TechAlum News

March 15, 2004 (Vol. 10, No. 41)

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An award-winning weekly electronic newsletter for alumni and friends of Michigan Technological University. Written and distributed by Dean Woodbeck '78, Director of News and Information Services.

In this issue:

  • Husky Tales
  • At da Tech
  • Around Town
  • From the E-mailbag
  • E-mail Updates/Welcome to new subscribers
  • Alumni Chapter Events
  • Job Opportunities
  • Electronic Services for Alumni

Husqi Tales

I'm sitting here this morning, listening to some heavy music. Since I'm a ramblin', gamblin' man, I'm thinking of visiting the casino at the Nutbush city limits. I hear they play some old time rock and roll and that, even if you are a beautiful loser, you can remain, like a rock, at the blackjack table.

Surely all you Bob Seger fans recognize at least of couple of the song titles cleverly hidden in that ramblin' first paragraph. Tonight, the icon of the Detroit music scene for decades will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How big is he in Detroit? Yesterday's Free Press included a special commemorative Bob Seger section.

What does this have to do with Michigan Tech? My first road trip as a young Michigan Tech freshman involved Bob Seger.

"Good old days" alert, young 'uns. In those days, trips to Marquette came at the drop of a hat. The Alibi attracted plenty of women and had a clear dance floor that was lit from underneath. Marquette also had the nearest home of the Big Mac, and we're not talking about the bridge. This was so long ago, "super size" had not yet entered the popular lexicon. I had a roommate who would drive down and back to satisfy his Big Mac Attack.

In October 1974, I heard via the grapevine that Bob Seger would be playing at Hedgecock Fieldhouse in Marquette. What amazed me was that he would be the warm-up act. This was my first clue that Seger was not a household name very far outside of Michigan.

He would be warming up for BTO (Bachman Turner Overdrive). You couldn't call BTO a one-hit wonder act, but three-hit wonder wouldn't be far off the mark. Later in my Tech career, we looked forward to their signature song "Takin' Care of Business" to get on the floor and do the alligator (see previous TechAlum newsletters).

So, some of us went to buy our tickets at, where? Ticketmaster? Nope, this was the UP--concert tickets were available at Jim's Foodmart. We arrived at the fieldhouse early, since the bleachers had open seating and we wanted to get as close to the stage as possible. The place was packed and went nuts over Seger. He received standing ovations and did two encores.

After he played, we left. BTO specialized in three-chord progressions, like every garage band in America. We just wanted to see Seger. We figured the rest of the evening was better spent at the Alibi. The only thing left to figure out was who would draw the short straw and have to drive home.

Snow Watch '03-'04

as of March 12, 2004 
This week Last week Last year
Snowfall to date 218.5 211" 194.0"
On the ground 26" 27" 30"

See our snowfall chart, dating back to 1890, and day--by-day snowfall for this season.

At Da Tech

TECH DEGREES OFFERED IN DEARBORN, SAGINAW: Beginning this fall, Michigan Tech will offer two bachelor of science in engineering (BSE) degrees at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn and Delta College near Saginaw. One BSE will carry a minor in product design and the other a minor in municipal engineering. The programs are designed to accommodate those who work during the day or need flexibility in scheduling. The degrees are also available through Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City.

CLEAN SNOWMOBILE CHALLENGE THIS WEEK: Engineering students from 15 universities have arrived at Michigan Tech for the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge. The event is the Society of Automotive Engineers' newest collegiate design competition. Teams of engineering students from participating schools take a stock snowmobile and then reengineer it to reduce emissions and noise while maintaining or improving performance. See

FOR MORE INFORMATION from Tech, see the weekly newsletter
Tech Topics:

Around Town

BOARD TO IMPROVE JAIL VENTILATION: The Houghton County Board of Commissioners is seeking bids for a contract to improve air ventilation in the county jail. The project is expected to cost about $60,000. The board also discussed creating a year-round exercise facility for inmates.

