Modern Languages Professor D. Doris Reppen: Cosmopolitan Centenarian
by A. Jane Chambers
“At 101 years old, my Mom had a full and exciting life.
She was active and engaged in many activities
until shortly before her death."
-- Randi Reppen, Ph.D.
D. Doris Reppen, founding chair of Christopher Newport's Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literature, died "very peacefully" on Tuesday evening, January 26, 2021, in her apartment in Flagstaff. Since Arizona does not require, nor did Doris want, an obituary, her only child, daughter Randi Reppen, sent instead a note to friends. "It's a time of lots of emotions," she wrote, but "also a time to be happy that my Mom had such a healthy life and full life." Randi and other family members were with Doris from the previous Thursday until her passing Tuesday evening and felt "very fortunate, given the Covid situation, that we were able to be with her."
Doris and I first met in the fall of 1964 at a faculty meeting in the old Daniel Building downtown before fall classes began. She had been hired to teach French in CNC’s Evening College. I liked her instantly. She was friendly, enthusiastic, and a very interesting conversationalist. We were soon friends. The next year, she became a full time faculty member. We both taught in the first building on the Shoe Lane campus, Newport Hall, until her department moved to the third classroom building, Wingfield Hall, when it opened in 1970. Because of her pride in our new college and its students, the yearbook staff dedicated the 1970 Trident to her (photo R).
Photo detail, inside cover of the 1970 Trident.
I fondly remember evening parties at the Reppen home, where Doris's husband, Frank, entertained us by singing and playing his piano, and afternoon bowling sessions on Warwick Blvd. with Doris and their then school-aged daughter. Doris and I both retired from our CNC careers in 1992, but we kept in touch. I was delighted when she agreed in 2014 to be the subject of a “Catching Up” article on this website, where some of the material here was first published.
1971 Trident photo, p. 23.
A native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Doris grew up in a multiethnic environment that influenced her interest in languages and cultures. Her cosmopolitan parents, both first generation Argentines, spoke Spanish. However, one had Italian ancestry and the other a Scottish father. Also, her family had “many acquaintances,” Doris wrote, of various linguistic backgrounds. Beginning at age ten, Doris was introduced to English, attending a British School for several years. “In the morning,” she wrote, “I went to the Argentine public school, and in the afternoon the British school.” Her enlightened parents also sent her to the University of Buenos Aires, where she earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in Philosophy and Literature.
Later, in America, Doris earned a second M.A. (Spanish) at the University of California at Berkeley, where she also taught Spanish for three years and had an ABD (“All But Dissertation”) in Romance Languages, completing all doctoral requirements except the dissertation. Not surprisingly, when she married Frank Reppen, a native of Norway, their only child grew up speaking Spanish and Norwegian as well as American English.
After Doris retired from CNC, she and Frank continued to live in their beloved Newport News home. Meanwhile, Randi had made a life for herself in Arizona, where she had completed her Ph.D. at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in 1994 and was soon teaching Applied Linguistics in NAU's English Department. After Frank's death (1997) Doris’s life changed: “I kept flying to Arizona; then I figured out it made better sense if I moved to Arizona and visited Virginia!" In 1998 she moved to Flagstaff. "Many of my friends in Virginia were surprised by my decision," she wrote "but understood my desire to live close to my daughter and her two children.”
Doris’s other close relatives are all in Argentina: her brother’s four children, their children, and a number of cousins and their families. She and Randi often visited them. The two pictures above, sent to me by Doris, were taken during one such visit in Buenos Aires in 2011, when Doris was 91. The first shows Doris with Randi; the second, Doris with her niece Patricia at the San Isidro Yacht Club.
Centenarians whose minds are still alert are often asked to what they attribute their longevity. Writing to me in 2014, at age 94, Doris described some of her activities in Flagstaff: “Since I always enjoyed swimming, I joined the Athletic Club, not far from my house. There I soon met a lot of people with the same interests as mine in keeping in good health. Soon I was in a group going to exercise classes and then playing tennis. I still go to the exercise classes." She exercised her mind also--sitting in on some Spanish literature classes (even once teaching a class), joining a reading group, and playing Scrabble weekly at the Adult Center. She also joined a group helping support the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra and a group knitting articles for the poor and for veterans.
In her note with this last photograph, Doris wrote “All my life I have enjoyed traveling"--a major cosmopolitan trait. "With some of my new friends I have taken every year a trip to some place in Europe. My favorites were the river trips on the Danube, the Rhine, the Nile, the Rhone, and of course the Thames.” This picture (right) shows her with a traveling companion in Italy in 1999, with the city of Firenze (Florence) in the background.
