New Ripon College graduates urged to seek joy in life and in careers

The Ripon College Class of 2023 celebrated the 157th Commencement ceremony at Ripon College Sunday afternoon. The theme was “Strategic Thinkers who Ignite Change.” A full video of the Commencement ceremony can be viewed at

Nearly 150 members of the class heard perspectives from three special honorees:

  • Zachary S. Morris ’02, an associate professor and vice chair of the Department of Human Oncology at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters.M/li>
  • Peter E. Stone of Fond du Lac, chairman of the board of National Exchange Bank and Trust (NEBAT) and chairman of the private Stone Family Foundation. He received the 2023 Founders’ Day Award.
  • Marta Ruiz Yedinak, a Spanish teacher at Ripon High School. She received the Distinguished Educator Award.

Representing stellar accomplishments in the fields of science, medicine, business and education, all the honorees stressed the importance of pursuing passions and in impacting the world through the strategic thinking that they have learned as students at Ripon College.

“Find your passion as you find your way to make a living,” Morris said. “Seek something in your life that makes the time you put into it worth giving. Life is better when you’re passionate about what you’re doing. Look to give back to this world and make it a better place than you found it.”

He added, “Follow your heart in big decisions and don’t underestimate the impact of happiness on your ability to effectively pursue your dreams.”

He also advocated finding balance in life between work and play, time for family and friends, hobbies and vacations. “The journey you are embarking on is a marathon, not a sprint. Time with family and friends gives color to life. … Achievement can come at any point – but relationships will sustain you. They can be lost at any point but gained only with nurturing. Don’t find your success only to regret the pursuit.”

And as the graduates set forth on their journey, Morris said they should have confidence and humility.

“The world needs you and your innovation. As Ripon graduates you have all the tools you need to go forth and to pursue your passions. Strategic changes come from folks like you who are just embarking. Look beyond what is currently known and come to conclusions no one has come to before.

“The strength that you bring as a strategic thinker trained in the liberal arts (allows you to be) ready to take on new problems with new approaches.”

Stone also emphasized that the graduates should seek happiness in their lives, address challenges directly and use the counsel of people they trust, value and respect. He said Ripon has dedicated alumni support that is impressive.

“There is a destiny for all of you that as you age and work in your careers. … Think back about what you can contribute to the school, not necessarily in money … but in time as well. This is a very, very unique college.”

Yedinak said that to have a fulfilling life, work at what you love and never settle for less. “Life is way too short to spend it at a job you don’t enjoy,” she said.

She advocated being kind to yourself, being a lifelong learner and open to expanding your knowledge and experiences, embracing differences and spreading positive vibes.

In the face of challenges, she said, “Please move on. Don’t beat yourself up over the past.”

The student class speaker was Abigail Urbina of Round Lake Beach, Illinois.

President Victoria N. Folse asked the graduates to reflect on the growth they experienced at Ripon, but also on the growth that Ripon has achieved because of them and their accomplishments.

“While missing you as students, we are grateful to know that you will now carry on the responsibility of the tradition of excellence that more than 12,000 living alumni bring into their immediate and extended communities every day,” she said. “And we hope we have prepared you for what comes next. We remain committed to supporting you and watching your individual and collective impacts. The world needs Ripon College graduates now more than ever.”

She said a Ripon education prepares the graduates for lives of relevance and purpose. “Trust in that simple fact as you now represent Ripon College in the pursuit of your personal and professional passions and ambitions,” she said.

“An education rooted in lifelong learning and scholarly achievement will create strategic minds that impact the communities in which they live and ignite the change we all need to move the world forward.”

(Photo: Zachary S. Morris ’02)

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