In 1965, Muhammad Ali dropped Sonny Liston in the boxing ring, Ed White became the first American to walk in space and “The Sound of Music” was packing movie theaters from coast to coast.

That’s also the year two students named James Arthur Richter and Julie Ann Irwin would become graduates of Hanover College — Jim with a degree in business administration and psychology, Julie with majors in sociology and history.

They would marry a year after their graduation -- indeed, they celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year. They would have two children, and a grandchild, and they would build lives of meaning and accomplishment. Jim would become a business executive with Hook Drugs Inc. and its foundation, and Julie would be an educator and a celebrated pioneer in teaching people who have dyslexia. They would race sailboats together. They would benefit their communities with the expertise that powered their professional lives and their volunteerism.

After all this time, Ali is long retired and astronauts now live in space, but some things don’t change.

Taking a cue from a song in “The Sound of Music,” Hanover is still one of the Richters’ favorite things — “still” being the operative word in this context. The Richters have never really left Hanover and Hanover has never really left them.

2016 marks the 51st consecutive year the Richters have made a gift to Hanover College, a remarkable streak of generosity that has benefited scholarships, financial aid and campus lectures on important topics such as the environment and historic preservation and renewable energy sources.

In the years since their graduation, the Richters also have co-chaired numerous class reunions and reunion giving, capital campaigns, fund-raising and other significant alumni events.

It’s all about giving back to a place they believe gave — and continues to give — so much to them. As Julie Richter says, it’s “way more than about the money.”

Jim Richter says Hanover’s small class sizes, attentive professors and student activities provided him an opportunity to succeed in college (he says he was dyslexic, but “they didn’t know what it was” then) and to develop leadership skills that served and lifted his business career. He wants to see that potential continue for Hanover students of today and tomorrow, and likes to recall former college President Dr. John Horner saying of efforts to sustain alumni giving, “Oak trees grow from acorns.”

Like Jim, Julie says the size of the college offered opportunities for involvement and leadership that have served her — and those she has taught and helped — throughout her life. More than that, “the gift of time” and Hanover’s collaborative community provided “a nurturing place to dabble and dream. In a rigorous academic environment, I felt challenged, encouraged and supported by faculty and friends.” She even is moved to share a haiku she says expresses her thoughts about her school:

Hanover College
learning place, sheltering dreams
friendships through the years.

The Richters, who live in Fishers, Ind., harken to the beginning, their beginning, when they speak of their years of giving, their years of connection to Hanover College.

In answering why he gives to Hanover, Jim Richter says, “First, Hanover College is important to me because it is where I met my best friend, wife and soul mate, Julie. Next, while at Hanover, we made many lifelong friends. Finally, the generation before us made the ‘Hanover Experience’ possible through their financial support. We have the opportunity to pass along that experience to current and future students. Our continued support will help sustain the college and offer resources to perpetuate Hanover into the future.”

After more than 50 years, theirs is still a powerful love story of people and place.

By Pam Platt