Monday, December 5, 2016

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Dennis Schmitz was reunited with his class of 1965 class ring. Dennis Schmitz was reunited with his class of 1965 class ring.

Lost and Found

A class ring lost for 40 years is finally returned to its owner.
By Tobin Vaughn

When the phone rang in Dennis Schmitz’s La Jolla home this summer, he responded pleasantly to the caller from the SDSU Alumni Association. 

Yes, he was the same Dennis Schmitz who had graduated from San Diego State. No, he had not lost a 1965 class ring. After all, his class ring, which he still possesses, is from his graduation year of 1968.  

But after hanging up the phone, Schmitz couldn’t stop thinking about the call. He began to wonder; could he, in fact, be the owner of the lost ring about which the caller had been asking?

Dennis Schmitz
Dennis Schmitz lost his 1965 class ring 40 years ago.
Finding the ring's owner

The SDSU Alumni Association’s call to Schmitz was prompted by an earlier call from Susan Myers in Greensburg, Penn. While cleaning out her basement, she came across a box containing a San Diego State College man’s class ring from 1965. It had a green stone set in what appeared to be silver, she said, with a fraternity insignia and the inscribed initials DNS.

As Myers recalled, she found the ring while growing up in La Jolla in the late 1960s or early '70s. She said she likely came across it on her way home from school at either All Hallows Academy or La Jolla High, where she graduated from in 1972. 

”I used to live on Ladybird Lane and for some reason I must have been up by the road (La Jolla Mesa Drive),” she recalled. ”It was just one of those places where, on occasion, you'd find something. 

“To make a long story short, I was by the road, saw something sparkle and picked it up. There was the ring.”

Myers intended to contact San Diego State about the ring and put it in a box for safekeeping. Over time, she forgot about it and in the early '90s she followed a job to Pennsylvania where the box containing the ring traveled along with her other possessions.

“When I found it the other day I thought, 'Well, it's not mine,’” Myers said. “’I wonder if the alumni group can find it.’" 

Her call to the SDSU Alumni Association, as opposed to any other campus office, was prompted by her experience as an intern with the alumni association at Seton Hill, a small Catholic liberal arts university near her home in Greensburg.

“That’s why I know how important these things are,” she said. “I think my internship with their alumni association is something else that, when I came across the ring, prompted me to say, 'Somebody needs to have this back.'”

SDSU Alumni Association staff members found themselves wondering what to do next. A search of university records had turned up no 1965 graduates with the initials DNS. In fact, the only male graduate with those initials in the entire decade was Dennis N. Schmitz from 1968. Contacting him about the 1965 ring had been a long shot in the first place.

“We were pretty much stymied at that point,” said Donna Buttner, SDSU Alumni Association staffer. “We were just about resigned to putting an announcement in the newsletter and seeing if anyone would respond.”

Confirming its owner

Then the phone rang. 

It was Dennis Schmitz. Since the association’s call, the 71-year-old food industry retiree had been unable to stop thinking about the lost ring. Might it actually have belonged to him? 

“It's been so long,” he said. “Thinking about it, I remember that I did lose it, but when you called me I thought, 'I could have sworn I just had two initials put on that ring, but I must have had DNS (inscribed).’" Perhaps he had too hastily dismissed the earlier inquiry.

Hello, my old friend. It's good to see you again.

“What’s your birth month?” he was asked.

“June,” he answered, “and my birthstone is alexandrite, but I always liked green.”

Green was the correct reply for the stone’s color, but what about the ring itself?

"It wasn't yellow gold because I like white gold," he said. 

The white gold explanation accounted for the ring’s silver appearance as described by Susan Myers. Schmitz was two for two so far with the ring’s identifying properties, but those might have been mentioned in the prior conversation. 

The real question — the one demanding a rational explanation — was why he would have had a ring from 1965 if he had received his marketing degree in 1968 and bought a class ring from that year. 

“I didn't go straight through,” Schmitz said, explaining that he started classes at San Diego State in 1959 thinking he would graduate in 1965. “I quit for about four or five years off and on. I was working full-time and then I decided, 'I've got to go back and get my diploma because without it, I'm lost.' So I did. I went back and graduated.”

With that explanation, Schmitz had reasonably answered all of the questions that would qualify him as the ring’s owner, except one: What was the fraternity insignia? Myers mentioned the ring's Greek letters, but told no one what they were. 

“I’m a proud Sigma Chi,” Schmitz said. “I definitely would have had my fraternity on that ring.”

Dennis Schmitz
Chris Mueseler (right) returns the ring to Schmitz.

Another call to Myers ensued. Once the letters were correctly identified, Myers agreed to put the ring in the mail and send it to the SDSU Alumni Association.

When told his his ring ownership had been verified, Schmitz said, “What a nice woman. That would never happen again in eons. This is just the greatest." 

How, Schmitz was asked, did he ever lose the ring along the side of a road?

Thinking back, Schmitz could have lost the ring, which was loose at the time, while working on his car or when he was driving with his hand out the window while running errands in La Jolla.

“I've tried and tried to think, but I just can't remember,” he said. “The memory is foggy... It's just been so long ago."

Special delivery

As the SDSU Alumni Association staff awaited arrival of the ring, there was another phone call. It came from the vice president of institutional advancement for Seton Hill University, Chris Mueseler. She was headed to San Diego to welcome her son home from an overseas deployment with the U.S. Navy when she heard about Myers and the ring.

"They said they were going to mail it and I said, 'Let me deliver it,’” Mueseler said. “I think it's such a heartwarming story.”

Within days, Mueseler met Schmitz in the Allan Bailey Library at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center to hand over the ring. With little ceremony, she loosened the strings of a cloth pouch, slid the ring out and gave it to him.

Dennis Schmitz
Schmitz tries on his class ring.
“Hello, my old friend,” Schmitz said as he slipped the ring on his finger. “It’s good to see you again.

“Now it fits; it was loose before,” Schmitz said. “It looks just like when I had it. I never thought I'd see it again. I really didn't. I'm amazed because I thought, 'That's one in a billion.' It's like winning the lotto."

Schmitz reflected on the coincidence of it all: at how his ring was found by a fellow La Jolla High School graduate; how Myers rediscovered it working as an intern at a distant university’s alumni association and knew to contact the SDSU Alumni Association; how his initials, DNS, were unique among San Diego State alumni over the course of a decade; and how an administrator from Seton Hill University had already planned a trip to San Diego and was able to personally return to him his long-forgotten ring. 

"It fits like a puzzle, doesn't it?" he marveled. 

As for the wayward ring, Schmitz promised it will take the place of the one from his 1968 graduation year.

"The only time it will come off is when I take a shower," he vowed. "This is THE one.”  

This story originally appeared in the SDSU Alumni Association Enews. To read the original story, click here.