TechAlum News

April 12, 2004 (Vol. 10, No. 44)

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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

You have to wonder about a guy who doesn't care for heights, yet would like to be a pilot and took a trip up one of the Mackinac Bridge towers (where he spent most of the time kneeling and gawking at the Matchbox cars 500 feet below).

But there I was, 30 feet up a 60-foot climbing wall.

The family spent part of last week in Minneapolis. Laura power-shopped one of the area's malls (but not the uber-mall). Jay and I wanted to visit the REI store to gawk at kayaks and drool over bikes and ski gear. And all three of us wanted to try out that climbing wall (mom decided to keep her feet on terra firma). If you've driven I-494 through Bloomington, you can see the twin peaks through the store's huge floor-to-ceiling windows.

We had about an hour-and-a-half to melt down Mr. Visa before our turn on the wall. We donned the shoes, harnessed up and listened intently to our instructor and lifeline.

Jay went first, starting fast, then slowing down as he approached a slight overhang about 35 feet up. He stopped for a minute, then, with encouragement from those below, continued to the top. Laura went second. While she is 14, she weighs 95 pounds soaking wet. After a bit of uncertainty at the start, she scurried up like a monkey.

"That sure looked easy," I told myself, preparing for my own assault on indoor Everest. Up I went. Reaching the half-way point, I made the mistake of taking in the view--all those cars far below on 494.

I knew I was sunk. "Uh, I need to come down," I told my lifeline. "You're safe," he said. "Just use your legs and the next handhold will be there."

"You don't understand," I responded. "I need to come down NOW." "OK, I've got you. Just use your legs and walk down like I showed you."

After reaching the ground, I explained my disdain for heights and the panic that started to grow as I played traffic copter. He led me to the other climbing tower--the one away from the windows--and said, "Try this. And focus on the next step and nothing else."

"You can do this, Dad," my two veteran offspring said. "I don't know about that," I thought, "but I have to try again." So up I went and, other than a slight pause at one point, I just kept climbing and rang the little bell at the top.

Snow Watch '03-'04

As of April 12, 2004 

                      This week   Mar. 29   Last year  
    Snowfall to date     230.5"    228.0"     228"
    On the ground          7"        18"       8"

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

At Da Tech

CONCRETE CANOE TEAM WINS REGIONAL: The Michigan Tech Concrete Canoe Team took first place overall in the American Society of Civil Engineers' regional competition at the University of Akron, in Ohio. By winning, the Tech team earned the right to represent the North Central Conference at the National Competition, to be held in Washington, DC, June 17-20. More:

ANTI-ICE COATING PASSES BRIDGE TEST: There's a bridge along Wisconsin's Highway 8 that's notorious for ice and bad wrecks. But this winter, no one has spun out and slammed into the guardrails above the Wolf River, and officials say that's no accident. Last summer, workers installed a new anti-icing pavement overlay developed by Michigan Tech researcher Russ Alger. More:

US NEWS RANKS FOR GRAD PROGRAMS: US News & World Report has ranked four Michigan Tech graduate engineering programs among the best in the country. The ranked programs include: environmental engineering (18th), materials engineering (32nd), mechanical engineering (42nd), and civil engineering (50th). More:

JAZZ BAND TAKES SECOND: The Michigan Tech Jazz Lab Band, under the direction of Mike Irish, placed second among 11 college groups competing in the 37th Annual University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Jazz Fest. Michigan Tech was the only school in the collegiate division whose band members aren't music majors. More:

NEW BUILDING TOPS OUT: The last bone in the skeleton of the Center for Integrated Learning and Information Technology was put into place last Tuesday. A crane hoisted the highest piece of structural steel into place on the new Kanwal and Anne Rehki Computer Science Hall. This top piece was itself topped by U.S. and Michigan flags, along with the traditional Christmas tree and a Michigan Tech banner. Rehki Hall and the adjoining John and Ruanne Opie library addition are expected to open in early 2005.

TWO RECEIVE FULBRIGHT AWARDS: Faculty member Heidi Bostic and graduate student Jamie Krull have received Fulbright awards for study and work abroad. Bostic, assistant professor in humanities, will spend the fall 2004 semester at the University of Talca in Chile. Krull, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, will begin doctoral studies this fall at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway.

JUNIOR EARNS GOLDWATER AWARD: Chemical engineering junior Nicholas Ballor has been a named a 2004 Goldwater Scholar. The Goldwater Scholarship is a national competition for sophomores and juniors in science, math and engineering. Ballor will receive a one-year scholarship to cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500.

