August 28 , 2006 (Vol. 13, No. 16)

A weekly electronic newsletter for alumni and friends of Michigan Technological University

Edited by Dennis Walikainen (MS ’92), Director, Web Development, University Marketing and Communications

For past issues, see our archives.

In this issue:

Moving In

Orientation kicked off this past weekend, and, in one of our newer traditions, Tech students and staff helped haul belongings into the residence halls. I was assigned McNair Hall (formerly Coed Hall) and worked the humid but not too hot, overcast, Saturday morning shift.

Most of the parents and new students were pleasantly surprised by the horde of yellow-shirted volunteers descending on their vehicles. One called us "angels" for helping out. Televisions, refrigerators, and computers were the "givens" in each car, truck, or van, in addition to clothing, of course. (I seemed to get the Tupperware or Rubbermaid tubs full of books.) Then, there were an interesting variety of specialty items: a beautiful handmade DVD rack, horse-riding equipment, a comforter for the bed: little pieces of home. (No record albums, though.) I was able to tell one student that the very group on his t-shirt was coming to the Rozsa Center this fall. "No way! Cool!"

One student and his father had even made their loft at home, brought it up in pieces, then just had to assemble it in the room. I asked, and, yes, he is enrolled in engineering.

What the students didn't bring, they purchased later in town, where I saw some of the same parents and students buying desk organizers, bulletin boards, milk crates, and laundry baskets, in addition to the notebooks, pens, and paper for their printers. The cashier told me they were "very busy all of a sudden," and, from the looks of the lines, it wouldn't be letting up any time soon. As a matter of fact, Sunday afternoon it was still busy.

I know the trip back home, which for many of the parents was starting right after moving in, won't be easy. But, I think they know that their children are in good hands (one mom stressed the importance of the safety of the area, when her daughter chose Tech). And, I hope the smiling, sweating folks in yellow had something to do with that.

Editor's Note: There will be no Techalum next Monday, September 4, Labor Day. Techalum will return on Monday, September 11.

At Tech

ALUM RAY CROSS PASSES AWAY: A great old friend of Michigan Tech, Ray Cross '35, passed away recently. Ray earned a BS in Chemical Engineering and an MS in Chemistry from Tech (in the same year). After graduating from Tech, Ray worked in metallurgy developing bomber wheels for the aircraft used in World War II. Ray then worked for 41 years in water conditioning and served as president of Culligan Water Conditioning of Washtenaw County. To provide financial assistance to future Tech students, Ray endowed a scholarship fund, a loan fund, and a post-graduate fellowship in chemistry. For his professional accomplishments, he was recognized by induction into the Outstanding Chemistry Alumni Academy (1996). For his generous financial support, he was honored by membership in Tech's President's Club and Hubbell Society. He was also named a Water Specialist Emeritus by Water Quality Association in 2003. A full obituary is here: <>


MICHIGAN TECH ON THE DAILY SHOW: After setting three Guinness World Records in February during Winter Carnival, Michigan Tech has had another first. The world's biggest snowball and the world's biggest snowball fight were featured on the Aug. 24 "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" in the "Cold America" segment. Those hard-nosed fact-checkers at Comedy Central also credited Tech with making the world's largest cup of hot cocoa, which may possibly have actually happened without anyone telling us about it, and an aborted attempt to make the world's largest snowman. Since "Cold America" credits a yeti for demolishing the snowman in mid-construction, and because the Michigan Department of Natural Resources says that no yetis have been reported in Houghton for at least a couple of years, the consensus within the university is that they made this part up. Les Cook, vice president for student affairs, credited Michigan Tech's enterprising student body for landing the university in the national spotlight. "Once again, I am extremely proud of our students and their success," he said. "It is great to have their individuality recognized and celebrated on 'The Daily Show.' Being featured on Comedy Central is exactly the kind of thing our students would embrace. By the way, what the hell is a yeti?"


FISHER HALL AND CHEM SCI FEATURE NEW TECHNOLOGIES: Fisher Hall and Chem Sci classrooms were renovated this summer and new educational technologies have been installed in many of the classrooms. Improvements include audio/visual control systems, computers, iClicker (for PC and Mac) personal response systems, Smart Sympodium, transparency overhead projector, VCR/DVD, video projectors, document camera, instructional console/table, wireless microphones, and wireless internet. More info on the improvements to Fisher Hall will be passed along later.


