accessible seating and parking available?
Accessible seating and parking is available for the Commencement ceremony. Please ask an usher if you need special assistance. Individuals requiring special assistance should call the Office of Constituent Engagement at 920-748-8126 by May 6 to ensure appropriate accommodations.

When do I need to leave the residence halls?
The residence halls will close at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 13. All students must have their belongings removed and be checked out before that time. Students are reminded that they may donate unwanted items as part of the “Lighten Your Load” program (look for more information to come).

Do I need a ticket to attend the Commencement ceremony?
There are no tickets for the Commencement ceremony. Seating is first-come, first-served. While seating will be available outdoors, there are also plenty of grassy areas, and guests are welcome to bring blankets or lawn chairs. If the ceremony is moved indoors, seating will be more limited; so guests should plan to arrive early.

When and where is Commencement rehearsal?
Graduates are reminded to attend the Commencement rehearsal at 4 p.m., Friday, May 11, in Farr Hall’s Bear Auditorium. Be sure Dean Wingenbach pronounces your name correctly!

When and where is the Senior Class photo to be taken?
Seniors are reminded to show up for the class photo at 3:30 p.m. Friday, May 11. A group photo of the Class of 2018 will be taken on the lawn in front of Tri-Dorms. Rain site is Bear Auditorium.

Will Starbucks be open on Sunday, May 13?
Common Grounds “We Proudly Brew” Starbucks, located in the lower level of S.N. Pickard Commons, will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 13. Starbucks offers hot and cold beverages, snacks and other refreshments.

What's the Baccalaureate Service? Is it religious? Who should attend?
Each year, the College includes an interfaith religious service as part of its Commencement weekend activities. Typically held the evening before Commencement, this year’s baccalaureate service will be held at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 13, in First Congregational Church of Ripon. The ceremony is created by officers of the graduating class and the religion department.

The service does not focus on any one religious faith, but rather includes readings from each of the different religious traditions represented within the senior class. Musical selections are performed by students, and a brief address also is given by an individual chosen by members of the graduating class.

All graduating seniors and their families are invited to attend this free event, as are the faculty and staff of the College.

What's the policy on honor cords?
In past years, the College prohibited the wearing of any cords or stoles other than College honor cords and Phi Beta Kappa stoles. All departmental honor cords, Greek stoles and other accoutrements (within reason) are now allowed during the ceremony. Those items, however, will not be provided by the College or listed in the program.

Your question not answered here?
Call or email the Office of Constituent Engagement at 920-748-8126.

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300 W. Seward St. Ripon, WI 54971
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