A Gift of Gratitude: Paula Rippe (’75) and the Student Emergency Fund

When Western sent a request for donations to the Student Emergency Fund, Paula Rippe answered with her characteristic warmth and enthusiasm. When she made her donation, she shared the following:

Paula Rippe

"In memory of my parents who supported me during my years at WWU. I graduated from Western in 1975 as the ‘Top Grad in Foreign Languages,’ and my son, Dr. Edward Rippe, graduated from WWU in 2011 and is now a doctor in NYC. We love WWU, and I always say the best years of my life were spent there.” 

Paula Florence Rippe, Madison Middle School French Teacher (’75) Shoreline, WA

Normally upbeat, Rippe is a little down these days. The lifelong French teacher worries about her special needs students who depend on school for community. She worries about kids who count on school for regular meals, counseling, and as a break from difficulties at home. She’s worried about her son, Edward, a doctor at Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. She also wants the best for Western students and is deeply committed to seeing them through the COVID-19 crisis.

When Rippe talks about her years at Western, she is ebullient. 

“Western was the best time of my life,” she said without hesitation. A double major in French and English, Rippe was the Department of Modern and Classical Languages’ first Distinguished Graduate.

“Dr. Robinson got up to give me the award and said, ‘Giving Paula this award is the only thing this whole foreign language department agrees on.’ The room erupted in laughter,” said Rippe, recollecting one of her favorite Western moments. 

A lifelong teacher, Rippe has carried Western with her for more than four decades. Her most precious memories as a student include her year abroad in France when a professor and his family took time out of their vacation to visit her, winning the Distinguished Graduate award, and her teaching practicum at Sehome High School during her graduate studies at Woodring. She loves teaching and misses her students and her classroom. She is the kind of teacher kids remember, the kind they return to visit as adults.

“I never had a single discipline problem in all my years of teaching,” she said. “My students and I treat each other with mutual respect.”

A caring teacher and proud alumna, Rippe gave to the Student Emergency Fund out of gratitude and love — for Western, for Bellingham, and for the students who, like her son Edward, are struggling with the effects of COVID-19.