Tech Sports

2006 FOOTBALL SEASON KICKS OFF AT HOME SATURDAY: The much-anticipated Tech football season opens Saturday at Sherman Field when the Huskies host Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference foe Wayne State. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m., with the VIP Tailgate and Mix 93.5 FM's Countdown to Kickoff beginning at the field at 11:30 a.m. First-year head coach Tom Kearly will lead 16 seniors and 18 returning starters into the program's 84th season on the gridiron. The Huskies were picked fifth in the GLIAC preseason coaches' poll after finishing with a 6-3 record a year ago.


CROSS COUNTRY OPENS FRIDAY AT HOME: The Tech men's and women's cross country teams open their seasons Friday with their only home meet of the season. The Upper Peninsula Collegiate Opener will be run at the Tech Trails, and fourth-year coach Joe Haggenmiller says, "the field of teams for the race should be one of the strongest hosted by Michigan Tech in a decade."


VOLLEYBALL LEADS OFF 2006 SPORTS SEASON:  The volleyball team opened Tech's 2006-07 sports season at last weekend's Northern Michigan Invitational. The Huskies came away with a 1-3 record, defeating Wisconsin-Parkside, 3-0, on Saturday (Aug. 26). Tech compiled 66.5 blocks on the weekend, good for an average of 16.63 blocks per match. Sophomore Jen Jung (Andover, Minn/Coon Rapids) led the Huskies' offensive charge by amassing 51 kills (3.19 per game), while redshirt freshman Kaari Nevanen (Duluth, Minn/East) fired 10 service aces in her first four collegiate matches. The Michigan Tech netters will continue their stretch of eight matches in eight days with a trip to Romeoville, Ill., next weekend. The Huskies will take part in the Flyer Festival and face host Lewis to open the event Friday (Aug. 31) at 8 p.m.


WOMEN'S TENNIS CAMPAIGN BEGINS FRIDAY: The Tech women's tennis team hits the courts Friday in its 2006 season opener with a trip to St. Norbert. The Huskies return their top four players from last year's squad, which finished 5-9. Coach Mike Axford enters his 17th season guiding the women's tennis program in 2006-07.


Last Week's Results

Volleyball (1-3, 0-0 GLIAC)
All Matches at Northern Michigan Invitational
8/25--#20 Abilene Christian 3, Michigan Tech 2 (27-30, 34-31, 30-25, 20-30, 15-13)
8/25--St. Cloud State 3, Michigan Tech 1 (30-26, 27-30, 30-26, 30-28)
8/26--Emporia State 3, Michigan Tech 1 (30-24, 19-30, 30-28, 30-25)
8/26--Michigan Tech 3, Wisconsin-Parkside 0 (30-26, 30-21, 30-17)

What's Happening This Week

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Huskies Drive Time, Live on Mix 93.5 FM, 7:30-8 a.m.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Volleyball at Lewis, 8 p.m. (Flyer Festival)

Friday, September 1, 2006

Volleyball vs. St. Mary's, 12 noon (at Flyer Festival)

Cross Country hosts U.P. Opener, 3 p.m.

Women's Tennis at St. Norbert, 5 p.m.

Volleyball vs. Winona State, 6 p.m. (at Flyer Festival)

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Volleyball vs. West Florida, 10 a.m. (at Flyer Festival)

Women's Tennis at Lawrence, 10 a.m.

Football hosts Wayne State, 1 p.m. (Live Radio, 93.5 FM)

VIP Tailgate & Countdown to Kickoff, 11:30 a.m.

All Times are Eastern

Around the Keweenaw

Adapted from the Daily Mining Gazette

SUMMER TOURISM DOWN EARLY, BUT AUGUST LOOKS GOOD: Tourism is obviously very important in the Copper Country, and the high cost of gasoline is having an impact on businesses dependent on tourist dollars, apparently more so on some than others. Ed Yarbrough, manager of Quincy Mine Tours north of Hancock, said, early on this tourist season, there was a drop in the number of visitors at the mine. "May and June were down about four percent compared to last year," he said. "July and early August are up by about the same percentage points." Yarbrough said gasoline prices were most likely the cause for the slow start to the season at the mine. "(People) will put off a long trip," he said. However, once prices finally stabilized, people started traveling again, Yarbrough said. The new state law delaying the start of school until after Labor Day probably negatively affected attendance at the mine in the spring, Yarbrough said, because many schools downstate were extending their school year in anticipation of the late start this year. "They actually stayed in session longer," he said. "That really affected us." However, because of the later start to the school year, Yarbrough said families are still coming to the mine where traditionally families no longer come in late August. "The drop off hasn't been as dramatic as previous years," he said.


INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ARRIVING: Class starts in two weeks and international students are streaming into town by car, plane and Greyhound bus, said Saleha Suleman, director of International Programs and Services at Michigan Tech. Twenty-eight arrived Tuesday, a small airplane full of Indian students was expected Wednesday and Suleman is expecting her office to be busy up until Labor Day. Which is why her office staff has been camped out on the first floor of the Memorial Union building for the week and will stay there until September 1. "We have the whole crew working here, "she said, adding that they will even stay put for the weekend because flights will continue and she wants someone there to welcome the incoming students. It's the first year for her office to make a temporary move to the MUB for the occasion. The area is set up with computers, chairs and line of Tech staff and current international students on hand to assist with questions, immigration papers, applications, directions, and housing. Volunteer students drive to the airport and pick up the incoming students, give them tours of the campus and in the case of Tech student Enze Lu, cook fellow Chinese students their first meal. The students also receive a welcome bag of toiletries, homemade cookies and packets of information. Suleman said Tech, which now currently hosts 606 students from 90 countries, is aiming to double that number by 2010.


FOREST SERVICE OPENS UNDERGROUND LAB: The U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled it's new subterranean research facility recently. About 50 people, including USDA Forest Service representatives, community members, and Tech staff gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the USDA's Forest Service Northern Research Station on MacInnes Drive. The facility, which sits behind the lab and is known as rhizotron, allows Forest Service and Michigan Tech researchers and scientists access to the underground without disturbing the soil. The $500,000 tunnel, which is paneled with glass windows, stretches 75 feet into the hillside behind the lab, and exposes the roots, fungi, insects and worms deep in the soil. Alex Friend, project leader and research ecologist, said in a written statement that researchers plan to study carbon sequestration, the process by which plants "inhale" carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store carbon in the soil. He said maximizing carbon sequestration could be a way to reduce the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide and partially mitigate global warming. "The rhizotron will help us understand how carbon is transformed during this process, "said Professor Kurt Pregitzer, director of the Ecosystem Science Center in Michigan Tech's School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. "It's a cross-section in the soil from the surface down five feet," Friend added in a later interview. "Most people never see that. It's a window into the way the soil works." The Northern Research Station is part of the research and development arm of the USDA Forest Service, which works at the forefront of science to improve the health and use of the nation's forests and grasslands.


HOUGHTON APPROVES MORE METHANE TESTING: The Houghton City Council recently authorized up to $49,410 Wednesday for the second phase of assessing methane levels near several Ridge Road businesses. In December 2005, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality found above-standard levels of methane gas at eight well points along the road. The first phase, which began in May, included safety inspections of buildings, installing and mounting soil vapor probes, and soil vapor extraction. The DEQ detected methane gas at the Miners State Bank by a small opening near a piece of conduit in the floor slab. A 6 percent lower explosive limit was recorded an inch away from the conduit, though that dropped to 0 at or beyond three inches. A natural gas leak in a utility pit at the vacant Ming Garden building was also detected and remedied. No methane was detected at Pizza Hut, Keweenaw Gem & Gift, Sleeman's, KFC or The Muffler Shop. The Wilderness Car Wash and the Taystee Bread Store could not be inspected at that time. The second phase will include testing the two remaining buildings; installing six 30-feet borings for soil vapor probing, monitoring and extraction; and continuing monitoring and extraction and existing locations. There will also be an additional phase. City Manager Scott MacInnes said venting systems would be put in place "just in case it migrates into any of the buildings."

In other action, the council passed a resolution authorizing MacInnes and City Clerk Kurt Kuure to sign a pre-application for a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant and application for a Rural Development loan for a proposed sewer project to repair sewer infrastructure and bring Franklin Township into the system. If the grant is approved, an agreement must be drawn up between Hancock, Houghton and the Portage Lake Water & Sewage Authority stating that the operation of the plant and the allocation of costs will remain the same. Both city councils and attorneys for all three parties must also approve the agreement.

From the E-mailbag

I was visiting Tech with my family over Alumni weekend and had a great time.

However, we lost our digital camera Saturday and we think it may have been left on campus. I would appreciate it if you could include a short post in the TechAlum news to see if anyone found it. It is a Canon ELF S400 digital camera in a black leather case. The camera can be easily replaced, but we are grieving the loss of all our vacation photos, as this was the last stop of the trip.


Jeff Roof
(616) 361-7101


Dave Bittner made a great point, we should expose both our girls and boys to various toys when they're growing up. Ours started with Legos at an early age and they were disappointed when they didn't receive a fresh package for Christmas once they hit 18 or so. (Too much going to tuition.) Our son will make a great mechanical engineer; our youngest daughter starts her second year at Tech in structural engineering, obviously influenced by those little colored blocks.  Our oldest daughter is starting her Masters in History and Geography and loves essay questions (haven't figured out were that came from), but still has her tub of Legos.

