Ripon College’s 2017 Commencement was held Sunday, May 14, at 1:30 p.m. on the lawn of Harwood Memorial Union. Read our recap story here or watch the entire ceremony video at the right.

Each year, the College organizes Commencement activities around a theme. The 2017 Commencement theme celebrates “Wisconsin Food and Entrepreneurship” by recognizing the commitment to food that contributes to Wisconsin’s distinctive identity.

The state has its own special food culture, and agriculture represents a significant part of the state’s economy. The Dairy State is known, if course, for cheese, but its rich culinary tradition extends far beyond cheddars and creams. Wisconsin is world famous for bratwurst, craft beers, kringles, cheese curds, custards, fish frys, Door County cherry pies, cranberries, whitefish boils, supper clubs, butter burgers, and brandy old fashioneds. Restaurants and dinner tables the world over draw from Wisconsin’s rich farming heritage, and the state’s restaurants are some of the finest in the country.

Speakers and Honorands

Ripon College’s Commencement theme for 2017 honors two outstanding Wisconsin restaurateurs and small business owners who took their inspiration from the state’s rich culinary traditions to make an impact on food culture.

Keynote Speaker & Honorary Degree Recipient: Craig Culver, co-founder, chairman and interim CEO of Culver's

Craig Culver is the co-founder, interim CEO and chairman of the board of the Culver’s restaurant chain. Craig’s passion for the business started more than 50 years ago when his parents bought their first restaurant. Modeling his mom and dad’s command of the kitchen and gracious, Midwestern hospitality, Craig grew up serving guests and learning firsthand about delicious, cooked-to-order food. In 1984 came an idea for a restaurant no one could resist. Craig and his family opened the very first Culver’s featuring ButterBurgers and fresh frozen custard in their hometown of Sauk City, Wisconsin. In 1987, the franchising arm, Culver Franchising System Inc., was established. Shaped after the Culver family’s team approach around hospitality and great food, the first successful franchise was opened in Baraboo, Wisconsin, in 1990. Today, there are more than 600 Culver’s restaurants in 24 states.

As much as the business is about food, Craig will tell anyone who asks that Culver’s is actually a “people place.” This business philosophy fuels the way Craig coaches team members in the restaurant and beyond to always do what’s right for guests, ensuring that they leave the restaurant happy every single time. Craig is also active in a variety of organizations. He is a member of the National and Wisconsin restaurant associations. He is also a board member of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Foundation, the Bank of Prairie du Sac, Kwik Trip and the Greater Sauk County Community Foundation.

Honorary Degree Recipient: Stefano Viglietti, chef and restauranteur

Stefano Viglietti is a self-taught chef who owns and operates four restaurants with his wife, Whitney, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Trattoria Stefano, a regional Italian trattoria, opened in 1994, followed by Il Ritrovo, a certified Neapolitan pizzeria in 2000. Both have been featured in Food & Wine Magazine, Madison Magazine, Wisconsin Trails, Milwaukee Magazine, Bon Apetit, and the Chicago Sun Times. In 2005, Stefano opened Field to Fork, a combination café and grocery featuring local and organic meats and produce. Field to Fork was featured in Saveur Magazine and the New York Times Magazine online. The Duke of Devon, a true English gastro pub, opened in 2006. Stefano operates this with his sister, Emily, and they received a 3½ star rating in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A graduate of Knox College in Illinois, Stefano has provided outstanding learning experiences for his employees through sponsored trips to Italy, helping to expand knowledge and appreciation for authentic Italian cuisine. He is passionate about educating and instilling a love for quality in customers and staff. Local, organic meats and produce are used in all four establishments.

Medal of Merit Recipient

Jarreau Medal of Merit

Posthumous Medal of Merit Recipient: Al Jarreau '62, jazz legend and seven-time Grammy winner

Ripon College will bestow a Medal of Merit to Alwin L. Jarreau '62, posthumously, during the 2017 Commencement ceremony. Jazz legend and seven-time Grammy winner Al Jarreau died February 12 at the age of 76. Jarreau's son Ryan will receive the Medal of Merit in his honor.

The Medal of Merit is the College's highest honor bestowed on individuals who have had a near-lifetime of outstanding service to Ripon, which should establish for our newest graduates an example of alumni achievement of the highest order. Medal of Merit recipients will have had a distinguished professional career, exhibited extraordinary personal qualities, represent the very highest degree of human excellence to which graduates of this College can aspire, and near-lifetime of outstanding service to Ripon which should establish for our newest graduates an example of alumni achievement of the highest order.

