Former Forestry Head Gene Hesterberg Dies

by Marcia Goodrich, senior writer

"Gentleman" Gene Hesterberg, 92, who booted more than one errant forestry student back onto the road to graduation and found jobs for countless others, died Sunday, Sept. 26, at the Delaware House of PortagePointe, where he had lived for the past two years.

Hesterberg, of Hancock, came to Michigan Tech's forestry department in 1948 and rose through the ranks of the faculty. He was named department head in 1962 and held that position until his retirement in 1981.

"He really was inspirational to a lot of students," said Dean Peg Gale (SFRES). "When I talk with alumni, they tell me about Gene and the influence he had on them, not only while they were at Tech but also in their careers."

Karin Van Dyke '78 was among them. "Gene was a big help to me and hundreds of other forestry students. He was responsible for my first job," she said. "And he was very approachable. He had an open-door policy before open-door policies were invented. Plus, how could you not like a guy who called you 'Pard'?"

It's even conceivable that Michigan Tech might have a different president had it not been for Hesterberg's well-timed intervention in the career of a certain forestry undergraduate.

"Gene had a gift for remembering names, and that worked really well until the student population in forestry got up to about 700," said President Glenn Mroz. "Then it became an impossible task for even the most gifted mind. So everybody became Pard. I was, everybody was."

Hesterberg went hunting and fishing with students, as well as teaching and advising them. "As a result, he had a familiarity with students that was almost unheard of," Mroz said. "Gene never hesitated to give anybody the Dutch uncle talk when they really needed it. As you might have suspected, I was one of those people. I had dropped out of school at one point, and Gene readmitted me. It was a couple years later that he urged me to go for a doctorate."

Hesterberg also played a key role in building the foundation of the School's research program, Mroz said. "He was involved in research himself, and he knew that graduate studies would play a big role. So, he hired people like Marty Jurgensen and Norm Sloan to position the School for the future."

Hesterberg received the Clair Donovan Award in 1975 for his efforts on behalf of a student football player who had been injured and needed to use a wheelchair. "He put together a curriculum for him so he could finish school," Mroz said.

Among his other honors, Hesterberg received Tech's Distinguished Teacher Award in 1980, was named a fellow in the Society of American Foresters, and was inducted into the Michigan Forestry Hall of Fame. In 1962, the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters awarded him its Academy Citation for outstanding contributions in conservation, research and teaching.

He established the Gene and Margaret Hesterberg Scholarship in 1979, named for himself and his late wife, and provided a generous donation to the School to support the expansion of the U. J. Noblet Forestry Building. Hesterberg Hall is named in his honor.

He was born Aug. 30, 1918, in Cincinnati and served in the army during World War II. He earned a BS from Purdue University and MS and PhD degrees from the University of Michigan, all in forestry, and was a biologist with the Michigan Department of Conservation before coming to Michigan Tech. Hesterberg was active in the community, serving on the Lake Linden Board of Education and on the Keweenaw Memorial Hospital Board. He owned a sawmill and Silver Forests, a timberland operation of several thousand acres.

"He hired me in 1975, and I've been here ever since," said Mary Jurgensen, the School's scheduling counselor. "Gene was like a father to all of us. He treated us all like family, and he was so great with students, a one-man career center. He found jobs for everybody."

"People used to call him 'Gentleman Gene,'" she said. "And he was a true gentleman. He was always thinking about the School, the students and the faculty, working hard for them. He was a great guy."

Van Dyke agreed. "He was an awesome guy," she said. "The world has lost a great forester and a great friend."

Hesterberg is survived by his wife, Judith, of Hancock; sons William (Sharon) of Rosendale, Wis., and John (Debby) of Port Huron; and grandchildren Brian, Christopher and Katie. Services were held Tuesday at the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church in Hancock. Burial was in the Oskar Cemetery. Memorials may be given to the Alzheimer's Association or to the Activities Fund at PortagePointe.

Memorial Chapel Funeral Home in Hancock assisted with arrangements. To view the obituary or send condolences, visit the Memorial Chapel website.

Graduate Programs Assessed

by Jennifer Donovan, director of public relations

The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies has released a comparison of more than 5,000 doctoral programs at 212 universities across the nation, including Michigan Tech.

The assessment--seven years in the making--rated 12 PhD programs at Michigan Tech, giving highest marks to two in SFRES: forest molecular genetics and biotechnology, and forest science.

Other noteworthy Tech programs included chemical engineering, chemistry, environmental engineering, mathematical sciences, materials science and engineering and mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics.

"The NRC used a complex and very sophisticated statistical analysis procedure to attempt to objectively compare similar PhD programs," said David Reed, vice president for research. "I'm very pleased that our programs in forestry--and in some of the engineering and science specialties--came out so well. It speaks very highly of the faculty and students involved."

Although the results of the NRC study were described as "rankings," graduate programs at different universities weren't actually ranked or compared directly one to another. Rather, using a complicated statistical analysis of 21 variables and two sets of data, the programs were assigned "ranges."

Both data sets were based on results of faculty surveys. In one survey, faculty members were asked what factors were most important to the overall quality of a graduate program. In the other, they were asked to rate the quality of a sample of programs in their field.

The results, which took several years to analyze, show the number of programs evaluated in each field and the range in which Tech's programs fall. In forest science, for example, 34 programs were compared, and Michigan Tech's were ranked between 2nd of 34 and 23rd of 34.

