Snapshots of a few of RF's most famous and infamous residentsMany UW-River Falls alumni have gone to remarkable careers as astronauts, researchers, surgeons, educators and business professionals. River Falls as a few home-grown celebrities too. Here's a small sampling ...
A successful financial adviser who has held careers with two nationally known investment firms and is currently responsible for Yale University's huge endowment fund, David F. Swensen was the 1996 Distinguished Alumnus for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. A River Falls native, Swenson graduated from UW-River Falls in 1975, earned master of arts and master of philosophy degrees and a doctorate from Yale University, where he studied with James Tobin, a recipient of a Nobel prize in economics. He is also an advisor to the Obama Administration. Swensen is the son of Dr. Richard Swensen, emeritus dean of the UW-River Falls College of Arts & Sciences, and Rev. Grace Swensen.
A Watertown (Wis.)High School graduate, Brandenstein attended UW-River Falls where he specialized in mathematics and physics, he was active in intramurals, was vice president of the junior class, served in the Student Senate, and belonged to other organizations. He joined the Navy after college, flew 192 combat missions in Southeast Asia from the USS Constellation and USS Ranger, then became a Naval test pilot before joining NASA. Captain Brandenstein played a pivotal role in advancing America’s space program through his activities as an astronaut, space Orbiter pilot, or commander aboard four shuttle missions. He piloted the Challenger on August 30, 1983, and commanded flights of the Discovery on June 17, 1985 and the Columbia on January 9, 1990. His fourth and final mission, on May 7, 1992, as commander of the maiden flight of the Endeavour, captured international attention during a daring rescue attempt of the crippled International Communications Satellite (INTELSAT) through three space walks, including a record three astronauts who exited the Endeavour to physically capture the satellite with their hands. Brandenstein retired NASA and the U.S. Navy in October 1992 after 15 years of service. His last position was chief astronaut for NASA.
Called "St. Paul’s Voice in Washington," Bruce Vento represented Minnesota’s 5th District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1976. As a student at River Falls, he majored in political science and was active in various student organizations. He began his career as a teacher of physical and social sciences in Twin Cities public schools, and also was elected to the Minnesota House where he served as assistant DFL majority leader. He was always interested in legislation to help those in greatest need. As a legislator, Vento served on the Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs Committee; Select Committee on Aging; Interior and Insular Affairs Committee; as well as others. His committee work and speeches in Congress and elsewhere indicated that his greatest concerns centered on the aged, environmental problems, education, and the handicapped.
If women of the world want someone to thank for the opportunity to play ice hockey, they offer appreciation to River Falls' own Karyn Bye Dietz. Girls hockey wasn't an optioin for Karyn Bye, the daughter of Cuck and Dotty Bye of river Falls, When she was a student at River Falls High School from 1985-89. Instead, she suited up with boys' team played under the name "K.L. Bye" and earned a scholarship to one of the few schools in the country hat offere hockey for women-- the University of New Hampshire.
Bye earned a spot on the U.S. Women's National team in 1992, '94, '95 and '96. Then, in 1998, she led the team t owin their first Olympic gold medal at the winter games in Nagano, Japan.
Four years later in Salt Lake City, she was part of the U.S. team that won the silver medal.
Her picture has appeared on a Wheaties box. She's visited the White House and met the President, been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and had a street named afer her in River Falls. Bye Dietz still does occasional speaking engagements and public relations appearances and has served as color commentator for the U.S. Women's National Team.
She is now a married mother of two who resides in Hudson, Wis., but continues to inspire and support others in their dreams.
Dr. Richard "Dick" Delorit was born on May 22, 192, in Forestville, and died Jan. 27, 2000, in River Falls.
At UW-River Falls, Delorit was president of the FFA Chapter, state president of FFA, and received its American Farmer degree.
After his graduation in 1942, he taught at Plymouth and Abbotsford, and in 1953 joined the River Falls High School faculty where he served as supervisor of student teaching for the UW-River Falls Department of Agriculture.
Three years later he joined the college faculty and in 1957 became the dean of the Division (later College) of Agriculture.
Dean Delorit became academic vice president in 1964 and served as interim-president in 1967-68. From 1968 to 1986 he was vice chancellor.
During his career as a vocational agriculture teacher, university professor, and university administrator, Dr. Delorit wrote several books.
He co-authored Crop Production, a high school text widely used throughout the United States and in translation in Latin America.
He also contributed to Horse Science Handbook and is the author of An Illustrated Taxonomy Manual of Weed Seeds and Seeds of Continental United States Legumes,” which have been in use in most of the nations of the western world.
C. R. Gunn of the Research Division, U.S. Department of Agriculture, said of his illustrated taxonomy: ". . . A major contribution in the field of weed identification and . . . a major milestone in the extensive use of color photography."
Dick Ritger (born Nov. 8, 1938), was a dominating right-handed ten-pin bowler in the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) from 1966 through 1981. He’s been called one of the “20 Best Bowlers of the 20th Century.”
A gentleman on and off the lanes, Ritger won the PBA's Steve Nagy Sportsmanship award on two occasions. His status among the all-time greats was solidified with his election to the PBA Hall of Fame in 1978.
Still active with his “Dick Ritger's Bowling Camps,” he is recognized as one of the most effective bowling instructors in the world. He has taught professionals and amateurs in 24 countries covering five continents, and has modified the program to assist America’s “wounded warriors” returning from Iraq.
Already a member of the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame in the Performance category, Ritger was the first person inducted into the USBC's new Bowling Coaches Hall of Fame in June 2008.