TOWNSHIP HEARS REDRIDGE FIXES TONIGHT: The Stanton Township board will hold a special meeting tonight to consider temporary fixes for the two deteriorating Redridge dams. The right side of the timber crib dam has collapsed. If the timber crib dam collapses completely, it is almost certain the timbers would clog the steel dam’s valves, causing buildup and eventually the collapse of the steel dam. The township owns the dame, but the expense of proposed repairs range from $311,000 to $1 million--all out of range for the sparsely populated township.

HOUGHTON CONSIDERING RENTAL LICENSE: The Houghton City Council is considering a new ordinance that would require homeowners seeking to turn their houses into rental properties to be licensed. A public hearing on the proposals likely would be held April 14. A homeowner wishing to convert his property into a rental would have to get the property inspected for safety and compliance with codes by the city. The owner would have to detail the likely number of tenants and parking spaces, and submit a site plan.

911 FACES CASH CRUNCH: The Houghton County Board of Commissioners has learned that the county's 911 center will face deficits beginning in September 2007. The center costs the county about $600,000. The state police have said they could provide 911 dispatching from its regional center in Negaunee for about $143,000.

NIMROD NATION ON LENO: Since ESPN began airing commercials featuring the Watersmeet Nimrods, the small school district has sold more than $35,000 worth of shirts and apparel. Now the basketball team will appear tonight on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Each of the three commercials ends with the same tag line: “Without sports, who would root for the Nimrods?”

Sports Results

Hockey (8-25-5 Overall, 6-19-3 WCHA)
3/12 -- at #1 North Dakota 6, Michigan Tech 2
3/13 -- at #1 North Dakota 4, Michigan Tech 3 (ot)

Men's Basketball (22-8 Overall, 13-5 GLIAC)
3/13 -- Michigan Tech 81, Gannon 75 (NCAA regional)
3/14 -- Wayne State 57, Michigan Tech 54 (NCAA regional)

NORDIC SKIING NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS -- Toni McKnight finished 38th 39 skiers in the 5-km freestyle race on Thursday and 31st of 37 competitors in the 15-km classic race on Saturday.

NORDIC SKIING USSA JUNIOR NATIONALS (age 19 and under) -- Kristina Owen won the 10-km classic race on Wednesday and finished second in the 5-km freestyle race on Friday.


From the E-mailbag

E-mail from Patrick Miller (Patrick.R.Miller(at)

Dear Dean:

As far as Iron Mountain (an Kingsford, my Alamater)
being in the UP


We are a part of the UP. NOT Wisconsin as some news
and sports people might think. I remember once a
young lad came to my door trying to sell me a
newspaper. Poor kid. I did not think he was expecting
my response when he said he was selling the Milwaukee
Sentinel and the Green Bay Gazette. I wanted the Free
Press! After all we are in Michigan.

Dean sez: I wasn't questioning Iron Mountain's location, geographically,
but snow-o-graphically :-)

E-mail from J.B. Hoyt '74 (j_b_hoyt(at)


And a third explanation to the term "Toot" as a
reference to Michigan Tech students. It was explained
to me in the early '70's as the Finnglish version of
"student". Keep up the good work!

E-mail from Jim Smith '64 (wndpsalm(at)


When you were talking about the parade route, I
presume you were referring to Gino's Pizza. He
certainly was not Irish. His name was Gemignani. My
wife graduated from St Joseph's School of nursing with
his daughter, Mary. I know you're all scratching
your heads wondering where that school was. All I can
say is that in the 50's if you knew the right people
and had access to a car, you could get a date with a
beautiful student nurse, and maybe find a wife too.
I did.

Also, about Toots. The story I got when I started
there in ' 55 was that we were called toots because we
would drive around town tooting our horns at all the
local lovelies. Which of course we did. (Tech out of
towner) is really lame.

