Happy 172nd birthday, Ripon College!

Today, Jan. 29, Ripon College celebrates Founders’ Day, the official date of the founding of the College. A group of nine men who helped found the city of Ripon as well as what would become Ripon College were determined to establish an educational institution in the developing city.

“Whatever motives there may have been, one great one transpired them all — the pioneers were bound to show their respect for education,” said Jehdeiah Bowen, one of those founders. Bowen’s descendants include the late Richard Thrumston ’47 and Geoffrey Thrumston ’78, Bowen’s great-great-grandson.

On Jan. 29, 1851, the charter for Ripon Lyceum was granted by the State of Wisconsin — for preparatory division only. In the book Ripon College a History, by Robert Ashley, a former professor of English, and George H. Miller, a former professor of history, it states that a few months later: “During a gentle snowstorm in the early spring of 1851, ‘two grim, determined men’ climbed the hill overlooking the village of Ripon. Into the possibly still half-frozen ground, they pounded some stakes outlining the first building of what was eventually to become Ripon College.”

Each year on Jan. 29, the College celebrates its birthday as Founders’ Day. The 2023 Founders Day’ Award will be presented at the 157th Commencement ceremony in May, honoring an individual or an organization in the Ripon community who exemplifies the ideals of the founders of Ripon College.

(Photo: Detail of cover from Ripon College a History, featuring a painting by Lester Schwartz, former professor of art and founder of Ripon’s art department)

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Cover of "Ripon College a History"