“Touching Eternity: If that’s what teachers do, Dick Ritger is shaking hands with it,” read an article printed in a 2008 International Bowling Industry magazine.
He has been married for almost 50 years to his high school sweetheart, Judy, who is a nationally recognized folk artist. The couple still call River Falls home.
Francesca “Frankie” Rayder was born on January 26, 1975, in River Falls. While growing up here she played basketball and worked at the local golf club but hadn't considered modeling until spotted by a talent scout in Minneapolis. Her big break came in 1992, when she met legendary photographer Steven Meisel. One of his first images appeared on the cover of Italian Glamour.
Her career took off and she has worked with many notable fashion names: Givenchy, Valentino, Lagerfeld, Chanel, Celine, Gucci, J. Mendel, Mondi, Dolce & Gabbana, Dia, Versace, DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Fendi, Missoni, Alexander McQueen, Versus, Stella McCartney, Blumarine, Chloe, Givenchy, Marni, Viktor & Rolf, Moschino, La Perla, Roberto Cavalli, Costume National, and MaxMara.
She has appeared on the covers of The Face, Elle, Allure, Harper’s Bazaar, and the Spanish, American, German, French, British, and Italian editions of Vogue. She was one of the models in the 50-model 50th-anniversary campaign for Ann Taylor, photographed by Annie Leibowitz.
She appeared in Victoria’s Secret fashion show in 2001, 2002, and 2003, and she also appeared in the 2005 and 2006 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues. Frankie led the holiday campaigns for Gap, in which she appeared alongside her sister Missy, another mega-model.
On October 26, 2005, Frankie gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Sunny Bebop Balzary, with fiancé Michael Balzary, better known as Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. She took a break from modeling between 2004 and 2008, returning to print in 2008 and to the runway in February 2009 for the autumn collections.
Simon Shepherd, son of John & Beverly Shepherd and a 1985 River Falls High School graduate, could be loosely termed a "rocket scientist".
Born in England, he moved to town with his family in 1969 at the age of two.
Simon earned his bachelors degree in Physics from Middlebury College in 1989, a masters in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington in 1991 and his Ph.D in physics from Dartmouth College in 1998.
His employment history includes work as a software and management information systems engineer in Maine and Vermont, respectively. He also served as a postdoctoral physicist and senior staff scientist at Johns Hopkins University, and research assistant professor and lecturer at Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College.
His CV includes 15 publications and 43 first-author presentations.
At last check, Shepherd, an associate professor at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering, was part of a collaborative project with colleagues from Virginia Tech (VT), the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL), each of whom received a portion of a $6 million award from the National Science Foundation.
In 2009, Simon and his father co-authored an article for The Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets: Toroidal Magnetic Spacecraft Shield Used to Deflect Energetic Charged Particles.
The seven-page article appeared in the Jan-Feb. 2009 edition.
"I guess I never quit," the elder Shepherd quipped. "(Simon) came home one summer and he'd come across a paper that was wrong." After John read the paper, the pair concluded that the problem "should be easy to fix".
"If people were to fly to mars, they'd be exposed to a lethal dose of cosmic rays, and this would protect them," John said.
Whether man or woman ever attempt a Mars flight depends on money.
"A lot of people have worked on this problem. If NASA gets enough funding again, they may be in contact -- probably with Simon. It's tangental to what he does."
Although John Shepherd retired in 2000 following 31 years as a professor of Physics at UW-RF, he clearly hasn't stopped thinking about space.
"We can now that claim that we're rocket-scientists," he laughed.
Simon's latest project, scheduled for completion in 2012, will expand SuperDARN with construction of a new array of ground-based remote sensing instruments. The array will consist of four pairs of radars placed in Kansas, Oregon, the Aleutian Islands, and the Azores. The new radars will extend the current mid-latitude network of three radars— two in Virginia, and one in Japan—and, when coupled with the existing high-latitude array, will enable measurements of drifting plasma in the Earth's ionosphere over a region stretching from Eastern Asia to Europe and from Kansas to the magnetic north pole.
Shepherd, who will oversee the construction and operation of at least one of the four radar sites, said, “This expanded research infrastructure will provide both real-time and archival data accessible to the whole community of scientists and engineers studying the magnetosphere and ionosphere. This data will help us better understand the near-Earth space environment and ultimately be able to better predict these geomagnetic storms and their effects on terrestrial and space systems.”
Shepherd explained that large technological systems—such as those used for communications like shortwave radio, GPS, and other communications satellites, and energy distribution networks like electrical power grids and pipelines—can be significantly and adversely affected by geomagnetic storms in the near-Earth space environment.
Aldrich Hazen Ames, called “Ricky” by his family, was born in River Falls on May 26, 1941. Aldrich was the son of UW-River Falls faculty member Carleton Ames and grandson of J.H. Ames, president of then-River Falls State Teachers College, from 1917-1944.
Ames had a distinguished career as an agent and analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency before he was discovered he was selling secrets to the then-Soviet Union. He was convicted of espionage in 1994.
Investigation showed he began spying in 1985 when he walked into the Soviet Embassy in Washington to offer secrets for money. Ames is held responsible for the compromise of hundreds of U.S. intelligence operations and the execution of at least 10 U.S. agents.
Over the years, Ames was paid approximately $2.5 million, allowing him and his second wife to live a lifestyle beyond the means of a normal CIA officer's family. Ames, who struggled with alcoholism, isn’t believed to have any ideological affinity for the USSR. He spied purely for the money.
He is currently (2010) housed in a high security penitentiary in Pennsylvania.