Ripon Magazine Winter 2016: Alumni Memories


Writer Sarah Dessen says: “… A song can take you back instantly to a moment, or a place, or even a person. No matter what else has changed in you or the world, that one song stays the same, just like that moment.”

We asked Ripon College alumni for the music that takes them back and defines their years at Ripon College. We received quite a variety of answers, ones that will surely get your feet tapping along.

Dan_Wilson Senisonic
“ ‘Closing Time,’ by Semisonic! This song was played at the end of every fraternity and sorority formal.”
Tsering Yangchen ’14
Minneapolis, Minnesota

“The Riponaires, of course!”Riponaires ca
David Meissner ’65
Alfred Station, New York

Kingston Trio“From the fall of ’65 to the spring of ’69, there was not an evening at The Spot without several renditions of ‘Scotch and Soda,’ by the Kingston Trio.”
Frank Anders ’69
Chesterfield, Virginia

“If I hear ‘Light My Fire,’ by The Doors, I am at The Spot with friends, January-February 1967.”
Dale Abrams ’71
Fairfax Station, Virginia

Rosemary Clooney
“Mary Alice and I always think of the song ‘Tenderly,’ by Rosemary Clooney, as being ‘our song’ when we were dating at Ripon back in 1953.”
Ron ’53 and Mary Alice Miller Balej ’55
Minneapolis, Minnesota

“Early/mid ’60s would have to be The New Christy Minstrels, The Lamplighters, The Weavers, The Beach Boys, The Lettermen, etc.”Beach Boys ca
Barbara Bradford Sewall ’65
Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

James Taylor“James Taylor!”
Kate Parish Miller ’73
Richland, Michigan

Sylvia Ashton and Al Jarreau“Music that reminds me of my Ripon College days includes the romantic ballads of Johnny Mathis (‘Chances Are,’ ‘Misty’). Of course, at Ripon we had our own romantic singer, Al Jarreau ’62, about whom students would say, ‘He sounds more like Johnny Mathis than Johnny Mathis.’ When I hear Al singing, of course I think of Ripon. ‘Moon River,’ from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, as sung by Andy Williams, was very popular to snuggle up and dance to, especially for students who had their own ‘huckleberry friend.’

“Toward the end of my class’s senior year, the Beatles burst upon the scene and provided many upbeat danceable tunes like ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘She Loves You (yeah, yeah, yeah).’

“And then there were Tom Lehrer’s satiric songs and parodies. They were delightful, so clever and humorous, truly unique.”
Sylvia Ashton ’64
Bayside, Wisconsin

Mary Chavez “There were The Kingsmen in the Commons, The Byrds in the old gymnasium and, of course, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in the theatre! How’s that for variety? All three ‘concerts’ take me back to my days at Ripon!”
Mary Lynn LeFevre Chavez ’68
Charlevoix, Michigan

“The song I most remember from Ripon is the Alma Mater; I’m happy to see that its now posted.”
George E. Despotes ’66
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Al Jarreau “There is no doubt the class of 1961 would agree that dancing to tunes by Johnny Mathis and our very own Ripon songster Al Jarreau, whose early style was similar to Johnny’s, was the best!”
Evann “Sugar” Maltby Balmes ’61
Charlevoix, Michigan

“Listening to ‘Freebird’ (Lynyrd Skynyrd) with Donald in the student lounge, dancing with Gayle to ‘Now You’re Messin’ With A …’ at the Wayside II, playing John Prine on my radio show on Friday afternoons.”
Mike Gibbs ’79
San Antonio, Texas

“One song that always makes me think of Ripon and my memories there is ‘Party in the U.S.A.,’ by Miley Cyrus. My sophomore year at Ripon, I joined Alpha Chi Omega and each pledge class is given a song that they choreograph a dance to. To this day, anytime I hear that song I send snaps or texts to my pledge class and of course, I will do the dance. It is one song that can always lift up my spirits and remind me of the sisterhood I was a part of at Ripon!”
Jenelle Simon ’15
Hubertus, Wisconsin

“I attended Ripon from 1969 through 1973. It would take me two pages to list all the music from that era, but I recall The Moody Blues and The Allman Brothers being particularly popular. My crew was really into the blues, especially Elmore James, B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Fleetwood Mac (founded as a blues band). We would go to Oshkosh or Fond du Lac to hear musicians up from Chicago: Luther Allison, Sam Lay, Muddy, etc. And the college Springfest often featured blues bands. There was a legendary show in ’73 on the patio of the Union facing the lawn. Some alumni will recall the Johnny Young and plates of chicken story from that day.”
Dave Bunten ’73
Lake Zurich, Illinois