Chris Knudstrup '77


Dennis, I have two things to talk about:
1.Pre-engineering toys--I had a younger brother and he and I received a big barrel of Lincoln Logs one time. We put together all kinds of buildings. We received Legos after that and I even have sets of Legos that I bought in college that had the medieval Robin Hood theme. We also had Tinker Toys, but we kept losing the pieces. I did not get any erector sets or Heathkits, but I did a few models when I was younger. What prepared me for my career in computer science, though was solving puzzles. I did jigsaw, crossword, fill-it-in, cryptograms, seek-a-word, and logic puzzles. At first I would ask my parents for the answers to the crossword puzzles and they told me to look up the answer in the dictionary.  Having a crossword dictionary was cheating according to my grandmother. Now my mother asks me the answers to the crossword puzzles and we both are getting into the sudoku puzzles. So if your child is very good at solving these kinds of things, they should go into computer science since programming is mainly solving puzzles.

2. RPN Calculators --I still have a working 11C which I received from my ex-fiance when he traded his 41C for a few dollars and the 11C while we were engaged. I no longer have him, but I still have the calculator. My husband loves it and my daughter is getting used to it. I have a hard time going back to a regular calculator. I am sorry that HP is giving up on RPN notation. When I was at Tech, I had to work on a team that would create a software package that had a text editor, user interface, and a graphing module that would graph any equation typed into it.  I was the one that programmed the RPN parser for the graphing module. I picked that part because I thought it would be the easiest thing to do. Our instructor was really impressed that our graphing program could graph the equation he typed into it because it was a very hard equation to graph. It was a very interesting puzzle to solve and makes me appreciate RPN notation even more than the average person. I hope that I can get a replacement for my 11C if anything goes wrong with it.  

Stacey E. Morrison, MS


Ah Yes, the stereo. It really was a status symbol way back then. We also had no computers to take up valuable space. I recall a few guys in our hall bought entire systems mail order and had them delivered right to the dorm. I have long since sold my Sansui/Advent/Teac/Dual setup although I still have my Dads old receiver, turntable and speakers. It gives me great satisfaction to see my 19 year old daughter play her new iPod through a 40 year old vacuum tube Sherwood. She likes the way it glows in the dark and shakes the furniture.

Jim Pytleski


Two things. First, for Cary T. Keller, P.E., M.ASCE, Alpena, Michigan, and other like him (and me) who like RPN, there is a cheaper alternative. If he has a PDA, there is a great program that puts a fully functional electronic version of an HP-15 (and another program for the HP-12). I've had them for years and they work very well. Lygea Calculators makes the programs, which sell for about $15.00 each.  I bought them at and was able to download them and get them working immediately.Second, the bimodal distribution you discussed for debt makes the use of average misleading. Since 47% graduated with no debt, the average for the Michigan Tech grad with any debt is a more normal $25,635, a far cry from the $13,587 average debt when both the debt and debt free students are grouped together. While your numbers might be right, it could lead to a seriously wrong expectation for some students and parents. (By the way, this was calculated by the HP-15C calculator program, with RPN.)

Thanks for your fine newsletter. I am taking my oldest, a son, up to Techat the end of this week, some 26 years from when I graduated in ChE in 1980.(My wife and I have been blessed with four other children, as well.)

Paul Bork


Reading about HP calculators reminded me of items that were typical of most Engineering students at Tech while I was there. They included an HP calculator (15C or 41C/CV), green Engineering paper and a good 0.5/0.7 mm lead pencil. I, like most Freshman caught on to this trend by the end of my Freshman year. Rarely did I see someone switch back to a "TI" calculator, white lined paper or a wood pencil, once they were "converted". And, by the way I till have and use my HP 15C!

Rich Herbert


Regarding RPN calculator notation:

I still have the same HP 11C calculator I've had for over 20 years. Although the nameplate fell off a long time ago and the rubber feet have since worn down to the plastic, it's the most reliable calculator I've ever owned. I still use it whenever I don't trust the answer I get from my TI 84. The stacked memory system was fast and easy once you mastered it. It's what separated the engineers from the boys.

Shane Clark, P.E. '81


I just read Cary Keller's lament about HP calculators in the Aug 21 newsletter, and definitely sympathize with him.

I'm still using my trusty HP-15C, and dread the day when it stops working.  Perhaps, if enough of scream loud enough, HP'll hear us and add a RPN scientific calculator back to their lineup.

I used a TI-50 during my years at Tech, and didn't see the light until I entered the professional world.  Now, though, I get very baffled when confronted with an = on a pocket calculator.