My first year there I lived in the just completed "New
Dorm". The Wadsworth Hall name came a couple years
later. Yes, and I was still there when St A's, as we
called it then was opened. I must be getting old!

E-mail from Vicki Stevens (vicki.stevens(at)

Dear Dean,

Actually, being raised in the Houghton area, I had
always heard that the origin of "Toot" was because
the Tech students were always tooting their horns,
especially at the young women who were strolling on
the streets downtown. This particular comment came to
me from Mr. Haug, who owned the gift shop downtown and
was a longtime neighbor of ours. Just thought I would
add this to the Cornucopia of legends about
the nickname!

E-mail from Tom Williamson '61 (twilliam(at)

The story I heard is that way long ago, even before
The Tech was called the Michigan College of Mines, it
was called the Michigan Mining Institute, and the
students who attended the Institute were called
'tutes. ("You go ta da 'Tute, eh?")

That would suggest that a better spelling would be
"tutes" rather than "toots". Anyways, "toots", like
"pasties", tends to be mispronounced by people who
have never been there.

E-mail from George Wright '70 (GeorgeWright(at)

I guess that the word "Toot" entered the student
vocabulary sometime between 1948, when Ken Nickel
graduated, and 1966, when I entered Tech as a
freshman. The word was very commonly used while I was
there, both by students and locals, and was used as a
descriptive name, not an insult. However, I don't know
when or how the word came into use.

The story told on campus was that in the early days
the locals heard that the state had opened an
engineering school in town. They thought that it
trained people to drive locomotives. Locomotive –
Toot, Toot - get it?

In the late 60's many of the locals supposedly
referred to the students as "damtoots" (pronounced as
one word). Many students referred to the locals as
"dumfinns" (also pronounced as one word).

Is the word "toot" still in use at da Tech?

E-mail from Pete Dohms '67 (pdohms(at)

Dean: Two items,

1) I don't drink Martini's but if I did, I'd hoist one
in the memory of Fr. McGee. He was an original, and
bless him for being able to keep on a bike until age
79! Not unlike cross country skiing at that same age!

2) Origin of "Toot" as a derogatory expletive to
describe students at MCMT - I have heard a third
theory which is more likely than either of the two you
offered. After WW II, when the returning GI's swelled
Tech's enrollment, many of them had enough money saved
(no place to spend your pay when you're in a foxhole),
and with their expenses paid by the GI bill, many
could afford automobiles. Being young, frisky, and
immortal (having survived the war), they were said to
have been very willing to show their status off by
blowing the horn on their auto at the slightest
provocation or whim. The locals, by and large on
foot, eventually lost patience and came up with the
term "Toot" to describe the Tech students, and it

E-mail from Jim Bentley (jbentley(at)


In your newsletter today, you mentioned St. Patrick's
Day coming up. What about St. Urho's Day, celebrated
on March 16 for the legendary saint who drove the
grasshoppers out of Finland's vineyards? Is that
celebrated in the CC now? My wife is a Hancock Finn
and we didn't know about St. Urho growing up in the
50's; but we heard about it later and found a child's
story book on it in an Oklahoma City bookstore about
10 years ago. It is celebrated in parts of Minnesota
(where the saint was created) today, including
Finlayson and Finland (big 3-day festival).
Yesterday's Minneapolis Star had a nice article
about St. Urho's Tay (Finnish for day).

E-mail from Bob Makolin (rink-rat(at)

I just had to comment on the Hancock St. Paddy's Day
parade. As a former trombone player, I can commiserate
with the brass, trying to keep valves and slides
moving in sub-freezing temperatures. A little vodka
mixed with the valve/slide oil reduces the freezing
point nicely. I remember marching in the cold (might
have been fourth of July) across the lift bridge from
Hancock to Houghton and one of our less-than-
coordinated trombone players dropped his mouthpiece
through the metal grating on the bridge. He had to
fake it for the remainder of the parade, not to
mention suffer a year and a half of verbal abuse for
his clumsiness.

