Maria Dietrich to receive Ripon College’s 2020 Founders’ Day Award

Maria Dietrich, a longtime community arts administrator, will receive the College’s 2020 Founders’ Day Award at Commencement May 16.

While the ceremony is limited to graduates and their families, the event will be streamed live and available to watch at ripon.edu/commencement

Ripon College was officially founded Jan. 29, 1851. Each year the College celebrates its birthday by honoring a community partner with the Founders’ Day Award, presented to an individual or an organization in the greater Ripon community who exemplifies the ideals of the founders of Ripon College and who has contributed above and beyond to the mission of the school. Dietrich was supposed to have received the award during the 2020 Commencement, but it was postponed because of the pandemic.

As the theme of Ripon’s 2021 Commencement is based on Wisconsin’s musical heritage, Dietrich exemplifies the mission of bringing music before the public. “Music plays a vital role in bringing people together to appreciate the things that unite us,” said Zach Messitte, president of Ripon College. “Maria Dietrich has inspired a generation of students in the Ripon community as a remarkable teacher with a dedication and passion for music.”

Dietrich is a native of Indiana and received a degree in music from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. Before retiring last year, she had been an adjunct instructor of piano at Ripon College for 30 years and accompanied student musical productions, student choirs and individual soloists.

In the wider community, she worked for the Green Lake Festival of Music from 1991 to 2006 as administrative director, and as interim executive and artistic director in 2020. She also served on the board and as development director and executive director of the Thrasher Opera House in Green Lake, from which she retired in August 2019.

She has been pianist and organist at First Congregational Church in Ripon since the late 1980s, plays for weddings and funerals and teaches private piano lessons. She also has done non-musical volunteer work in the community and is a member of the League of Women Voters.

“I am greatly honored to receive this award,” Dietrich says. “I’m thrilled the theme of Commencement is related to music and that the College values that. Music is a way of bringing beauty into the world. It’s a special way of communicating that doesn’t need language. It cuts across languages and boundaries. Everybody can appreciate music. If we musicians can communicate our joy to the audience, too, that’s an extra-special connection.”

Dietrich feels she can make a difference in the community through her musical abilities and volunteer work. “I feel like it makes our society better to have people interested in helping out and doing things for the community,” she says. “And helping young kids and nurturing their abilities is a meaningful contribution I can make through music.”


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