Doris's family is continuing to support the Reppen Scholarship
for Spanish majors at CNU. For information and/or to donate to it,
Celebrating CNC's Class of 1972, the Second Baccalaureate Class
By A. Jane Chambers
All commencement photographs are from the 1972 Trident yearbook.
These first two 1972 Trident graduation photographs verify that the location of Commencement '72 was the then-large lawn behind Newport Hall. The first picture (from p. 43) shows CNC Psychology Professor Dr. Ruth K. Mulliken delivering the Commencement Address. Seated on her left (our right) is Dr. Albert E. Millar, Jr., Associate Professor of English, who earlier delivered the Invocation ("Desiderata").
The roof of the temporary stage is of corrugated material, probably plastic, so thin that the outside light shines through its grooves. On the front of the stage hangs the 1972 Class Gift, CNC's first flag. Unfortunately the image of it is very poor. The Commencement Program shows that this gift was presented during the program by Stephen D. Franklin, Chairman of the Graduation Committee, just before Dr. Mulliken was introduced and began her Address.
This second photo (p. 46), probably taken from inside the second floor of Newport Hall, shows the top of the corrugated roof of the stage and some members of the graduation audience. Since the people are standing and facing the stage, perhaps the picture was taken during the Benediction, delivered by Dr. Al Millar. In the background is the greenhouse built by Mike Cazares and his Biology Department Crew.
In 2015, the Daily Press published a gallery of 39 photos called Look Back: Christopher Newport College, an exciting and valuable historical collection of photographs (many aerial) from the early 1960s through July of 2015 (www.dailypress.com/...look-back-christopher-newport). Fortunately, this gallery included a very clear photograph (see below), dated 1972 , of the CNC flag given to the College at Commencement '72. In the photo are (L-R) SGA President and Graduation Committee Chairman Stephen D. (Steve) Franklin, CNC's Dean of Students William H. (Bill) Polis, and flag designer Kenneth M. (Ken) Flick. Ken was chosen to design the flag because he had previously designed both CNC's four-year college seal and its first four-year class ring, worn proudly first by members of the 1971 baccalaureate class.*
The focal point of this first flag was CNC's seal, echoing Ken's original seal design. In the flag's center was a brown ship's wheel. Ken added to the flag a ship's anchor, colored silver or gray, behind the seal; he is touching the top of in this photo. CNC's name was in large white letters. The three images in the seal's center were colored thus: the William and Mary Wren Building (L) was on a field of light blue; the original CNC seal (R), created when CNC was a two-year branch of William and Mary, was on a field of navy blue; and the three ships, representing the arrival of the Jamestown colonists, were on a sea blue field with a green horizon.
The remainder of the flag was royal blue, with fringes on three sides that were supposed to be silver, but turned out to be white. The fourth side was made to accommodate a flag pole. In white also were the founding year 1960 in the top corners (19 on the left and 60 on the right) and the year 1971 in the bottom corners (19 left, 71 right)--recognizing the year CNC became a four-year degree granting institution. The flag was made of nylon, rectangular, and measured 4' x 6'. It looks square and much smaller in the Daily Press picture because the photographer had the men fold back the left and right sides to fit his artistic needs. That is why the corner numbers mentioned above are not visible in that picture. The top left 19 is visible (barely) in the photo of Dr. Mulliken on the stage.
At some point, this flag disappeared. It is an important piece of CNC history that needs to be found (if it still exists) so that it can be professionally cleaned, preserved and displayed in the Alumni House. If you can help us find it, send whatever information you have to us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The two photos above (pp. 43 & 45) show some of the degree candidates during the 1972 graduation service, looking rather solemn ... or bored? Tired? Their mortarboard tassels are still on the right, so they have not yet received their diplomas. If you recognize yourself or anyone else in these pictures, please let us know!
These last two photos (p. 46) remind us of how joyful an event it always is when a commencement program ends with diplomas in hands and family members rejoicing with their graduates. These 1972 pictures also remind us that not all of CNC's graduates in the early years were twenty-one and single. The college then served all age groups in the Peninsula community.
* Details about the ring and the original seal are in the website article The Story of CNC’s First Four-Year Class Ring and the Seal that Preceded It, located in the Website Archives, under the sub tab First Decade History.
"Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions."
Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
(1874 - 1965)
Dr. Jane Chambers, Editor and Head Writer
Ron Lowder Sr., Webmaster
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