Jarreau attended Ripon College from 1958-1962. As a high school student from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he attended the American Legion’s mock-government, Badger Boys State program at Ripon College and served as governor. He majored in psychology at Ripon, and played basketball under the College’s legendary coach K.G. “Doc” Weiske ’50. He also performed locally with a vocal group called the Indigos, featuring fellow Ripon students. At one time or another the Indigos included Thomas “Duffy” Ashley-Farrand ’62, Peter Bock ’62, Donna Oberholtzer ’63, Gail Jensen ’63 and Ann Hassler Wyatt ’65. He earned a master’s in vocational rehabilitation from the University of Iowa.

From 1964-1968, Jarreau worked in San Francisco as a rehabilitation counselor for war veterans, but he never lost his passion for music. He found himself performing at a small jazz club with a trio headed by George Duke and playing small clubs along the West Coast. Jarreau later branched out to New York City and gained national television exposure on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and “The Merv Griffin Show.”

He released his first album in 1965, but then took a 10-year break from recording before earning his first record deal at age 35. His 1975 release, We Got By, was his first for Warner Bros. Records. During the next two decades, Jarreau would release almost one album each year. Career highlights include 1981’s Breakin’ Away, which went platinum thanks to the hit single “We’re in This Love Together” and the popular theme song from the 1980s TV show Moonlighting.

Ripon College presented Jarreau with an honorary doctorate of fine arts at its commencement ceremony in 1988, along with fellow alumni opera singer Gail Dobish ’76 and actress Frances Lee McCain ’66.

Jarreau was renowned for his ability to sing many styles, including scat singing and taking on the character of guitar and percussion, all with his versatile and soulful voice. Jarreau has topped the music sales charts with more than 20 albums. He is the only vocalist in history to have Grammy Awards in the three categories (jazz, pop and R&B). Jarreau received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2001.

Last April, Jarreau performed at the White House as part the International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert. In October, he received the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music. “Jarreau’s unique vocal style is one of the world’s most precious treasures,” the foundation said. “His innovative musical expressions have made him one of the most exciting and critically-acclaimed performers of our time with seven Grammy Awards, scores of international music awards and popular accolades worldwide.”

Wisconsin Public Television produced the video below to commemorate Jarreau’s Wisconsin Foundation for School Music Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jarreau spent more than 50 years on the road touring.

Jarreau is survived by his wife, Susan Player Jarreau; his son Ryan; two brothers, Marshall and Appie; and a sister, Rose Marie Freeman.

For a retrospective album of photos of Jarreau at Ripon College, visit our facebook page.

Schedule of Events

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

  • 3:30 p.m.: Senior Class Photo, Harwood Memorial Union Steps (Rain site: Bear Auditorium)

Friday, May 12, 2017

  • 4-5:30 p.m.: Senior Rehearsal, Bear Auditorium, Farr Hall of Science

Saturday, May 13, 2017

  • 8 a.m.-9 p.m.: Ripon College Senior Art, 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, at the home of Barbara '68 and Dr. Cris Johnson '69, 646 Lincoln St.
  • 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.: English/Mathematical Sciences/Music/Theatre/Educational Studies, at the Lobby, C.J. Rodman Center for the Arts

Saturday Evening Events

  • 4-5:30 p.m.: President’s Reception, 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 14, 2017

  • 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
  • 9:15 a.m.: Pre-brunch Reception for honorary degree recipients (HDR brunch 9:45 a.m.), Mihaly Family Room, S.N. Pickard Commons
  • 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.
  • 12:45 p.m.: Commencement Procession Assembly, Graduates will line-up on the sidewalk between East Hall and Todd Wehr Hall
  • 1:30 p.m.: Commencement Ceremony, Harwood Memorial Union Lawn

Post ceremony reception on Smith Hall Lawn, featuring Culver's Scoopie mascot and free custard for everyone!

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 14, 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 1:30 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 or under a tent.

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 visitor parking 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 14. 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 12, 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 12. A group photo of the Class of 2017 will be taken on the lawn in front of Tri-Dorms. Rain site is Bear Auditorium.

Will Starbucks be open on Sunday, May 14?
“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 14. 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.

Physical Address: 300 W. Seward St. Ripon, WI
Mailing Address: PO Box 248 Ripon, WI 54971-0248
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 800-947-4766
Campus Map