Alumni Spotlight: Jim Mendyke ’83

Ripon’s Lasting Impact

Jim Mendyke loved the feel of his small high school, so when it came time to look at colleges, his list was made up primarily of small schools. He was also hoping to continue playing basketball, so his goal was to find “a small college with great academics and a chance to participate in sports.” Jim’s father, a Ripon grad from the class of 1951, was good friends with his former basketball teammate, “Doc” Weiske ’50, who was coaching Ripon’s men’s basketball team at the time. As Jim recalls, “when I went to visit the College I sat in on two classes and then went golfing with my Dad and Doc. That pretty much wrapped it up for me.”

Jim Mendyke

Jim Mendyke ’83

At Ripon, Jim majored in politics and government and minored in leadership studies. He was also a member of the basketball and golf teams; participated in lacrosse, judo, and orienteering clubs; and played intramural sports.

Jim says his favorite professors were Spud Hannaford, Marty Farrell and Jack Christ. “Spud was my freshman year advisor and always gave me great advice. I wish he would have let me win at least one game of ping pong. Marty had a unique teaching style that really kept me interested and engaged. Jack’s classes taught me things that I’ve used every day since then relating to leadership, needs and motivation.”

Following graduation, Jim spent twenty-five years with Sentry Insurance in Stevens Point, working in claims, underwriting, and sales. He opted to take an early retirement in order to spend more time with his three young children. Now that they are in school, Jim is working with his wife in her assisted living business, and is still “having fun running the kids to their activities, coaching, and helping out in their schools.”

For Jim, Ripon has had a lasting impact. He has found that the things he learned outside of the classroom were just as important as the lessons in the classroom. “From being part of a sports team with the competition and teamwork to being part of a living group and developing social skills, to being a roommate and really learning how to listen, to just enjoying a band with friends at Springfest. It was all these great experiences that helped me develop a valuable skill set.” For him, it is also the lifelong friendships that began at Ripon. Jim still gets together with John Lombardo ’83, Jim Johnson ’83, Todd Duval ’83 and Jim Okray ’83 several times a year. “Whether it’s golf, Packers or just dinner we always end up reminiscing about the good old days at Ripon.”

Jim has also been actively involved as an alumnus. Along with Jeff Penney ’80 and Bob Murphy ’85, he is helping to organize the alumni lacrosse game that will be held during Alumni Weekend this summer. “We started a Facebook group page and have been sharing photos and memories. There are no better memories than playing on upper Sadoff with awesome teammates and fans screaming from on top of the hill.”

Jim is also helping to coordinate his 30th reunion, describing it as “an unbelievable experience.” He has enjoyed reconnecting with not only fellow committee members, Barb Williams Clay ’83, Kevin Dykstra ’83, Mark Franzen ’83 and Ellen Knuteson Keller ’83, but other classmates as well. “I’ve been in contact with classmates that I haven’t talked to or seen in 30 years, yet we can pick up a conversation like we just got out of class at Wehr Hall. It’s a special connection that I just can’t explain. I’m really looking forward to seeing my friends this summer!”

Written by Amanda Liethen ’07
Assistant Director of Annual Fund, Alumni & Parent Relations

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