Update from One Merriman Lane

Dear colleagues, alumni, and friends of Ripon College:

Sarah Clyde Mitchell Morse, Ripon Class of 1900, wrote our alma mater during her undergraduate years fewer than 40 years after the end of the Civil War. At every opening convocation in August and again at our commencements each May, we join together in song for the familiar opening words:

Far within Wisconsin’s prairies …

Less cited are the first two lines of the second stanza:

Long she’s stood ‘mid cloud and sunshine,
Firmly braved the storm

In recent days, we have been reminded of the everyday heroes in our communities across the world: nurses, doctors, pharmacists and grocery workers who have stayed on the job for all of us. While we are putting public health first and complying with the governor’s “Safer at Home” order, Ripon has our own stars for whom we should be thankful. I want you to hear about them and what they have done for all of us who love and care about the College.

In the space of just two weeks (two weeks!), our faculty have pivoted the entire curriculum online so that our students can continue to finish the semester. This wouldn’t be possible without the incredible efforts of Brian Disterhaft and the Information Technology staff who have worked around the clock to make sure our professors have the virtual tools they need to teach classes.

Our Director of Residence Life Mark Nicklaus has worked diligently with our students and their families to allow them to move quickly and safely out of the residence halls and to find solutions for our international students and others who cannot get home and need to remain on campus.

One of our newest employees, Maria Mendoza-Bautista, the director of multicultural affairs, has gone the extra mile to make sure that those students who do remain on campus have access to food and other necessities.

In the finance office, Controller Lori Schulze, Accounts Payable Technician Janice Grismer and Director of Human Resources Jennifer Franz have quite literally kept the lights on, making sure our bills continue to get paid and so do our employees.

In admissions, the rock-solid knowledge of administrative assistant Paula Schultz and application processing coordinator Linda Brown have allowed us to continue to respond to prospective students who have decided or are in the process of deciding to attend Ripon next fall.

Amanda Przybyl, our director of the mailroom, has made sure our letters and invoices go out and messages get to all of us. And Kathy Welch, our director of health services, has been a pillar of knowledge and expertise.

I could go on and on, but indulge me with one more story.

Even before we could put up the website for the Ripon Emergency Fund, Tom Abendroth ’81, chair of the Ripon College Board of Trustees, already had made a significant pledge to help us through this uncertain time. That’s true leadership by example.

Before I end this message, I want to talk directly to our seniors in the Class of 2020.

I’ve often said that Commencement is the best day of the year. At the end of the ceremony, our graduates walk up the hill away from the iconic bell tower and through a line of our faculty and staff. Proud parents, family, and friends watch attentively as each new graduate holds the diploma that they just received from me. It is part of our tradition.

We will make every effort to have your graduation ceremony — in person — but only when it becomes safe and feasible to do so. And even if we ultimately are unable to hold it on the scheduled date in May, we will do everything we can to make this spring a celebration of all that you have accomplished during your time at Ripon. Stay tuned for further details in the days ahead.


Zach Messitte
Professor of Politics and Government

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