Dietrich family establishes funding resources of more than $2 million

An entire family’s love and commitment to higher education have culminated in two funding resources for Ripon College with a combined value of more than $2 million.

The Richard V. and Frances S. Dietrich Trust Scholarship and the Richard V. and Frances S. Dietrich Faculty Development Fund have been established in the name of the parents of Professor Emeritus of Music Kurt Dietrich, his brother Rick Dietrich and his sister Krista Dietrich Brown.

Kurt Dietrich’s wife, Maria, served for many years as an adjunct instructor of music and accompanied the College’s choirs. Their son, Erik, is manager of media and end user services at the College. Their daughter-in-law, Jessica Jensen, is an adjunct instructor music, and she and her husband, Paul Dietrich, have performed in numerous concerts and convocations at the College.

The four-year scholarship will be awarded annually to one or more first-year students who are the first in their family to attend college and who demonstrate financial need, with a preference for those who plan to pursue educational or programmatic experiences in the fine arts.

The annual faculty development fund will encourage creative research and development in the creative arts for faculty in all areas.

“The depth of the commitment of the Dietrich family to Ripon College and the liberal arts is awe-inspiring,” said Zach Messitte, president of the College. “With the gift from Richard and Frances Dietrich, three generations of the family have made an indelible mark on the institution as valued educators, staff and supporters. The Dietrich Scholarship will impact Ripon for generations to come.”

Richard “Dick” Dietrich and Frances Smith Dietrich grew up in modest circumstances in small-town northern New York. He received a degree from Colgate University and a doctorate from Yale University. He spent a career in academia, on the faculty and in administration at both Virginia Tech and Central Michigan University. He died in 2020.

Frances Dietrich earned a nursing degree from the University of Rochester in the 1940s, and then, while continuing to raise a family, graduated at the top of her class at Virginia Tech, earning a degree in history in the late 1960s. She died in 2007.

Both maintained a lifelong interest in higher education and sent all of their children to small residential liberal arts colleges.

After the elder Dietrich’s death, his children discussed how to designate the proceeds of his estate. Kurt Dietrich and his father had had many talks over the years about the environment and needs of higher education institutions, and together the children feel the funding opportunities they are providing for Ripon are a testament to their parents’ lifelong interests.

They chose to designate Ripon for the funds because of Kurt Dietrich’s 39-year tenure here and because Richard V. Dietrich admired its history of supporting first-generation students.

“All of us feel that education is essential, so I feel really great about this gift,” Kurt Dietrich said. “Obviously, it’s not coming from me; it’s coming from my mom and dad. It’s their gift. They just felt so strongly about education. Right up until my dad died last summer, he was always asking me about what I was doing professionally.”

Rick Dietrich added, “My parents were generous, giving people throughout their lives, especially to medical research and to various schools they were associated with. Dad was always interested in what Kurt was doing at Ripon. The academic life and teaching was something the two had in common. But Krista and I have both visited Ripon and been on campus. We, too, feel some ties there.

“Ripon is the kind of small liberal arts college that Dad and Mom wanted to be helpful to, especially with those who are the first in their families to attend college.”

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