Thank You, Ripon College, for 9+ Years

Dear campus community,

After more than nine years at Ripon College, the fall 2021 semester will be my last one as the President of the College. I will be returning to my hometown of Washington, D.C., to pursue a new career opportunity and live closer to my family and friends. A message from Tom Abendroth ’81, the chair of the Board of Trustees, will soon follow with an announcement about the Board’s plans for interim leadership and the timeline for Ripon’s search for its 14th president.

I would like to thank the Board of Trustees, the faculty, staff, alumni and students for the opportunity to lead Ripon during the past nine years. In particular, I would like to recognize the chairs and vice chairs I have worked with during my tenure: Bob Kirkland ’81, Ron Peterson ’70, Doreen Chemerow ’73, Tom Abendroth ’81 and Susan Meier ’79. I consider many former and current Trustees to be good friends and admire their commitment to Ripon.

I’d also like to recognize the incredible group of fellow administrators I’ve worked with during my time at Ripon, including the current Administrative Council: Christophor Ogle, Jenn Machacek, Shawn Karsten, Andrea Young, Kara Kinas Jankowski, Ryan Kane and John Sisko. I’d also like to thank several past administrators and staff with whom I worked closely: Melissa Anderson, Wayne Webster, Jerry Seaman, Ed Wingenbach, Julie Johnson, Tom Ponto, Karl Solibakke, Meg Carne, Danielle Ficek, Claudia Leistikow and Erin Berry. A special shoutout as well to Professors Jody Roy and Becky Matzke for their work as interim deans of the faculty. And on behalf of my family, a special thanks to the staff of physical plant and housekeeping for all of their care of 1 Merriman Lane.

I have loved being Ripon’s president and a professor of politics and government. While I am proud of many achievements we have accomplished together as an institution since 2012, my time in the classroom, leading students to Rome with professors Diane Mockridge and Travis Nygard, and becoming a part of the Ripon community are among the things I will remember the most.

There is much for all of us to be proud of over the past decade: the most successful fundraising campaign in Ripon’s history, the doubling of the College’s endowment to $112 million, the state-of-the-art Willmore Center for health and wellness, the innovative Catalyst curriculum, the Center for Politics and the People, Liberal Arts in Focus, renovations to nearly every building on campus — including, among others, Kresge Little Theatre in East Hall, Demmer Recital Hall and Benstead Theatre in the C.J. Rodman Center for the Arts, the Franzen Center for Academic Success in Lane Library and labs and lounges in Farr Hall — regularly hitting our enrollment targets and 3% across-the-board raises for faculty and staff in seven of the past nine years. Any successes that we have had in persevering through COVID this past year and a half has been a team effort, and there are heroes among our staff and faculty that I cannot thank enough.

One of the unique things about being president is that I’ve had the privilege of visiting with Ripon alumni all over the country. Whether it was watching a spring baseball training game in Florida, having matzo ball soup at Manny’s delicatessen in Chicago or being welcomed into the homes of alumni from Houston to Philadelphia to Seattle, I have been made to feel part of a special community. During the next four months, I hope to have the opportunity to thank many of you in person for all that you have done (and continue to do) for the College.

When I was announced as the 13th president of Ripon College in March 2012, I told the community that the road ahead likely would hold both challenges and successes, but if we approached problems with an open mind, worked collaboratively and strived to be a better institution, our reward would be knowing that we’ve given our best. I have tried to live up to that ideal every day.

I wish each of you — and Ripon College — all the best in the days to come.

— Zach