Class Ring Lost for 40 Years Returned to Owner
When the phone rang in Dennis Schmitz’s (’68) La Jolla home on a recent weekday morning, he answered cheerfully and 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.
Dennis Schmitz ('68) received a call from the SDSU Alumni Association asking whether he had lost his class ring.
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?
THE PENNSYLVANIA CONNECTION
The Alumni Association’s call to Schmitz had been prompted by an earlier call from a woman in Greensburg, Pennsylvania named Susan Myers. While cleaning out her basement, she had come 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 had found the ring as a girl 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, from which she graduated 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. "Stuff happened on that particular stretch because it was right on a curve. Sometimes there were wrecks. Sometimes people were walking and threw things. 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.”
“SOMEBODY NEEDS TO HAVE THIS BACK”
Myers intended to contact San Diego State about the ring. She put it in a box for safekeeping, but, over time, forgot about it. Her family moved from La Jolla and in the early 90s she followed a job to Pennsylvania where the box containing the ring traveled along with her other possessions.
Susan Myers in a photo from the 1972 La Jolla High School yearbook.
“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.’" She explained that her call to the SDSU Alumni Association, as opposed to any other campus office, was prompted by her own situation.
A while back, Myers said, she lost her position as a human resources professional when the company she worked for downsized. She began taking courses at Seton Hill, a small Catholic liberal arts university near her home in Greensburg. She currently has an internship with the school’s alumni association.
“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 in the entire decade of the 1960s with those initials 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 SDSU Alumni Association staffer, Donna Buttner. “We were just about resigned to putting an announcement in the newsletter and seeing if anyone would respond.”
The San Diego State College 1965 class ring that turned up in a Pennsylvania basement.
Then the phone rang.
It was Dennis Schmitz. Since the Alumni 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.
“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 BIG QUESTION
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.
The ring has a Sigma Chi fraternity insignia with a green stone set in white gold.
“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 to be the ring’s owner, except one: What was the fraternity insignia? Susan Myers had mentioned there were Greek letters on the ring, but had told no one what they were.
“I’m a proud Sigma Chi,” said Schmitz. “I definitely would have had my fraternity on that ring.”
Another Alumni Association call to Susan Myers in Pennsylvania ensued. “Are the Greek letters on the ring sigma and chi?” she was asked.
“Describe them,” she said.
“A sigma looks like a funky capital E and a chi is an X.”
“Yep, that’s it!” Myers confirmed. “It looks like you’ve found the owner.” She agreed to put the ring in the mail and send it to the SDSU Alumni Association.
SO LONG AGO
"What a nice woman," Schmitz assessed when he was told his ring ownership had been verified. "That would never happen again in eons. This is just the greatest."
Chris Mueseler, a vice president at Seton Hill University, heard about the ring and volunteered to return it to San Diego from Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
How, Schmitz was asked, did he ever lose the ring along the side of a road?
“I've tried and tried to think, but I just can't remember,” he said. “The memory is foggy. I used to take the ring off and put it in my shirt pocket when I would do any kind of work, so I might have been working on the car or something and bent over, I don't know.
“I also used to drive with my hand out the window. It was a habit I had and the ring was loose. I used to drive all around through there on errands and whatever all during the day and night and so that might have been when it happened. It's just been so long ago."
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 Navy when she heard from her staff about intern Susan 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.”
Chris Mueseler (r) delivers the lost ring to its owner, Dennis Schmitz ('68).
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.
“Hello, my old friend,” Schmitz said as he slipped the ring on his finger. “It’s good to see you again.”
"It's a beautiful ring," Mueseler observed.
"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."
"It was meant to be," Mueseler agreed. "It amazed me that they called and were able to track down the owner of the ring. I would never have imagined in a million years that was possible. I'm glad you have it."
“Thank you so much,” Schmitz said to Mueseler as he handed her an envelope to take back to Susan Myers in Pennsylvania. He said it contained a special message and “a small reward” for the woman who had found his ring more than 40 years ago and returned it from thousands of miles away.
LIKE A PUZZLE
Dennis Schmitz ('68) is reunited with his lost class ring after more than 40 years.
Schmitz reflected on the coincidence of it all: at how his ring was found by a fellow La Jolla High School graduate; how Susan 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.”