MAGAZINE SEEKS CONTRIBUTIONS: C Literary Magazine is seeking material from interested folks. C, which is distributed free, features works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and art, including photography, sculpture, drawings and paintings. Students from various majors have submitted work to C and this range of submissions reflects the C goal: to spread awareness and to publish the myriad of creative voices on our campus. For more information, see or e-mail Karolina Placzek (kplaczek(at)

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

Around Town

KEWEENAW POINT COUNCIL BEGINS PLANNING: Early drafts of plans for proposed snowmobile and non-motorized trails were discussed at the Keweenaw Point Advisory Committee’s monthly meeting last week. The committee is charged with developing recommendations for a management plan for 6,275 acres at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula purchased by the state of Michigan between 2002 and August 2003.

COMPANY DELAYS EXPANSION PLANS: Ironwood Plastics has plans for a 20,000 square-foot facility at the Houghton County Airpark. The Ironwood-based firm blames a turndown in sales in the automotive market. The company builds custom-injected molded products for clients in industries such as automotive, electrical and defense. The company says a decision should be reached on building next year in early 2005.

SKI SEASON BRIGHT: Copper Country downhill ski operators report positive results for the 2003-04 skiing season. Mont Ripley operated 106 days this season, with about 40,000 visits this year, up from about 38,000 visits last year. Manager Nick Sirdenis said the season was strong through the end of February. He said the after-school program brought 500 K-12 students to the hill weekly for six weeks. Lonie Glieberman, manager of Mount Bohemia near Lac La Belle and the Porcupine Mountains Ski Area in Ontonagon County, said Bohemia set a season pass record this year.

From the E-mailbag

E-mail from Heather Luoto '97 (hluoto(at)


I am writing a middle school Environmental Education Energy and Resources Unit funded by a Clean Michigan Initiative MDEQ grant and I am looking for photographs of Michigan landfills that could possibly be included in the unit.

I was wondering if there are any alumni working in the waste industry or related fields that may have high quality photographs that they are willing to share. Specifically I am looking for photographs of landfill construction, operation, methane collection, and waste to energy facilities. All photos will be properly credited and may be included in student pages, on a poster, and/or on the web. For more information please contact me!

E-mail from Ken Patton '85 (kenneth.patton(at)

Hi Dean

I was excited to see the blurb in your newsletter on the success of Michigan Tech's FIRST Robotics team. Tech grads should be proud that the team is one of the best university-led teams in the field of over 900 teams from the US, Canada, and a few other countries. I was at the Detroit regional and saw them put on a good show with their capable robot and enthusiastic team members.

FIRST is proving to be a fertile ground for the growth of new engineering talent. We are starting to see more and more students who prominently list FIRST roles in high school and college as their most relevant teamwork and project experience. For people interested in finding out more about this robotics competition, check out

E-mail from Jon Wennerberg '70 (jon(at)

In response to all the comments about the concerts in Hoton and Marquette: back in the day I was one of the guys that ran the spotlights -- the big old carbon-arc "follow spots" that shined upon the performers on stage. I announced at events, and I also did most of the location recording for WGGL, so was responsible for the tapes of Jim Croce (he appeared down in the Union as part of the old "Coffeehouse" series) and The Guess Who -- the tapes that magically circulated around campus. I lighted the Tubes concert in Marquette -- no small feat since it was a daytime outdoor concert, but at least we also got to see the performers doing their costume changes between numbers The cancelled Ozzy Osbourne concert in Marquette (a "bomb threat" called in, 'cause maybe he'd bite the head off a rat, wasn't it?).

Between jobs at Tech and in Marquette I/we lighted or announced Peter Frampton, Dolly Parton, BTO, the Shrine Circus and the Lippizaner Stallions, -- I even broadcast the commencement ceremony when Dr. Sochiro Honda spoke -- and then, after all the grads had exchanged their name cards for a diploma (name cards so the presenters would have the correct name to announce) -- after all the cards were collected, one was drawn from the "fishbowl" on stage and he received a brand-new Honda motorcycle as a gift (I think it was a civil from Traverse City that won it, if memory serves).

E-mail from Don Gagnon '79 (Don.Gagnon(at)


Concerning the origin of Holy Wah, I am from Gladstone, and my dad had told me that it started in a veneer mill that used to reside in the 1950s and 60s in a section of Gladstone known as "the Buckeye" and that the term had to do with the condition of the veneer panels before they were glued together. Maybe someone else can confirm this, but I know that my wife and I have used that term for as long as I can remember, and once while standing in the customs line in Heathrow Airport in London I heard it used and just had to ask, and found this elderly couple were from Gladstone and knew my family!