And your comment about Hancock ties to St. Paddy's
"being a bit of a stretch", I clearly remember my dad
and his friends referring to the local Finns as
"Hancock Irish". Has anybody else ever heard that
term? Inquiring minds want to know.

E-mail from Tom Prescott '90


I always enjoy your newsletter, especially around
holidays. It's always great to hear about the
celebrations at Tech, but I have one question.
Since when did St. Patrick's Day become such a big
deal? I thought the big March holiday in da U.P. was
St. Urho's Day. Even downstate, we alums still gather
together for the wearing of the purple and the
celebration of St. Urho's driving the grasshoppers
from Finland, saving the precious grape crop.

Keep up the great work on the newsletter. It's always
the highlight of Monday!

E-mail from John Titlow (heterodyne(at)

Hi Dean:

Forgive my lack of current knowledge about the Copper
Country but I thought that the Redridge Dam was opened
up and the lake or pond drained some years back. There
was a beaver dam that let loose (1970?) and wiped out
a motel and part of M-26 North of Calumet. After that
happened all unnecessary retained ponds were reverted
back to their "creek" status.

Is the Redridge dam still holding back water? Is it
part of a town water supply? Stanton Township with the
help of Wisti should be able to get the Michigan
Department of Environmental Quality to foot the entire

Dean sez: There are actually two dams at Redridge. The big
one that everyone remembers is the large steel dam/railroad
trestle. That one was opened up some years back. There is
another, smaller, wooden dam just upstream from the trestle
(we're taking a matter of maybe 100 meters upstream). That
one is holding back a pond and it is the one that is
rapidly deteriorating.

E-mail from Fred Roman '66 (fierofred(at)


Really sorry to hear about Fr. McGee. He was a
wonderful inspiration for my wife and me. I know he
will be missed by many.

I guess I was lucky several years ago when I had a
bicycling accident that left me with four broken ribs,
broken shoulder, collapsed lung, bruised kidney, and
other superficial bruises - and I just went over the
handlebars and hit the ground (head first)!

E-mail from John Baker '71 (john.r.baker(at)


It was with great sadness that I read the news of the
death of Father McGee. And while I acknowledge that
my comments may only be fully appreciated by other
Catholics, during a time (the 60's) of great change,
both for our society and for a young man living away
from home for the very first time in his life, having
both St. Al's and Father McGee at part of the Mich
Tech experience proved to be a critical part of my
life. In many respects, my faith today and fact that
I'm blessed with a wonderful family and career was at
least in part due to the influence and sense of
community that St. Al's and its pastor brought to me
as a student far away from home.

And before anyone who was not there during that time
starts to think that perhaps Father McGee may have
been some old-school, soft-spoken Barry Fitzgerald
type from some quaint Hollywood movie, he definitely
was not. Father McGee was a true breath of fresh air
for a lot of us and he made it OK to be both a college
student and a member of a community of faith.

E-mail from James Dorman (jrd47(at)


As I read your recent note on Bill McGee, I couldn't
help wondering what ever happen to "Father Bill". My
brother and I attended Tech through '71 and concur
that Father Bill was very inspirational and spiritual.
Every Sunday and through the summer sessions he would
conduct masses and would always offer the best and
human side to all the teaching presented. St.
Al's was almost like a club to some of us.

I do recall he conducted masses on Isle Royale and
took the boat over once a week on Saturdays and would
return in time to conduct another service on Sunday
PM. I did some research on line and found that he
indeed followed many passions and later in life he
along with his wife stood out against social
injustices, prejudice, violence, and revenge in the
criminal justice system. He could talk on just
about every human subject in concert with those
times, and with a brightness in his eye he always
expressed great spirit and energy. I for one have
experienced so few like him and will always remember
the fine human he was.

