March 26, 2007 (Vol. 13, No. 43)

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

Edited by Dennis Walikainen (MS ’92), Senior Editor, University Marketing and Communications

For past issues, see our archives.

In this issue:

It's the trying that matters . . .

Five pairs of blue jeans are bent over, huddled around the Polaris snowmobile, one flashlight illuminating the oil lines that are their nemesis.

It’s Friday afternoon at the Clean Snowmobile Challenge, hosted by Tech’s Keweenaw Research Center, and, in the words of engine team leader Mike Ryba, “It’s been a bad week, but we’re learning from it.”

The Tech team has rebuilt the motor, twice, and just needs to get it running enough to enter it into the emissions competition, where, according to their calculations, they should do well.

And there’s the problem: getting it running again. Now, with time running out, there’s no oil getting to the engine.

“Cole [VanStrydonk] and Chris [Forrest] pulled an all-nighter,” engine team member Amy Meyers says. “They’re the heroes.” And they at least got it to run again, receiving a standing ovation from the rest of the teams when they accomplished the near impossible.

“Everybody’s pulling for us,” advisor and ME-EM professor Jason Blough says. “They know what we are going through. This is truly a heroic effort. The engine blew up on our first emissions try, it was rebuilt, failed again. They ran out of gas on the endurance run . . . they just haven’t given up.”

Chassis team leader Travis Turner talked about all the potential and how they got their “bad luck all in a row." “But,” he adds quickly, “we really can’t wait till next year.”

All the knowledge gained from this valiant effort will go a long way towards next year’s Challenge. And the effort by this team is palpable, inspiring.

Beyond, even, the old college try.

We’re putting next year’s event on notice: watch out for Tech!


Snowfall Totals through March 22 (from KRC)

Snowfall total: 132.25"
Depth on ground: 16.0"
Snowfall total last week: 130.75"
Depth on ground last week: 18.0"
Snowfall as of March 29,2006: 219.5"
Depth on ground last year: 16"

At Tech

IDAHO TOPS IN MILEAGE AT CLEAN SNOWMOBILE CHALLENGE: The University of Idaho has earned best mileage honors among the finishers of Tuesday's Endurance Run at the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge. The two-stroke Polaris FS engine, powered by conventional, E10 fuel—90 percent gas, 10 percent ethanol--got 19.6 miles per gallon on the 100-mile course at Michigan Tech's Keweenaw Research Center. The University of Maine, also running on E10, tallied the second-best mileage, with 18.2 mpg.
More: <>


DONOVAN NAMED DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC RELATIONS: Jennifer Donovan has joined the staff of University Marketing and Communications as the new director of public relations, Executive Director Bonnie Gorman has announced. Donovan comes to Michigan Tech from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, in Chevy Chase, Md., where she was the communications officer/education editor. At the institute, she was responsible for strategic planning for media relations in research and science education, advising officers and editors on communications issues, and supervising staff. In addition, she wrote features and releases for publications and the website and for distribution to media. "We are delighted to welcome Jennifer to Michigan Tech," Gorman said. "As Michigan Tech builds its reputation as a premiere university, it's critical that we expand our public relations outreach. Her understanding of media, as well as her communications and writing skills, bring much-needed depth to the university's marketing efforts."
More: <>


REED APPOINTED TO OAK RIDGE BOARD: Provost David Reed has been appointed to the Board of Directors of Oak Ridge Associated Universities. ORAU is a university consortium leveraging the scientific strength of 96 research institutions to advance science and education by partnering with national laboratories, government agencies and private industry. Reed is completing the one-year term of a director who recently stepped down from the post. Reed, who was named vice president for research in 2001, has also served as provost since 2004. He came to Michigan Tech in 1982 as an assistant professor and now holds the rank of professor in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. Reed has authored or coauthored dozens of articles on forestry and related fields appearing in peer-reviewed publications.


Tech Sports

HELMINEN INKS PRO DEAL WITH IOWA STARS--Senior Closes Michigan Tech Career Among Top 10 in Defensemen Scoring: Lars Helminen (Brighton, Mich.) of the Michigan Tech hockey team has signed with the Iowa Stars of the American Hockey League, as announced today by Stars' Director of Hockey Operations Scott White. The Huskies' highest-scoring blueliner in each of the past three seasons, Helminen provided two goals and 19 assists in his senior campaign, including a team-best nine points on the power play. Helminen, who served as a co-captain in 2006-07, garnered Western Collegiate Hockey Association Defensive Player of the Week accolades on Oct. 24 and Feb. 13, and was selected to participate in the 2007 NCAA Frozen Four Skills Challenge.
More: <>