E-mail from Jeff Ramage '85 (jefframage(at)

Once again the newsletter has stirred memories of the Copper Country and cruising around in my 1978 Midnight Blue Dodge Magnum . . . most of the time trying to find parts for the Blue Streak to keep it running. Changing the Lean Burn Computer out for a distributor type ignition, and drilling out the jets on the 4 barrel to make it Not So Lean Burning at Northern Technical Services. Cruising down towards Iron Mountain during blueberry time to (yes, again) pick up car parts....and picking blueberries with my son Richard....watching him toddle through the grass. (Richard is now a junior at CMU)

Finding very old car salvage yards out in the boonies and the one in Dodgeville. Upon leaving one particular salvage yard, down towards Iron Mountain, back in the woods, the soft sounds of dueling banjos was heard filtering through the woods from the river.

E-mail from George DeRoche '60 (gdero(at)


I couldn't help but chuckle at the reminiscences about Bob Seger, and other performers/concerts at Tech many years ago Let me take you back a lot further, to 1957-1958 and Louie "Satchmo" Armstrong and the Kingston Trio in the old Sherman Gym; as a young yooper, I remember how impressed and excited I was to think that I was able to see such famous performers! A long time ago, but great memories!

E-mail from Cheryl (Thar) Spears '80 (cspears(at)

Dear Dean,

I don't know about a Tom Chapin concert, but I do recall a concert in 1979 or 1980 with Harry and Tom Chapin. They did not bring their whole band, but the brothers came to raise money for hunger relief (a big cause of Harry Chapin's). My 2 major memories of the concert were 1)Everyone screaming for him to sing "30,000 Pounds of Bananas" and 2) Harry's solo effort on the song "Mail Order Annie". He was giving everyone else a break, so it was just him and his guitar and he sang that song so beautifully that when it ended, everyone was completely silent for about 5 seconds before the thunderous applause began. I ran right out and bought the album with that song on it the next day. Of course, the "Banana Song" was the absolute topper to the evening. I will never forget that concert.

E-mail from Larry Watson (Lrywat(at)

Hi Dean,

Grover Dillman was president when I started at Tech and I've followed with interest the happenings in the administrations of his followers. In this alum's opinion Curt Tompkins was by far the most impressive. He faced the most difficult challenges and still contributed far more than any previous president. Here's hoping that his replacement will be at least half as great.

On another subject, nobody has mentioned the fishing at the Redridge dams. There was some great trout fishing both in the backwater above the timber dam and the pool between the dams.

E-mail from Douglas Fifield '71 (Douglas.Fifield(at)


All of the stories of music at da Tech prompt me to add two more from the early 70's. As I have now reached a "certain age," the dates have been lost in the mists of time, but the particulars are wedged firmly in my little grey cells.

First, there was a spring concert scheduled featuring Spanky and Our Gang (remember them?), but due to biological complications, Spanky found herself in the family way and cancelled. The concert board scrambled and booked a replacement band at the last moment called the Corvettes out of southern California who had some no-name female lead singer. This was bad news for those of us who had stayed up all night, camped out on the back steps of the Union, to be first in line for front row tickets in a futile attempt to impress our dates, or in some cases, to dangle as bait in hopes of securing same.

Well, the night of the concert arrived and we were all decked out in our best duds in the front row when out walked this gorgeous vision wearing a white, fringed pant suit that gave new meaning to the term "shear." You could actually hear the collective gasp of the audience. It was quite obvious that this young woman had declined to wear the appropriate foundation garments considered necessary by gentile society in the UP. To firmly cement her place in our memories, before saying a word, she took a long pull on a pint of Southern Comfort she had brought out with her, turned her back on the audience and bent over to place the bottle on the floor. To those of us who had gone sleepless those weeks before to secure our front row tickets, it was plain that the undie of the day was paisley. A good portion of the audience rose and left at that point with their noses in the air, never to hear Linda Ronstadt fronting for a bunch of unknowns that (rumor has it) later took the name of The Eagles.

The second memory has to do with the coffee house circuit that was in place in the late sixties and early seventies. Performers would travel around the country playing the college circuit, of which, da Tech was one of the more northerly stops. I followed that type of music and wound up being sort of an unofficial liaison between the college and the groups, taking care of any special needs they might have. One night, in the middle of a raging snowstorm, a married couple limped into town in an old Saab that had blown one of its three pistons somewhere south of Marquette. They were scheduled for three nights of shows, but had enough slack in their schedule to stay for a week.

I had their car towed out into the woods where some fraternity brothers lived in a cave and worked on cars instead of attending classes. We were able to source a replacement piston out of downstate Michigan, but it would take a week to do the repairs. That left me as their sole source of transportation, so I cut a weeks worth of classes to ferry them all over the UP while we told stories, drank beer, and played music. They used to open their sets with a bunch of bawdy pub ballads that got the whole audience hoopin and hollerin. They offered to lay a couple of tracks down if I would give them a cassette tape. I was having so much fun, I never got around to it which is too bad because if I had, I would now have a private tape of Jim and Ingrid Croce.