"The results are not rankings," said Jacqueline Huntoon, dean of the Graduate School. "The report tells us that there is a 90 percent chance that the 'true' ranking of each of our programs falls somewhere within the reported range."

"The results do have some interesting implications," Huntoon went on to say. "We found out what is most important to a good reputation--the number of PhDs graduated, the number of publications of the faculty, and the research awards received by faculty. The results clearly show that the reputation of a graduate program depends on its size."

"That validates the direction in which Michigan Tech has been moving--making a conscious effort to grow its Graduate School programs," Huntoon added.

She expressed concern that the NRC data is out of date. It was collected in 2006-07 and included data from 2001-02 to 2005-06.

"We aren't the same university or the same graduate school we were then," Huntoon noted. "In 2005, we only had 870 graduate students. Now we have 1,241. We have made a major commitment to growing our graduate school." The new data will be useful as a benchmark to measure future progress at Michigan Tech, she said.

The last NRC graduate program assessment was conducted in 1995. It evaluated only three PhD programs at Michigan Tech: geosciences, mechanical engineering and physics.

Gates Tennis Center Offers Youth Tennis Program

The fall tennis program is offering weekly instruction for youths, age 5 to 17, who will have limited pass privileges to the Gates Tennis Center. They will be able to play anytime on weekends through Dec. 31, subject to court availability. Reservations for court time are recommended.

Here are age groups, session times and costs:

* Ages 5-8, Saturdays, 9-9:45 a.m., $60
* Ages 9-12, Saturdays, 10-11 a.m., $65
* Ages 11-13, Saturdays, 11 a.m.-noon, $65
* Ages 14-17, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6-7:30 p.m., $110

Parents can also take advantage of this special weekend pass and take the kids on in a set or two.

* Pass privileges for one parent, $40
* Pass privileges for both parents, $70

For more information, call 487-2975 or visit and click on "Youth Summer Program."

Reminder: Alumni Association Directors Meet

The Alumni Association Board of Directors will meet from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, and from 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, in the Memorial Union Alumni Lounge.

In addition to its regular business, the board will review its initiatives for students. Participating in the discussions will be members of the Michigan Tech Student Foundation and staff of the Office of Development.

Alumni Association board meetings are open to the public, and all are welcome.

For more information, including a list of board members, visit or contact Brenda Rudiger at 487-2400 or at .

Reminder: MTRI Poster Session

The Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI), Ann Arbor, will host a poster session from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday, Oct. 1, in the Dow Atrium (sixth floor, campus entrance).

MTRI scientists and engineers will be available to discuss current projects, collaborations with departments and staff, and areas of research interest. The session is intended to outline the institute’s current activities and to explore opportunities to develop new working relationships.

This will be the fifth annual visit to campus by MTRI staff since becoming a part of the University in October 2006. MTRI focuses on education, research and development of technology to sense and understand natural and man-made environments.

For additional information, contact Lisa Phillips (, or visit the MTRI website (

Reminder: Preschool Rummage Sale

MTU Preschool will hold its annual rummage sale from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 2, at the Daniell Heights Community Center, 2001 Woodmar Drive.

The sale will offer household items and children's toys and clothes. From 11 a.m. to noon, all items will be half-price. Then, from noon to 1 p.m., fill a grocery bag for one dollar.

For more information, contact Kay Waite at 370-6585 or at .

Club Indigo: "The Whale Rider"

The October Club Indigo at the Calumet Theatre goes to New Zealand for its next food/film event.

"The Whale Rider" has been called "an exquisite modern masterpiece," "a fascinating glimpse into the life of the Maori peoples," and "a study of the universal gender problems that occur when a young girl wishes to join in the practices of a traditionally all-male society."

The main character, a 13-year-old, is played by a non-actress from the village tribe--Keisha Castle-Hughes, who became an international celebrity after being nominated for Best Actress award at the 2004 Academy Awards. That was just one of many honors received by the film for its plot, its fascinating rituals and its lovely scenery on land at at sea. A startling ending!

The movie will be shown at 7:15 p.m., Friday, Oct. 8. At 6 p.m., there will be a New Zealand buffet from the Hancock Kangas Cafe's chefs, who proved at the recent South African film their ability to serve exotic regional foods that appeal to food lovers everywhere.

Food and film are $18; the film alone is $5. (Discounts for children.) Call the Calumet Theatre (337-2610) to register for the buffet.

Chemistry Seminar

Associate Professor Rudy Luck (Chemistry) and undergraduate student John Maass will present "Distorted Cubic, Almost Flat Tetramers and Trimers from the Stabilization of Molybdenum and Vanadium Oxides with Dialkyl Phosphonates," at 3 p.m., Friday, Oct. 1, in Chem Sci 101.

A discussion period will follow. Refreshments will be served, and all are welcome to attend.

For more information, visit: chemistry .

Physics Colloquium

Research Professor Hans Moosmüller, of the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev., will present, a Physics Colloquium, "Aerosols and Climate Change: Beyond the Whitehouse Effect," at 4 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 30, in Fisher 139.

For more information, contact Petra Hüntemeyer at 487-1229 or at , or Claudio Mazzoleni at 487-1226 or at .

MSE Seminar

John Pilling, technical director, Electric Park Research, will present an MSE Seminar, "Composite Materials in Large Civil Engineering Structures--Design Optimization," at 3 p.m., Friday, Oct. 1, in M&M 610.