A Tradition of Philanthropy

By Mark Wilcox | Published

A plan that has been 15 years in the making came to fruition when the largest donation ever to the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science was made official.

In the latest chapter in a long history of philanthropy, the Nara family made a significant contribution to Michigan Tech's School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science (SFRES). 

At a signing ceremony June 28 at the park that bears her family's name, Ruth Nara of Houghton and Bootjack donated a forest in Houghton County's Torch Lake Township to Michigan Tech. The 640 acres of land and the timber on it are valued in excess of $2 million.

In addition, a scholarship in the Nara family name will be established to benefit Michigan Tech students studying forest resources and environmental science.

Andrew Storer, dean-elect of SFRES, says "The School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science is extremely pleased that Ruth has chosen to gift this property to Michigan Tech." He says the property will be known as the Nara Family Forest in honor of Ruth and her late husband Robert Nara. 

At the presentation, SFRES Dean Terry Sharik said, "This is the biggest gift the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science has received." He said the size of the forest is big enough for students to look at forest management and natural resources issues on a large scale. He pointed out that the property will be managed as a sustainable, working forest. 

Turning to Ruth Nara, Sharik said: "I can assure you, we will take care of it."

University President Glenn Mroz said he was touched by the trust the Nara Family has shown to Michigan Tech. "When Gail and I first visited the property with Bob and Ruth about 15 years ago, one of the things that struck me was that several generations of the Nara family had managed that forest. Through good times and especially through many very trying economic times, the generations of the Nara family emphasized their continued stewardship of the land. They've managed it with a steady hand for more than 100 years, and now they're trusting us to do the right thing."

Mroz added, "I think we all feel a deep sense of gratitude but also a responsibility that the Nara forest is being entrusted to Michigan Tech to benefit many generations to come." 

In making the presentation to the University, Ruth Nara said, "All I can say is thank you for putting this all together. This forest is a special place and it is special to all the people in the Bootjack area."

Eric Halonen, assistant vice president for advancement, has worked with the Nara family for about 14 years. He says this latest gift is part of a long-range plan Bob Nara had for the property. 

"It was important to Bob that it remain a managed forest. That's why he trusted it to the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science," Halonen says.

Bob and Ruth Nara are well-known philanthropists in the Copper Country. Perhaps their best-known community project is the City of Houghton's 100-acre Nara Nature Park, which for the past 10 years has been linked to the Michigan Tech trails.

In recognition of their contributions, the Michigan Tech Alumni Association presented the Naras with the Honorary Alumni Award in 2013.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.

Last Modified 2:26 p.m. July, 13 2018


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