BATOVANJA A FINALIST FOR DEREK HINES UNSUNG HERO AWARD--Tech Co-Captain is WCHA's Nominee For National Honor: Senior Mike Batovanja (Hinton, Alta.) of the Michigan Tech hockey team has been nominated for the Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award, as announced by the Hockey Commissioners' Association (HCA). The honor is named in memory of the former Army player who died courageously in combat in Afghanistan, and will be presented for the first time April 6 at the 2007 NCAA Men's Frozen Four. "Although I never knew Derek Hines, I admire the lasting impression he left on those he touched," said fourth-year head coach Jamie Russell. "Mike Batovanja would certainly honor Derek's memory as he possesses so many of the qualities Derek had."
More: <>


HUSKIES SPLIT PAIR AT DULUTH IN WOMEN'S TENNIS: Michigan Tech rallied to split two matches at Minnesota Duluth Saturday. The Huskies lost to host UMD, 8-1, but defeated South Dakota, 5-4, to improve to 9-12 in 2006-07.
More: <>


MEN'S TENNIS TOPS FINDLAY, 5-4: Michigan Tech secured a 5-4 win at Findlay today thanks to a three-set victory at number two singles from
senior Rick Halverson. The Huskies split their two Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference matches on the road trip to move to 6-12 overall and 1-2 in league play on the season.
More: <>


Recent Results

Sun, Mar 25 Men's Tennis: Michigan Tech 5, at Findlay 4
Sat, Mar 24 Women's Tennis: at Minnesota Duluth 8, Michigan Tech 1
Sat, Mar 24 Men's Tennis: at Mercyhurst 9, Michigan Tech 0
Sat, Mar 24 Women's Tennis: Michigan Tech 5, South Dakota 4


What's Happening This Week

Sat, Mar 31 Women's Track & Field at Sherman-Lukoski Invitational (Ripon, Wis.), 12 noon
Sat, Mar 31 Men's Track & Field at Sherman-Lukoski Invitational (Ripon, Wis.), 12 noon
Sat, Mar 31 Men's Tennis hosts Wayne State, 10 a.m.

All Times are Eastern

Around the Keweenaw

Adapted from the Daily Mining Gazette

ELECTRIC SLEDS MORE POPULAR IN CLEAN SNOWMOBILE CHALLENGE: Mean, green and clean machines were the order of the day at Michigan Tech's Keweenaw Research Center. That's where Tech's SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge kicked off Tuesday morning with opening ceremonies and an endurance run. There are 14 entries in this year's competition. Nine of them have conventional engines modified to reduce emissions and noise, four are electric and one entry is a hybrid. Snowmobiles with conventional engines have to pass the Environmental Protection Agency's 2012 emissions standards and stringent noise standards. Extra points are awarded to teams whose sleds run on 85 percent ethanol fuel (E-85).
More: <>


HURON CREEK IDEAS PRESENTED: Tech students presented recommendations for action on Huron Creek Tuesday as the effort to create a watershed management plan for the creek neared the home stretch. A community advisory committee has been meeting since April to discuss ideas for the 3-mile creek, which winds from Green Acres Road in Portage Township to the Houghton Waterfront Park. Students from Hugh Gorman's environmental decision-making class presented plans in five areas: stormwater management, water quality, education and heritage, vegetation and wetlands, and improving the waterfront park. "That's our goal, is basically run down each of the five groups ... what are the actions they're researching, and get some feedback on these actions," Gorman said. Suggestions for the waterfront park included introducing more natural vegetation or riprap to the banks of the park channel instead of geotextiles; right now, said presenter John Gaffney, it looks like "you mowed your lawn, and forgot to fertilize it."
More: <>


KEWEENAW MOUNTAIN LODGE RENOVATION NEARING COMPLETION: Because of the relatively mild start to winter this year, the renovation of the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge is moving along well and it should be finished on schedule, according to a representative of the project administrator. Eric Waara, civil engineer at U.P. Engineers & Architects in Houghton, said the 7,000 square-foot addition to the lodge is nearly complete. "The building is up," he said. "It's starting to come into the home stretch." Waara said in the interior, including ceiling tile, light fixtures and the refurbishing of the kitchen have yet to be completed. "Everything is looking good as far as schedule," he said.
More: <>


From the Emailbag

Here's a link to a Lansing State Journal article about a study of Yooper-isms to be conducted by a Tech alum. I'll always remember the many new words I suddenly became aware of when I went off to Houghton in 1959 - words and a manner of speaking that I'd never heard in Grand Rapids.