E-mail from John Dlouhy '54 (jdlouhy(at)

I may not be your oldest reader, but at least a
witness who can testify to winters that were winter.
Case in point, before leaving for '53 Christmas I had
surgery on my lower back, and parked my car
temporarily in the doctor's backyard. Upon returning
my feet were even with glass in the doors. I don't
recall how long it took to dig it out but that pocket
left by my car was quickly filled.

E-mail from Bill Shust (Objengrs(at)


As just a 40-something alumni of Houghton and the Soo,
I'm delighted to learn of the many current readers
from Michigan Tech and MCMT days of the 1930s-50s.

However even as I'm still just a snot-nosed kid,
sometimes I think my best engineering days are
past. So here's my request for another informal survey
of my smarter and more experienced Michigan Tech elders: did any
of you tech old-timers re-invent yourselves "late in
the game," so to speak?

E-mail from Doug Simonsen (dcsimonsen(at)

Dear Dean,

Your alumni newsletter readers may be interested in
these articles about Bill McGee, published in the
Santa Rosa (CA) Press-Democrat.

A search of the newspaper's archives
on the name "Bill McGee" will bring up his obituary
and several other articles of interest to Bill's

E-mail from Walt Rognerud (tgswalt(at)

I'm sure the sad passing of Fr. Magee will bring out
stories of his time at Tech. Here's mine. Go back to
the late fall of 1966 and the first big snow fall. The
slightly bored young men of DHH decided that it would
be the perfect night to pay a visit in mass to Coed
Hall and request favors, such as undergarments of the
members of the opposite gender. The equally bored
young men of Wads decide that DHH's idea of a visit to
Coed Hall was inappropriate behavior and used the
Newly fallen snow to make implements of dissuasion
i.e. snowballs.

At some point in these festivities, it was decided
that blocking U.S. 41, that then ran directly in front
of DHH, with large snowballs would be a good idea.
Enough 3 to 4 foot diameter snowballs were placed on
the road to have stopped traffic, if there had been
any. Then along comes a yellow Ford Bronco and
pushes the snowballs off the road. The Bronco's window
rolls down and Fr. Magee speaks a few words, and young
men decide it's time to return to their respective
dorms and studies. A few minutes later Officer Holman
arrives to see the last of the young men heading back
in doors. This is how I was introduced to the good
Father Magee.

E-mail from Roger Seidel '94 (ROGER.Seidl(at)

Hi Dean,

Sigma Tau Gamma's Gamma Chi Chapter will celebrate 30
years at Michigan Tech this summer. A reunion is scheduled to
coincide with Tech's Alumni Reunion weekend of August
5th-8th in Houghton. 150 or more Alumni are expected,
and we have a full schedule of events planned
including a golf outing, softball game, Copper Country
cruise, nightly activities, kid's activities, etc.
This will truly be a First Class event. Pre-
registration is required by June 1st, and can be done
by emailing Bob Wojcik at
robert.g.wojcik(at) He will assist you
from there.

Second, the Sigma Tau Gamma, Gamma Chi Chapter Alumni
Association has built a comprehensive, interactive
website, with over 175 registered members so far.
Alumni members are encouraged to visit and register at today, so they may be re-connected
with their Chapter and its activities. Periodic e-
newsletters, a very active bulletin board, calendar,
photo album, news about upcoming events, and memories
galore are all online and waiting.

Thank you for all you do to keep us Tech alumni in

E-mail from Brenda (Cutrara) Kerr '86 (brenda(at)

Seeing another reference to your roof shoveling made
me laugh. A guy I work with broke both(!) arms a
couple weeks ago. Someone joked that he had probably
been shoveling the roof. Guess what? He was!

E-mail from David Baxter '86 (geoskunk(at)

Hi Dean,

I'm researching a story for a new book and need help
locating some written documentation. I heard this
story from Al Routsala, mineralogy professor at Tech,
when he was delivering a freshman mineralogy lecture
about chert in 1983.