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

OK, as long as we're still sharing concert stories--I seem to remember about 1973 some organization was sponsoring Josh White, a noted jazz trumpeter whose claim to fame was playing two trumpets at the same time. The concert was in November I think. (Early '70's are a little hazy for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my advanced case of CRS.) Anyway, it was $0.25 to get in. The warm up band began to play (some bunch of hippie rock n rollers) and continued for about an hour and a half, much longer than a normal warm up band. Then the MC came out on stage and announced Josh White couldn't make it in because of the early season snow storm that was now in full force. So the warm up band played for another 90 minutes or so, and nobody in the audience minded a bit. The warm up band turned out to be Styx, who hit it big about three weeks later. And they gave us our quarter back at the door on the way out. Best free night of rock n roll I ever had.

E-mail from Linda (Johnson) Wittbrodt '83 (tcgolden(at)

Hi Dean,

Thanks for the "tastes of Tech" you send us on a weekly basis - it's great to keep up on the times.

I wanted to remember another great priest from the late 70's-80's era in Houghton, Father Bill Callari. He was at St. Ignatius while we were at Tech, and then later moved to St. Al's. My husband and I went through the marriage preparation classes with him during our last year at Tech and he was gracious enough to travel west in the UP to Ironwood that following summer to concelebrate our marriage ceremony! We have kept in touch with him over the years and recently received an invitation to his 25th Anniversary Celebration of his Ordination. I'm sure he would love to receive congratulatory greetings from any students that he helped along the way. You can send them to P.O. Box 493, Vulcan, MI 49892.

Thanks again for what you do for Tech!

E-mail from Ken Kok '64 (kokk1(at)

Dean: Several of us, who produced the first Winter Carnival Pictorial, have decided to get together at the Alumni Reunion this summer. Could you put an announcement in the weekly newsletter calling all Lode and Pictorial staffers, including "Sammy" from the 1963-64 school year to meet in Houghton during the reunion? The first WC Pictorial was published in 1964 and it seems to have become an institution. Thanks for your help.

TechAlum Subscriber Stats

We're at 6,992 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.

1950 Richard Berry dickberry(at)
1960 Frederick Pfeiffer fredrp(at)
1964 Marjorie Davies (Honkanen) dcm888(at)
1968 James Lowell jrlowell(at)
1971 Thomas McEnhill tmcenhill(at)
1976 Nancy Bach n.oconbach(at)
1976 Britt Proctor gillpro(at)
1977 Thomas Phillips thomas.c.phillips(at)
1981 Patrick Hughes patkarenh(at)
1982 Daniel LaBrenz cvlabrenz(at)
1986 David Kraycsir dave.kraycsir(at)
1987 Linda Stewart (Kley) linda(at)
1989 Julie Haught (Walczak) julesmtu(at)
1991 Fan Yap Hew yappi(at)
1991 Anthony Young young1(at)
1992 Carrie Shuler (Thompson) carrie(at)
1992 Christopher Jones camryman(at)
1993 Tricia Arieta (Duncan) tarieta(at)
1994 William Mitchell bmitchell(at)
1994 Darrell Schlicker DESCHLIC(at)ALUM.MIT.EDU
1998 Aaron Weyenberg aaron(at)
1998 Matthew Prater prater(at)
2000 Andrew Sawhill awsawhil(at)
2000 Stacy Ryan sjryan1(at)
2000 Andrew MacEwen andrewmacu(at)
2000 Aaron Hilshorst i_killed_yoda(at)
2000 Timothy Spoelma timspoelma(at)
2000 Michael Skowronek michael.skowronek(at)
2002 Daniel C Mattson dan_mattson(at)
2002 Michelle (Waters) Cook mdcook812(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.


19 -- Dallas Presidential Reception
20 -- Austin Presidential Reception
21 -- San Antonio Presidential Reception
22 -- Houston Presidential Reception
22 -- West Michigan Chapter Annual Spring Dinner, Kent
Country Club, Grand Rapids

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

31 -- West Michigan Chapter -- Whitecaps Baseball Outing
and BBQ Picnic, Fifth Third Park

Job Opportunities This Week

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

  • Lecturer--Computer Science

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

  • Associate Engineer--System Planning
  • Text Engineer--Brakes
  • Senior Design Engineer--Brakes
  • Product Development Engineer
  • Technical Liaison Engineer
  • Product Manager
  • Systems Engineer--Controls
  • Sales Trainee--Weyerhaeuser
  • Drinking Water Project Manager/Engineer Particle Engineer (Chem Eng.)
  • Engineering Intern--Ariens Co.
  • Energy 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