Charles Rogers "78"


I too share Cary Keller's lack of patience with TI calculators. I am much luckier in that I have my HP-15C from grad school still working. What I can't understand is why HP still makes the HP RPN financial calculator with RPN but has ceased production on scientific calculators with RPN?

As a side note. I carry my calculator in my briefcase, so it is home every night.  Both of my high school aged children have forgotten their TI whatever at school and have been forced to learn RPN. Perhaps the last generation....

Gerald J. Wirth, P.E.


I had a chemistry professor who had an HP calculator that used Reverse Polish Notation when I started college at Bay de Noc Community College in Escanaba. I am now a high school math teacher and I like to tell my students about my first programming course (Fortran) and the use of key punch cards that had to be taken to the reader in order to enter our programs into the mainframe and waiting until the next day to see the printout to find out if we had any errors. They look at me in disbelief. Then, I have to always end the discussion with fact that the first handheld calculators used something called "Reverse Polish Notation". They are never sure if they should believe me. So, I am going to make a copy of Cary Keller's email to show them that I am not making this stuff up.

In response to another email today, I am a woman and my parents bought me Lincoln Logs when I was about 4 or 5. I loved them. I also played with my brother's Legos and his erector set. I did graduate from Tech, but with a biology degree, teaching certification and a math minor (among other minors)...sorry, not engineering!  However, I have taught several students who are now engineers and a few of them even graduated from Tech!!

Marietta (Ehlers) Johnson (B. S. in Biology, 1977)


This email is in response to Jim Nash's email in this week's newsletter. I happen to own a copy of the Kasey Chambers CD he mentions and the first time I heard the Nullarbor Song I thought of nights spent camping under that amazing blanket of stars you seem to only find in da UP. As they say down here in Tennessee, it gives me "chill bumps" when I hear it. Good to know that I'm not the only one whose fondness for the UP creeps into my day-to-day music listening and other experiences.

Now, if only we could get Gary Tunstall down here for a show......

Thanks for the newsletter.

Michelle (Schwerha) Baker 1995


Reading about the various columns in the "Lode" from years ago made me wonder if anyone remembers a cartoon strip that appeared in the late 60's. It was Chuck Farley and satirized both on and off campus items.

Joe Masterson CSP


Please sign me up. 

My wife (the current Mrs. LeSage, not Cher) and I live in Knoxville, TN. We were married 8/5/85 in the Houghton County Courthouse during homecoming. Some former members of the Vets club were in attendance.

I am retired from GE, have a small coaching practice and own an auto repair business. 

I don't do cartoons any more but I still have no respect for authority. I have a dozen or so copies of the book left ["Da Tech is"]. Some of them even have NOT been colored by my kids and my granddaughter.

By the way, I also wrote a rumor column for the Lode.

Denny LeSage


Dear Dennis,
Yes, I have been found out. I wrote "Sammy Sez" for two years (Fall of 58 thru Spring of 60) and it was mostly comments about things that were amiss on campus.  I was a great listener and the students actually gave me most of my material. I also made good fun of the local girls because I heard all of their complaints and comments too.

The column was originally "Sammy the Sackrat Sez" and I revived it and became the second "Sammy". The secret was well kept until our sorority reunion last year when I admitted to being the author. I was proud of the column when it was given intercollegiate press recognition. My father had a salty tongue and was a great storyteller and it was fun to write the column.

I married my beloved after my junior year and we have 46 years together. I graduated with my class, but from the University of Wisconsin, and taught college math after grad school. It's been a great ride and I loved my students "as they were" when they came through my door. I took what my students brought to my class and taught them as best I could and was voted Master Teacher. I was the first woman in the college Tech. Department and taught almost all men. My Tech education held up well for that. .

Kathy Hellman Kilponen  


Hi Dennis,
I recently earned my teaching certificate and am working at a middle school in Montrose (Michigan). Because of my engineering background, I'm teaching an Exploratory Engineering class in addition to 7th grade math. I'm looking for engineers of different disciplines to come speak to my class. The class runs one hour in the early afternoon, and I'm very flexible with the days. If anyone is interested, please have them contact me at aculver(at)

Amy (Stickney) Culver '96


Alumni Association Programs

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


15 - Theta Tau 100-Year Anniversary Open House, Email: Mguenther2000(at)


10 - Tech Legacy Reception, Winter Carnival

Job Opportunities This Week

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

Departmental Coordinator--Social Sciences

Youth Programs Coordinator--Educational Opportunity
(Position duration dependent upon external funding)

Research Engineer/Grant Writer--Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
(Position duration dependent upon external funding)

Assistant Professor of Psychology--Department of Education

OFF CAMPUS: For off-campus positions, visit the alumni section of the career center's web site (