“The first thing that popped into my head was the old disco song ‘We are Family,’ by Sister Sledge and Jade, because this became our mantra for our days as a local sorority, Delta Psi Delta. At every formal, whenever it was played, we definitely danced in unison to ‘our song.’ ”
Erin Maguire ’08
Roanoke, Virginia

“Diana Ross — ‘I’m Coming Out, (I want the world to know).’ ”
George Quarshie ’83
Moseley, Virginia

“Our favorite hangout was The Spot, and when I think of it, I think of Eddie Fisher singing ‘Oh, My Papa’ while we hung out there. Also associated with The Spot were the polkas I used to dance to with Shayle Polanski, pushing it right up to the time I had to be back at the dorm. We had ‘hours’ in those days, meaning we would have to run all the way back to the Tri-Dorms to get there before the door was locked and I was in trouble.”
Jane Sorenson Sleep ’56
Manitowoc, Wisconsin

“Almost anything from Crosby, Stills and Nash with or without Young makes me think of my college years at Ripon!”
Roberta Austring ’70
Kodiak, Alaska

“When I hear ‘The Cisco Kid,’ by War, it reminds me of being at the downstairs of The Spot and desperately trying to escape the coming reality of post-graduation life. The other tune that takes me back more positively was ‘Hello It’s Me,’ by Todd Lundgren and the band Nazz. This time, the tune evokes the joy and wonder of freshman and sophomore life, uh, but sadly, once again at The Spot.”
Marty Morris ’73
Troy, Michigan

“ ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love,’ by The Darkness, was always our go-to song (Brandi and Zac Mans of Anoka, Minnesota, would agree!). I always think of Ripon when I hear it.”
Elizabeth Weigler ’10
Denver, Colorado

“The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’ playing over and over as we sat at The Spot bar drinking $1.25 pitchers of beer. Loved that place.”
Charlton Davis ’72
Edgewater, Florida

“Music was such a huge influence for us back in 1985-89. We constantly made mixed tapes, recorded selections from friends who were WRPN DJs, and pretty much had a soundtrack going for every event. It’s hard to narrow it down to just one song that brings me back to those days. However, one that does come to mind is CCRs ‘Down on the Corner.’ I can remember that song influencing me from freshman to senior year, and usually a trip to Benders was involved :-). When I hear that song, I think of specific friends and specific memories from our Ripon days, and I get a smile on my face.”
Carolyn Agacinski Clark ’89
Renton, Washington

“Any alumni from any time period will say that the music they heard while at Ripon was the Golden Age of music, but when I was spinning records at WRPN, I felt and still feel that 1974-1978 was the greatest musical period. Van Morrison, Pink Floyd, Allman Brothers, Doobie Brothers and the Eagles were all great. And many more besides.

“Musical story: in the fall of 1975, a bunch of the brothers at Theta Chi and I headed down to Milwaukee to see a concert put on by three groups. Thin Lizzy and some guy named Bob Seeger and the Silver Bullet Band were the warmup acts. The main feature was Bachman Turner Overdrive (BTO). The truth is that that night, Seeger blew the doors off BTO. The audience wanted him back after BTO took the stage.”
Rod Haynes ’78
Renton, Washington

“Every morning the last semester of my senior year at Ripon, Ben Firgens ’14 and I would go to Starbucks before class. Ben would always come to my room so we could walk over together, and every time, without fail, I would be running late. So I would go brush my teeth an when I got back he would always be playing ‘Rocket Man,’ by Billy Joel, and staring dramatically off into the distance. Whenever I hear ‘Rocket Man,’ it always takes me back to those moments my last few months at Ripon College. Ben and I are now both on the east coast and I am so lucky to be able to see him a few times a year.”
Caroline Rothrock ’12
Alexandra, Virginia

“My recollection of most-played singles on the jukebox at The Spot:
• ‘These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,’ by Nancy Sinatra
• ‘Louie Louie,’ by The Kingsmen
• ‘(You’re My) Soul and My Inspiration,’ by The Righteous Brothers
• ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ by The Beatles
• ‘She Loves You,’ by The Beatles
• ‘Oh, Pretty Woman,’ by Roy Orbison
• ‘Glad All Over,’ by The Dave Clark Five
• ‘I Get Around,’ by The Beach Boys
• ‘Sugar Shack,’ by Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs
Jody Henry ’67
Huntsville, Texas