Larry Doyle
Class of 1964


Editor's Note: The following responses are to my "uphill both ways" comment last week:

Hey Dennis,
I am not one of the "REAL" old-timers, being an '82 grad, but, when I was in High School I DID walk uphill to school, both ways!

You see, our high school in Northville, MI was on the highest point in the county, and one of the lowest points in the count was between my house and the school, with no way around.  Therefore, half of my trip each way was up hill.

Yah, yah, yah, my kids make that sound when I tell the story too.

Regards and keep up the good work!

Eric Horner, '82


Why not? I know I did. I lived just down the street from the county courthouse for two years, and at Second and Douglass for a couple more, and the best route to campus was across on Houghton Ave.  It's uphill both ways. It's also downhill both ways. :)


Jenn (Kosacheff) Ridley
BSE MY 1986


In the 1960's we didn't walk uphill unless we lived in married housing or in-town off campus. The buildings were all along the old highway, which ran between Wadsworth and Douglas Houghton Hall. My best memories of snow, probably still hold today because it didn't matter when we had breaks, one OR both directions we were going to have to deal with a snowstorm. Back when Green Bay had an awesome football team there was one January 1 where Chicago to Houghton came in about 13 hours due to Packers Fans traffic jam. We nearly ran out of fuel and tok something like 3 hours to go 60 miles into Green Bay.

Jan 1st 1964 we had about 14' of snow on the ground and set a record of 293+ inches. Of course it pales today, but the memories of snow and blowing snow will linger forever. Sometimes you walked backward to avoid the full wind chill, especially Wadsworth to the OLD forestry building, which was a frame house on the far end of campus.

I'll leave these chilly thoughts behind and send you some snow melting mind-boggling 70-degree days on March 19 this year from balmy Texas.

Keep those newsletters coming and GO HUSKIES. I'll never forget watching Rick Yeo, Ricky Best, and Tony Esposito.

Sanna Messinger Roling, '67


Not only uphill both ways, but bare-footed!


And the time the classes were called off in the 60's had to be earlier than 1966 since I was there from Sept. 1960 through June 1963 (off campus for 4th year Med Tech internship). Though it could have been closed twice in the 60's!


In response to your comment about not being able to walk to school uphill both ways...

I lived for three years in West Houghton, 2 miles from campus. I walked along South Ave and Houghton Ave most of the way to and from campus. With all the hills in town, it really WAS uphill both ways... two miles to school... through knee-deep snow.

J.R. Schroeder
BS in STC 1987



Editor's note: And the weather-closing discussion continues! We will have a great, collective history written! (I haven't added these new entries, yet).

Hi Dennis,
I was on campus for the winters '57-'60. (Med techs interned for their 4th year) I don't ever remember Tech closing due to weather; however, there were a few times when attendance at some classes was pretty thin, mostly because local students didn't make it. I do remember some hairy drives back from downstate, though. We always had to allow enough time to get back before the girl's dorms (houses, at that time) closed which was 11 PM on Sunday night. One time, at least, it was after 2 AM when I got back. Most of us were late and the housemother let us in anyhow, and no one was "campused" for the transgression.  Whenever anyone got a total of 15 "late minutes" in a term you would get campused; i.e. imprisoned in the dorm for the following Saturday night and no phone calls either.

Gail Richter '61


Hi Dennis!
I went to 'da Tech back in the Woodbeck-in' era - when Dean was editor Of the Michigan Tech Lode - I still remember it well, though so many other things I am beginning to forget!  ;-) I also remember that it was a legend, even way back then, that Michigan Tech rarely closed.

I am guessing that it was an after Christmas return to campus around 1977 that I was coming up to Tech. I had a neighbor who lived three houses away down home and we would take turns driving back and forth - leaving one of our cars buried at our off campus home.

When we returned one year, we got as far north from the Metro Detroit area as Gaylord - the traditional first stop, where we got gas and food. Until then, the trip had been fine, though the snow had begun between Grayling and Gaylord.  Between Gaylord and the Bridge, however, it got REALLY ugly. We probably went the slowest we had gone on any trip to da Tech, doing 15-20 MPH MAX on I-75!  Rarely would we need to go under 35 MPH on that stretch. That last seven miles from Chassell into Houghton - yes, but Gaylord to the Bridge?  Hah!

