Distinguished Alumni Award

Ben Rippe and son

Ben Rippe with son Sam at a Riverview Rotary reception held at Rippe’s

By Marie Harris, DCC Alumni Relations Coordinator

Rippe began Danville Community College in the summer of 1973, transferring some credits from his first two years at larger institutions: Washington and Lee, Averett University and Virginia Commonwealth University. He finished in spring of 1974 graduating Magna Cum Laude with an Associate in Science; was a member of Phi Theta Kappa and constantly engaged in SGA activities. Rippe entered VPI-Blacksburg in the fall of 1974, receiving a science degree in agronomy in five quarters in December 1976.

Already working as a consultant for land management for European buyers of Northern Virginia properties, he was hired as a farm manager working on farm business plans and other areas. He returned to VPI as a graduate student in Agricultural Economics while also joining the faculty in research pursuing federal land grant programs and policies. While Rippe was traveling in 1978, he and his father accidentally encountered each other. Before departing for their separate destinations, his father emphasized to his son that if Ben desired a career at the family business, now was the opportune time: the local Rippe’s business was going to need a manager.

August 1, 1978, Ben Rippe began employment at the family-owned business. During the ensuing years, he pursued an MBA at the Fuquay School of Business at Duke University in the Weekend MBA program. In January 1992, Rippe bought the business from his parents, believing that "when you find a good niche, explore it well." The family had always sold furs; this area he expanded. The growth in sportswear, casual clothing, took off and now has grown 60 percent to 80 percent. In 2000, Rippe closed the bridal department and opened the shoe department, eventually buying the building adjoining Rippe’s. Rippe had a walking connector constructed to seamlessly blend both buildings, so customers could easily move from one area to the other while shopping. The change was a positive. Rippe’s Shoes now offers 35 brands in the inventory.

A member of Riverview Rotary, Rippe sees the civic club as a way to participate in numerous worthwhile community projects. His focus beyond his business and his synagogue, Temple Beth Shalom, is always on education and the arts throughout the local region.

Rippe established the endowed Rippe’s Scholarship for Women at DCC, the Rippe’s Scholarship at Averett, and the Rippe’s Scholarship for Carlisle School—all for area students. He underwrote the eventual DCC Alumni Scholarship, still in the fundraising stages, with a $1,000 gift to start the process.

Rippe supported the major gifts campaign by appearing in the following ad:

As a business owner and community member, I have witnessed Danville Community College's energizing of regional companies with employee training and innovation. Whenever there is need for technological training, economic tools or adaptive strategies, DCC has been the instructional leader, an asset to individuals and to business sustainability.

I am one of those individuals who gained educationally at Danville Community College. My first semester, I was unsure, unfocused, unclear about my curriculum or my future. All of the uncertainty evaporated with exceptional, passionate teachers leading me to find my direction and explore my interests. I became motivated, finished my requirements, transferred to Virginia Tech where I was accepted in the Biological Honor Society and graduated with an Agronomy degree. DCC was the best money ever spent on education.

It is also the best money that can be spent by each alumni, community member, business member when you dig deep into your pockets and give to the college that helps provide regional viability and sustainability. I returned to Danville with a belief in the region, purchased my family's business, Rippe’s, and expanded it.

Rippe regularly contributes to the Danville Concert Association and other areas related to the arts. He has served on the Goodwill Board, the YMCA Board, the Chamber of Commerce for five years, Temple Beth Shalom and the Downtown Association Board. Because his mother is a breast cancer survivor, he used Rippe’s overhead to help raise over $50,000 for breast cancer patients.

Rippe’s son is a freshman at Virginia Tech majoring in business and history.