His story told how the K.I. Sawyer SAC base (in
Marquette county) once had a severe engine
maintenance problem--something was apparently damaging
the engines. The solution was found when they repaved
the runway using pavement "aggregate" trucked-in from
the Eastern UP. Dr. Routsala explained that the
original pavement contained a high concentration of
locally-derived jasper (chert) from iron-formation
bedrock near the base. When the engines of a B-52
washed over a chilly winter runway during take-off,
each little super-heated chert fragment literally
"exploded," sending a shower of tiny silica fragments
onto the tarmac. The next jet in line would then suck
these little chert fragments inside their engines,
where they shredded the stainless-steel fan blades.

I need a previously published account of these
pavement studies. I've checked with the State
Archives, SAC Historical Museum in Omaha, and anyone
else I could think of, without success. Given my
research, I expect the pavement troubles could have
happened between 1961 and 1965.

Can anyone recall this story from Dr. Routsala or some
other prof during the 1960s? I'll send a free copy of
my book ("Roadside Geology of Michigan" ) when it's published in late-2005,
to the first person that can finally document this
enigma for me.

TechAlum Subscriber Stats

We're at 6,963 subscribers.

Here are the new e-mail addresses from the past week. Please note, we are
using the word "at" instead of the at sign to guard against spambots.

1963 Michael Martin mikeandjan(at)
1967 William Anderson bala67(at)

1977 Michael Kolodziej mkolodzi(at)
1978 Dean Piotrowski deanp(at)

1980 Joseph Nezwek Jnezwek(at)
1984 Shelley Hart (Letts) shelley.l.hart(at)
1984 Steven Butterfield stevebutterfield(at)
1984 James Bedenis j.bedenis(at)
1987 Daniel Rouns dmrouns(at)

1990 Ramzi Franjieh rfranjieh(at)
1991 Kevin Christenson krchristenson(at)
1992 Kristine Murphy (Young) kmurph51(at)
1992 Darren Graham adgraham(at)
1993 Susan Naples sajohnson(at)

1995 Leah Lemanski (Mukavetz) leah.lemanski(at)
1995 Abraham Phothirath APP_Michigan Tech95(at)
1996 Bradley Gustafson bkgus(at)
1997 Kevin Whalen kevmwhalen(at)
1998 Adrienne Minerick (Rogers) minerick(at)
1999 Tonya Bakke ttbakke(at)
1999 Scott Verow scottverow(at)

2001 Markus Buehler mbuehler(at)
2001 Ann DeJong (Miller) ForesterAnn(at)
2002 William Judy williamajudy(at)
2003 Kelly Gossiaux klgossia(at)

You can update your information at:

Alumni Association Programs

CHAPTER EVENTS: For more information on alumni chapter events,
e-mail mtu_alumni at or see the alumni chapter site on the web.

25 -- Chicago Alumni Event


5 -- Washington DC Presidential reception
19 -- Dallas Presidential Reception
20 -- Austin Presidential Reception
21 -- San Antonio Presidential Reception
22 -- Houston Presidential Reception

12 -- Detroit Chapter Golf Outing, Fox Creek, Livonia

Job Opportunities This Week

ON CAMPUS: Complete job descriptions for these positions are available by e-mailing jobs at

  • Asst. football coach\
  • Coordinator of Student Orientation and Parent Programs

OFF CAMPUS: For complete descriptions, jump to our jobs web site.

  • Senior Project Engineer/Manager
  • Civil Engineer -- Municipal
  • Civil Engineer -- Transportation
  • Engineer/Programmer Analyst
  • Civil Engineer
  • Civil/Municipal EIT
  • HCI/ICI Programming Scientist
  • Director--Systems Engineering
  • Industrial Maintenance Electrician (L'Anse)
  • Associate Process Engineer (L'Anse)
  • Project Engineer

See you next week

TechAlum is a weekly electronic newsletter published by the Michigan Tech Alumni Association. For more information, contact Dean Woodbeck at techalum at