During most of the basketball season in Houghton, the temperatures hover near nasty.
So how does an eighteen-year-old Bahamian choose to attend Michigan Tech, let alone become a starter on the basketball team?
The story begins in 2004 with Mike Henricksen ’64. The then-University Board of Trustees member was spending the winter months on Grand Bahama Island. Fedrick Bowe, a star high school student-athlete, was featured in the local newspaper, and Henricksen found him and went to work doing what he’d done before—singing the praises of Michigan Tech.
“I’ve got Michigan Tech in my blood,” says Henricksen. “I tell everyone about Tech and its great education.”
According to Bowe, the timing couldn’t have been better. “I was looking at some US colleges, and I knew I wanted engineering,” he says. “Mike had nothing but good things to say about Michigan Tech. He told me that it was one of the best engineering schools, and that graduates have great job opportunities. He didn’t mention much about the snow, however.”
Adjusting to Houghton
Bowe and his father, also named Fedrick, visited Tech wearing jackets on a 65-degree June day. Despite being a bit chilled, they liked it enough that the younger Bowe was enrolled for the fall semester.
Working the sidelines of a Michigan Tech football game in October 2004, Bowe caught his first sight of snow. The game happened to be the famed snow-bowl game between Tech and Northwood during the Huskies’ GLIAC championship season.
“I remember thinking the snow was pretty,” he chuckled. “But that lasted only three seconds. After that, I was so cold I was ready to transfer.”
Bowe has since adapted to the climate. He claims he’s one of the last people walking around campus to wear a jacket in the fall. On a recent snowmobiling trip, he endured single-digit temperatures for a couple of hours without complaint.
Weather aside, Bowe cites some similarities between his hometown and the Copper Country—from tourism being a big part of the economy to the pace of life. “Everything is pretty laid back in the Bahamas, and they are in the UP, too.”
The recipient of an ambassador’s scholarship, the highest level of academic aid Tech gives to international students, Bowe has also adjusted to his course work. He is pulling down good grades in computer engineering.
Starting Late; Playing Well
Starting a basketball career in the tenth grade doesn’t give a potential college player much experience to draw upon. However, it wasn’t the basketball knowledge that led to Head Coach Kevin Luke giving Bowe a chance to make the roster.
“We had him work out with our team once he came to campus,” recalls Luke. “About fifteen minutes into the workout, I asked him to go to the basket and finish strong. He jumped over eleven feet in the air and dunked. That’s when I knew he would have a chance.”
Bowe earned a spot on the Huskies roster as a walk-on in 2004-05. He worked hard through the first year, picking up the faster style of college basketball while sitting out of competition as a redshirt.
Then, in his first year of playing, the six-foot-five forward started sixteen games and earned the team’s most improved player award. In his first two seasons, he averaged three points and four rebounds per game.
Believed to be the first men’s basketball player from the Caribbean, Bowe turned up his production as a junior. He led the team in rebounding and was second in field goal percentage in 2007-08.
“Fedrick’s come a million miles as far as improvement on the court. He has explosive athletic ability, and he now understands the game much more completely.”
On the basketball court, Luke says the sky’s the limit for Fedrick. “He can be a real force in the GLIAC. We’re going to ask him to do more and more. He can be a lock-down defender and we know he can get much more involved on offense.”
“We’re also working on getting him to have a killer instinct on the court,” says Luke. “He’s always been very polite.”
His personality may not get him to All-American status on the basketball floor, but it won’t hurt in life after graduation.
“Fedrick’s a real gentleman,” says Henricksen. “He comes from a great, hard-working family, and I know he will be very successful in his career.”
Bowe is on pace to finish with a bachelor’s in computer engineering and a master’s in business administration. It’s a pretty attractive set of skills for an employer. And, chances are, if there’s a company looking for a ringer on their industrial league basketball team, Bowe is a lock.
“I want to get a good-paying job at a major company,” Bowe says when asked about his future plans. “I want to get some experience working in the US then probably move back to the Bahamas.
“I think I’ll be ready to enjoy seventy-eight-degree days in January.”
The Recreational Forest and Nordic Ski Trails (Tech Trails) received a boost as new lights were installed for seven kilometers of trails.
“We looked to upgrade our trails in 2000, and installing lights was something we definitely wanted to do,” says Mike Abbott, director of sports and recreation. “President (Glenn) Mroz was a huge help in gaining support for the improvements.” The improvements at the trails relied on donations for one-half of the funds.
Michigan Tech alumnus Dick ’56 and Bonnie Robbins, donated $25,000 to the project, which also received donations from Portage Health, Upper Peninsula Power Company, Horner Flooring, and numerous other individuals.
The trail advisory committee, a group comprised of interested community members, and the Tech Nordic ski programs worked together to decide exactly where the lights would be located. Overall, 135 lights are mounted on a series of twenty-four-foot-poles that illuminate a variety of terrain.
“The lights are a huge asset for the team,” says Joe Haggenmiller, head coach of the Michigan Tech Nordic ski programs. “Students who have a late class can still get in some good training under the lights. The lights were very well planned. It also shows that the University is making a commitment to the trails and the skiing programs.”
The lights, which cost $130,000, are turned on from dusk until 10:00 pm. “We have seen a lot more users in the evening. The lights have also provided more flexibility to many skiers by extending the usable hours of the trails,” says Abbott.
The US Senior Nationals, which were held on campus in January, also enjoyed the lights, as many of the volunteers were able to work late when setting up for the morning. The lights also helped extend the race days especially during the individual sprint competition.
Other improvements are on tap for the Nordic trails.
“We will be adding roughly ten kilometers of new trails for next year,” says Abbott. “The University has received a recreational easement that allows the current trail system to extend to an additional ninety-eight acres of land owned by the University. This will allow people to ski from the Nara Nature Center to Houghton High School without having to cross a road.”
And, a recent $75,000 grant will allow skiers with varying degrees of disability to enjoy the trails, including a 1.3-kilometer section that will use audio technology to guide visually impaired skiers, in addition to tactile signage, sit-skis, and, when the snow’s gone, hand-powered bikes.
Whether exploring new terrain or enjoying the nighttime at the Tech Trails, “silent sport” enthusiasts have much to cheer.