The (delayed: but, come on! No snow in May, please!) coming of spring can be an emotional time at Ripon. I will miss our retiring faculty and staff colleagues, who have led distinguished careers at the College and enriched the lives of thousands of students. I will miss our graduating seniors, too. It is the end of an era, but I know that the best is yet to come for the Class of 2016.
But before the academic year goes into the books, it is worthwhile to remember that so much has happened since late last summer. A few highlights for me (and there are many more, but I only have 500 words) include:
• The opening of 314 Watson.The new space has been an incredible success with student and community events enlivening downtown.
• The Center for Politics and the People. Another great year of programs and ideas have brought civil and informed discussion to campus. Ripon students attended both the Republican and Democratic presidential debates in Milwaukee and voted in the Wisconsin primaries.
• Fantastic theater productions. “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” played to sold-out shows and standing ovations.
• The groundbreaking for a renovated Storzer. A new state-of-the-art health and wellness center is underway and should open its doors in the fall of 2017.
• The completion of the Imagine Tomorrow campaign. A five-year fundraising campaign for Ripon netted $67 million and will fund scholarships, endowed professorships and renovated spaces on campus.
• The new curriculum. The work of faculty to develop and implement a new curriculum was a remarkable development that required an incredible amount of effort and creativity.
• Midwest Conference playoff appearances. Our volleyball team, and both the men and women’s basketball teams made the conference. And head football coach Ron Ernst broke the record for the most wins in Midwest Conference history marked an excellent year in sports.
• Diversity and gender issues. Illuminating events and discussions on campus about national questions facing women, the LGBTQ community and people of color.
• Study Abroad. The In Focus programs in Costa Rica, Italy, Germany, England and Spain continue to grow.
Sadly, we also lost three retired Ripon College legends this past year: Dean of Faculty and English Professor Bill Schang, Philosophy Professor Bill Tyree and Men’s Basketball coach Kermit “Doc” Weiske. Their legacies will live on in what we do every day at Ripon.
But as the school year ends and Ripon College completes its 165th year, I hope you are as proud as I am of our institution. It is the hard work and dedication of our entire community: students, faculty, staff and alumni that make us who we are. And when we sing the school song together (“Far within Wisconsin’s prairies…”) at graduation in May, I will have mixed emotions – nostalgic and sad, but hopeful for our future and proud of all that we have already accomplished together.