A legendary legacy

The Rikkers family discusses what it means to be a four-generation Minnehaha family and what it means to them

A lot can happen in four generations.

Four generations ago the Wright brothers were taking the first aviation flight in history, whereas today there are roughly 300 airlines in the world with millions of flights taking place every year.

The world today is nothing like the world of four generations ago; hemlines are shorter, technology has advanced and equal rights acts have been put in place.

There is no question that life is different than it was four generations ago, yet somehow over all these changes some things have remained the same, some things have carried on.

One of these continuations would be the presence of the Rikkers family at Minnehaha Academy. Currently enrolled are Hannah (‘13), Adam (‘16) and Sam (‘20) and they are the fourth generation of their family to attend Minnehaha.

Their great-grandmother, Hilma Johnson (‘17), was the first of their family to attend Minnehaha in its opening year and was a part of the first graduating class.

Johnson’s parents were Swedish immigrants and attended First Covenant Church in St. Paul which led her to Minnehaha. She met her husband through church and they sent their children to Minnehaha. One of their sons was William (‘51), who married classmate Margery (‘51).

Margery had a positive experience at Minnehaha.

“[My fondest memories at Minnehaha are] meeting so many good friends that I’ve kept throughout the years,” said Margery. “I have good memories of the teachers [and] what they taught me, especially the Home Economics teacher Louise Stocke Anderson.”

In fact, Margery and her husband had such a good experience at Minnehaha that they decided to send their children  John (‘81), Jeanne (‘83) and Jim (‘87) to Minnehaha.

““I sent my children [to Minnehaha] because I knew it was a good education with a Christian emphasis,” said Margery.

Margery and William’s son Jim met Lisa Kuban (‘87) at Minnehaha and they were married in 1991. They went on to have three children; Hannah, Adam and Sam.

Jim attended Minnehaha because of a strong family tradition while Lisa went because her pastor’s children attended and recommended it, but regardless of the reason for attending they both loved their experience.

“It was great,” said Lisa. “It was really nice and small and I met Jim there, of course. We met very good friends, good friends that we still have now. I really liked that we had friends all over the cities, so we just got to know the cities so well.”

“It wasn’t like if I went to a school in my neighborhood where we were all generally the same,” said Jim. “At Minnehaha I had a bunch of different friends. One of my good friends was a pastor’s kid, another was a professor’s kid, and a couple business executive’s [kids]. It was a variety of different families and economic backgrounds. I really liked that.”

Jim and Lisa chose to send their kids to Minnehaha for many of the same reasons their parents sent them.

“It’s comfortable, it’s intimate and is a safe environment,” said Lisa.

“The legacy of us going there and my family [put] it high on the list of where we were going to send the kids,” Jim said. “It’s not just about educating the mind and academics. I think the kids learn about values and what’s important in life, not just being the smartest kid in the world.”

The Rikkers feel that Minnehaha has been an integral part of their lives because of both the family legacy and the school itself. Jim coached basketball at Minnehaha from around 1990 to 2005, so the kids have always been around the campus and the atmosphere.

“I felt like I knew all the teachers already and it felt comfortable,” said Hannah. “I know pretty much everyone in the school, which is kind of nice. I feel kind of like it’s home; it’s not like any other school. I feel like I belong there.”

The Centennial year is being celebrated by many people who have been a part of the Minnehaha community in some way, but it takes on a different meaning for the Rikkers than most.

“It’s very neat,” said Jim. “We’ve got kids there now, Hannah’s graduating in the Centennial year and it’s been such a big part of our lives and a positive part of our lives. My grandma was in the school a hundred years ago and the fact that she was literally in the same building that Hannah and Adam are in is kind of a cool continuation [and how] my parents went there [and Lisa and I] met there.”

“What a beautiful setting it is, overlooking the [Mississippi] River,” said Lisa. “There aren’t many places that are in a big old building like that.”

“It seems like it’s still a great place even a hundred years later,” said Jim.

“My mother attended Minnehaha in one of the first classes, [I went there], my children went there and my grandchildren attend now,” said Margery. “Minnehaha is a common thread that has run throughout my family’s life for nearly 100 years. My mother graduated in 1917, if I remember the year correctly, and my granddaughter Hannah is graduating this year in the Centennial year.”

“My great-grandma started the same as I did, as a freshman [a hundred years ago],” said Adam. “Being in the same building as all of my family members and keeping that tradition alive is [amazing].”

“It’s like a home feeling because of the family history we’ve had,” Jim said. “The foundations of the school seem the same. It’s a Christian heritage and educates more than just the mind, it educates the whole self. It seems like that’s how it was founded and how it still is today.”

Minnehaha has been a part of the Rikkers legacy for a hundred years but isn’t ending here.

“If I stay here and have the opportunity and can afford it I definitely would [send my kids to Minnehaha],” said Hannah. “I’d like to continue that tradition of my family.”

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About Frances Hoekstra

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