There was so much slick ice and wind that we took it really easy. The hot shots in either Blazers and Broncos whizzed by us -only to see them a few miles up the road in a ditch - or a deep gully. Not pretty. But the scariest part of it all was The Bridge. My neighbor Kevin almost always let me drive between Gaylord and Munising because The Bridge scared him. As a freshman, someone else driving the car in which he was traveling bounced off a guardrail on The Bridge during an icy, windy storm.

Well, we made it, but like I say, we went slowly. I am told that a few hours after we made it through the Bridge was closed entirely for a few hours. Thank God we left home at an early hour. We made it into Tech in the dark that night.  It was probably nine or ten, which means we, more than likely, had one of those famous fourteen to sixteen hour drives instead of those eight to ten hour drives in nice dry conditions.

As far as school closings, we had none between 1974 and 1979 when I was part of da Tech in one way or another. We did, my Senior Year, set the all time SNOW record, which was nearly equaled, but not surpassed, about ten years ago. We did have plenty of airport flight cancellations, as I found out. I believe the magic snow number that year was 355.9" of the fluffy stuff - we have those records out there somewhere, right? Calumet or somewhere further up the Peninsula was right up around 400" that year, breaking the previous records held by Herman, MI on Herman Mountain. The Keweenaw Peninsula record, best as I can tell, wins the record for most snow east of the Mississippi, but not record for most extreme weather. That record is held in my current home state of New Hampshire, where, on Mount Washington, we have recorded wind speeds higher than hurricanes and right up there with tornadoes: 262 MPH! Temps on top of Mount Washington are almost always colder than da Tech and WAY colder than where I am, which has weather slightly more severe than Detroit, but not even close to Houghton!

Brian Masinick


Hi Dennis,
  I attended Tech from 83-88. Tech only closed for one full day during that time. That was the Monday after Thanksgiving 1985. We did have afternoon classes called off on the first day of Spring Trimester in 1985. It started snowing at 4am and we had 40 inches on the ground at noon when they finally cancelled classes for the day. They closed the lift bridge and we had friends who ended up staying with us in Houghton because they couldn't get home to Hancock that night. Keep up the good work on the newsletter.

Cathi Meinecke '88


I just read the current list of Michigan Tech closures. Sounds like it was dang cold in the mid-90s. I don't remember how cold the wind chills got during my years, but it was at Tech where I created my personal temperature scale: Cold=below zero, Warm=below freezing, but above zero, Heat Wave=above freezing. I have fond memories of the squeeky snow when it would get Very Cold (maybe -20 or colder). We have gotten cold here in Nebraska, easily -10 or a little colder, but the snow hasn't been the same kind of squeeky as at Tech.

I think it is curious that so many of us that wrote about the 1981 closure also wrote about going out for beer. I didn't go out for beer (I don't even drink beer), but I knew plenty of folks that did venture out. The closest similar memory for any other closure was the group that went to Burger King in the 90s.  It's interesting how priorities change.   

Kathy (Larimer) Dudrick (1984)


I really enjoy your weekly newsletter. I haven't been in the UP for about 40 years, but it's always near to my heart. We have the Adirondacks as a substitute, they're not the same, but then again, not that different. Re: Tech closing, I don't recall from 1956 through 1961 any closings at all. In reference to walking to school uphill in both directions, it really was up hill going one way and against the wind the other.

Dave Funton



I recall always walking uphill. Downhill I slid, sometimes on my butt ;-)

I can vouch for the '71-'72 storm. I recall playing IM Hockey at the Dee.  We went in and it wasn't snowing. We came out and our cars were buried. Mine right over the roof. We were able to get the van behind my car free. It took and hour to get back to DHH. We got on the wrong side of the divided highway at the beginning of campus. Some of the TKE's came out and helped us push. The next morning at 6 am the Houghton police came and picked me up to move my car ( had called the night before to tell them it was under the drift. I remember this huge Pettibone with a bucket as big as my car taking a scoop in front, one in back and one off the top. I was only one on the road driving back to campus. I remember being amazed that the school was closed. The campus was cleaned up. Apparently none of the instructors could make it in.

Bob Perk 1970-1975


Winter of 1971-72 (don't remember the date). Somebody said it was the first time Tech had ever closed before noon. That morning I saw three vehicles on the road: my car, a Houghton City DPW road grader plowing roads and a Houghton County Sheriff's Department cruiser. 

The only person I saw walking that morning was a Tech student on the road headed for the campus. He had been hitchhiking from Chassell. I gave him a ride back to the Sigma Rho House in Chassell. 

I don't remember anything about the rest of the day. I probably spent it indoors like most others that day.