“Shelley (Anderson ’73) and I still listen to these, and our children grew up on them. Still play vinyl!
• Led Zeppelin, ‘Dazed and Confused!’ and their first four albums
• Chicago (Midwestern bands were huge for area colleges back then!) (REO Speedwagon, Styx, etc.)
• Blood Sweat & Tears, lots of brass and joy! All the albums!
• The Moody Blues. Ahh, yes! Easy does it after hours of partying!
• Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, ‘Suite Judy Blue Eyes’! OMG – it still plays in my head!
• Rolling Stones – ‘Paint It Black.’ Viet Nam War going on; ROTC was mandatory for men at Ripon.
• Black Sabbath, anything that was a bit rebellious.
• The Mamas & The Papas, Judy Collins, Gordon Lightfoot, all sorts of folk stuff!
Ripon was huge into small enclaves of music variety all over the campus. WRPN radio was a hangout for me. You really brought back some wonderful emotions!”
Jeff Drew ’73
Tomah, Wisconsin

“Before the breathin’ air is gone
Before the sun is just a bright spot in the nighttime
Out where the rivers like to run
I stand alone and take back somethin’ worth rememberin’ ”
— Three Dog Night’s “Out in The Country”

“In my freshman year, I discovered that I could just stand by the road and stick out my thumb and nice people would take me places. (Mean people wouldn’t stop.) So every summer, I’d be on some road, watching the sun go down, wondering if I’d get another ride that night or if I cared. I was in Boy Scouts, ROTC. Camping out in random places was just fine.”
Bil Lewis ’74
Cambridge, Massachusetts

“The 2010-2011 hit ‘Dynamite,’ by Taio Cruz, always makes me think of Ripon. It was pretty ubiquitous and definitely an ear worm. It was common to hear ‘Dynamite’ at dances during the fall semester of my junior year, and was also frequently heard when walking through The Pub. On one particular occasion, I was walking up the spiral staircase from The Pub to the second floor of Harwood Memorial Union to meet with Lindsay Blumer in the Ethical Leadership Program lounge. ‘Dynamite’ slowly faded out as I reached the rotunda, but, much to my surprise, by the time I entered the ELP lounge, I could hear it again. There was Lindsay Blumer, director of the ELP, singing Taio Cruz because it had also gotten stuck in her head. It was a perfect moment of situational comedy. Now every time I hear ‘Dynamite,’ although this is much less frequently than in 2010, I’m taken back to that afternoon in the ELP lounge and fond memories of my time at Ripon and in the ELP in particular.”
Lisa Hilleren ’12
Chicago, Illinois

“Favorites in college included:
• Asia – ‘Heat of the Moment’ (1982)
• Queen – ‘We are the Champions’ (1977) Used in the football locker room before games
• Journey – ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ (1981) Used in the football locker room before games
• Survivor – ‘Eye of the Tiger’ (1982) Used in the football locker room before games
• Rick James – ‘Super Freak’ (1980) A favorite at the The Spot or Beckoning
• D.E.V.O. – ‘Whip It’ (1980)
• AC/DC – ‘Highway to Hell’ (1979).”
Jeff Szymczak ’84
Aurora, Illinois

“There are so many during the 1950s that are still popular today. Hard to choose.
• Elvis Presley: ‘Love Me Tender,’ ‘All Shook Up,’ ‘Blue Suede Shoes,’ ‘Jailhouse Rock’
• Johnny Horton: ‘Battle of New Orleans’
• Bill Haley & His Comets: ‘Rock Around the Clock’
• Guy Mitchel: ‘Singing the Blues’
• The Four Aces: ‘Love is a Many-Splendored Thing’
• Jim Lowe: ‘Green Door’ (NOTE: My dorm’s door was green)
• Buddy Holly: ‘Peggy Sue’
• Big Bopper: ‘Chantilly Lace’
• Everly Brothers: ‘Wake Up Little Susie,’ ‘All I Have to Do is Dream’
• Bing Crosby: ‘True Love’. ”
Janet Gorn ’60
Montclair, Virginia

“I had a soft rock/folk/light jazz/light country/ballads show on WRPN for several years while attending Ripon. The show featured many artists and songs.

“There were many other great DJs and we had good music directors: Rob “Tex” Meyer ’78 did a great show. Pete Walters ’76 did a great jazz show. Stephen P. Wing ’77 did a good show with a WRPN traffic helicopter.”
Mike Ottenberg ’77
Reston, Virginia

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