- BS Forestry 1977
Serving His Country, Community and University
The most important lesson Edwin Eiswerth ’77 learned as a forestry major and US Air Force cadet at Michigan Tech was the value of hard work. The experience he missed out on was applying his valuable skill set to community service.
“When I went to Tech, I found Houghton had a volunteer fire department, but they wouldn’t let in any students,” he remembers. “That ticked me off. I knew there were good firefighters in the student body.”
Firefighting is in Eiswerth’s blood. A retired air force lieutenant colonel and now fire chief of Peachtree City (Georgia) Fire/Rescue, he began to fight fires when he was a high school student in Pennsylvania and regretted giving that up in college.
Years later, he joined the Michigan Tech Alumni Association Board of Directors, bringing his passion for student service back to the University—along with two decades of emergency management experience. “I look at it from a public safety point of view: you have seven thousand students there. Why not use them?” he says.
He began by lending his expertise to the Department of Public Safety and Police Services, which was working to improve emergency services. One result has been Michigan Tech Emergency Medical Services, established in 2011. Thirty student volunteers certified as first responders provide first aid using a donated ambulance, which has been retrofitted as a mobile first aid station.
“I’m trying to get students involved in the local community, helping the citizens—and the biggest citizen of all, Michigan Tech,” Eiswerth says.
Edwin and his wife, Precy, also back these efforts financially. The Eiswerth family supports Public Safety, as well as the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. But they don’t designate any specific projects for funding. “That’s best left up to the bosses,” he says.
He credits the University for his success and his ability to give back. “Tech started me off on my career, and I’m basically in the position I am now due to that. I don’t even think about it, to be honest with you,” says Eiswerth.
Faculty members like forestry professor Ros Miller taught him the value of working hard, and his penny-pinching college days gave him an appreciation for thrift.
That would be an important skill after he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. “Back then, military salaries were terrible,” he says. “But Precy and I have always been savers.”
Eiswerth lived and traveled all over the world in the US Air Force, fighting first in the Cold War against the Soviet Union and then in the Middle East. “I spent lots of time in Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s and ’90s, flying missions against the Iraqis and Iranians,” he says. “I had a blast; I loved flying.”
There was just one downside. “During my first career, I was gone all the time, so I didn’t see my family,” he says. “Even when we lived overseas, Precy and our young son, Edwin, were left alone for months on end.”
However, their good planning allowed him to retire from the US Air Force in 1994 to be a firefighter in Peachtree City. His dream job involved a big salary cut, but in a few years, he was promoted to operations officer and then to fire chief in 2007. Precy also has a career in public safety, working as a trauma technician in the Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital emergency department.
The Eiswerths’ chosen path left them not wealthy but still with the resources to make a difference.
“There are lots of people like Precy and I who may not have enough money to build a new wing on a residence hall but who can contribute a significant amount of money,” he says. “We can give some now and maybe give a lot more later.” That realization prompted them to join the University’s McNair Society. “We decided to include Michigan Tech in our estate plans,” he says. “It was just the right thing to do.”
This profile first appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of the Michigan Tech Foresight newsletter.