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Missing wallet returned 20 years later

Students reunite Taylor alumnus with lost wallet

“What a riot when somebody contacts you and says, ‘I found your wallet from 20 years ago. It was just here in the ground,’” Aron Griffis (’99) said. (Photograph provided by Aron Griffis)

“What a riot when somebody contacts you and says, ‘I found your wallet from 20 years ago. It was just here in the ground,’” Aron Griffis (’99) said. (Photograph provided by Aron Griffis)

By Becca Robb | Contributor 

On a chilly Sunday afternoon in May, two students turned up a piece of history in a pile of dirt. Junior Andy Willson and senior Michael Mundwiler were biking around Taylor’s softball field when they noticed an object lodged in the ground.

They hopped off their bikes to get a closer look — it was a leather wallet. Willson peeled the wallet out of the crusted dirt and pried open its leather flaps.

“My initial reaction was that somebody had dropped it very recently,” Willson said. “Then I opened it up and I found a credit card and the expiration date was like 1995.

The wallet had hidden in the dirt for over 20 years. But its contents were in almost perfect condition: an expired driver’s license, bank and credit cards, a student ID and a card to a video rental store.

Willson and Mundwiler brought the wallet back to their dorm, Breuninger Hall, and tried swiping the student ID to open the door. When the card reader beeped and flashed red lights, their interest turned to the ID’s owner.

“The first thing we wanted to do was look him up,” Willson said. “We thought it would be really cool to have him kind of freak out.”

The pair searched for the 1999 Taylor alumnus, Aron Griffis, on social media. After finding who they hoped was the owner, Willson contacted him about their discovery.

“I suddenly got this message on Instagram,” Griffis said. “‘Hey man, I go to Taylor University and my buddy and I just found your wallet.’ It seemed kind of unbelievable — I thought there must be some kind of mistake.”

Even though he wasn’t sure why he’d still want his old wallet, Griffis asked Willson to ship it to him. Willson obliged and sent the wallet back to Griffis in Rhode Island. In return, Griffis sent them $20, telling them to go to Ivanhoe’s and get some ice cream.

Aron Griffis' wallet was mostly preserved, possibly because it was protected from the elements until recent storms and construction. (Photograph provided by Andy Willson)

Aron Griffis’ wallet was mostly preserved, possibly because it was protected from the elements until recent storms and construction. (Photograph provided by Andy Willson)

Now Griffis’ wallet is sitting in a cardboard box on his desk. He plans to keep the license and student ID in a box of memories, but he may not save all the wallet’s contents.

“I don’t think I need the card for the video store,” Griffis said. “Chances are if I showed up with this card I’d have some horrible fine to pay off.”

Willson believes heavy rains in May may have washed the wallet out of the ground. The area may have been further disturbed as workers moved dirt to build the LaRita Boren Campus Center, according to Grounds Supervisor Kerry Shanebrook.

Though Griffis couldn’t actually recall losing his wallet, it may have happened during a camping excursion. He became involved with Taylor’s Mu Kappa group after spending his high school years in Cameroon. Griffis and several friends from Mu Kappa would carry sleeping bags into the woods around campus and sleep out in the open.

I’m sure it was distressing at the time, but I don’t remember that,” he said. “I certainly think back quite often and fondly of my years there and my friendships and adventures. I probably had more adventures than class attendance.”

A computer science major, Griffis studied in what students called “The Dungeon.” Before Euler opened in 2012, the computer science department operated within Nussbaum’s basement.

The concrete basement had no windows and was too cramped for the department, according to Bill Toll, former professor of computer science and current dean of the school of natural and applied sciences. But instead of resenting their space, students dubbed it “The Dungeon” as a term of affection.

Through taking classes in “The Dungeon,” Griffis met his wife and fellow computer science major, Amy (Yoder ’99). They’ve since moved to the East Coast and started their own software consulting business in Rhode Island.

“I think it’s just incredibly cool that Andy (Willson) reached out and got in touch. It’s been a lot of fun, actually,” Griffis said. “I follow him on Instagram — It’s fun to have struck up a new friendship.”

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