Tom Weston, BS'65, MS'72


Hi Dennis,

Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to the, "snow closure" question that you posed weeks ago. I am surprised that no one else from the '74-'78 era remembered one day during either the '74-'75 or '75-'76 winters when classes were canceled due to snow. I remember those years, as I am pretty sure it happened when I was still residing in 3rd Floor West Wads. Maybe I am mistaken on that one, yet I seem to recall a snow day somewhere in there...maybe it was a day when classes were canceled during the day sometime, not constituting a full snow day!

A question that I think might test the trivia buffs at least as well is, "Did Tech ever cancel classes due to a malfunction of the lift bridge between Houghton and Hancock?" I recall that happening once during the four winters that I spent In Houghton. I seem to recall an announcement on WMichigan Tech just prior to 8 am classes starting that the malfunction was creating a problem for both students and faculty alike on the other side of the Portage I recall that the bridge was closed for at least one school day. Does anyone else have that recollection?  I would imagine that there are records of when the bridge was out of service for extended periods of time.

I attended Tech for what was the best education in the country and I knew that I was in a location that experienced snow...lots of snow! I was prepared to weather the storms and not have snow days when a few extra flurries hit the campus! The administrators of Michigan Tech did everything possible to accommodate my education, winter be damned! I am grateful for that!

Thanks for the great job you are doing in keeping us all up on current events at Michigan Tech. And, thanks especially for helping us to fondly remember our college experiences in the Copper Country...truly some of the best times of my life!

Randy Alpin
AAS-CET ('78)


Hi Dennis,
The comments about the snowstorm tripped my memory of that day. I was working in the Campus Cafe at the bottom of Wads but I was living off campus. After closing the Cafe at 12:30 I went out to try and drive home and found that the snow was so deep that there was no way for me to drive my car out of the parking lot much less up Agate street. I ended up going back to Wads and spending the night in a buddies room. To top everything off I woke up early to go and take an exam at the MEEM and didn't realize class was canceled until someone on the staff told me. I had to wait until mid morning for them to clean out the parking lot before I could go enjoy my day off. I have plenty of stories about driving home from Wads late at night and not being able to see five feet in front of me. Keep up the good work on the newsletter.

Ryan True BSME '98


2003 "closure"...

Technically, in the 2002-2003 school year Tech never closed, nor closed for half a day. Tech made classes optional for students and faculty a few days that winter due to extreme cold. So, most students and faculty stayed inside.

It prompted the question as to what will actually make Tech close? The answer, as I do believe was mentioned by you weeks ago, is either the temperature is below -40F (Hell freezes over) or that the Houghton Country road commission takes their trucks off of the road (almost never).

Oh, and I could only listen over the Internet radio, but how about dat Pep Band, eh?

Ward "Wardo Rican" Rietz Jr
B.S. - MSE 2003


Yo Dennis;
Thanks for the newsletter. I enjoy hearing about life at da Tech.What has happened with the youth today. Poor misguided Jennifer thinks it was snowiest in 1996. Our beloved Tech website <> and my flawed memory tell adifferent story.  1978-79 buried Houghton with 355", I recall some siteson the hill had 390" for the year.

Take care, stay warm

Jeremy D. Dando BSChE 1981



Hold this e-mail for future use, when school closes again, you can preemptively provide the information to answer the question "When was the last time school closed?"

I appreciate the summary and I too am surprised that school never closed during the 30's, 40's or 50's. Either the advent of technology allowed us to know how dangerous it was to be exposed to the extreme cold, or the fear of litigation and the following insurance premium increases changed the way the administration thought about holding classes.

Kurt Westphal


I do remember a one day SNOW closing sometime between 1975 and 1978. I expect it was the winter of 1975/1976 because I remember a story told by Doc Berry in class when we returned where he said the last time he remembered the school closing he had walked there and tipped over something in the snow. When he got up he realized it was the telephone lines, which tripped him up. I think he was one of the folks who also had to walk 30 miles to school up hill with the wind in his face both directions.

Have a great day...
Brian Enck
BSME '78


Thank you Dennis for sending that newsletter to me. I enjoy them all and forward most to a "potential" Techie now in HS in Lee's Summit, Mo.

Joie Townsend Hendrix

Alumni Association Programs


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

26--Chicago, Chemistry Alumni & Friends at ACS National Meeting

Job Opportunities This Week

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

Assistant to the Dean, School of Business and Economics

Senior Research Scientist I, Michigan Tech Research Institute,
Position duration dependent upon external funding

Assistant to the Dean, Graduate School

Research Scientist, Physics Department
Position duration dependent upon external funding

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

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