Even though John Gooch has not worked at Michigan Technological University since 1984, you can still see his fingerprints all over. From the beginnings of Career Services and Public Safety to employee benefits to—more recently—philanthropy, Gooch has made indelible marks across campus.
Gooch is a 1958 Penn State graduate in industrial psychology. He also earned an MBA from Michigan while working for seven years helping corporations with personnel issues. In 1967, he was hired as Tech’s assistant director of placement. An early version of the present day Career Services office, his role was career counseling, establishing procedures and schedules for on-campus recruiting, and helping students and alumni find jobs.
"President Ray Smith brought me on to help grow the University, which had just changed its name from Michigan College of Mining and Technology," he said. "The plan was to increase enrollment, and Tech needed companies to recruit our graduates. I had a lot of contacts in industry all over the Midwest."
Gooch continued to serve Smith as he transitioned into Tech’s director of employee relations. He led the changing of the MTU benefits package so that it would be attractive for the best and brightest out-of-state tenure track professors to come to Michigan Tech and not be obligated to have to stay a long period to get a retirement from the state. Thus, Gooch helped Tech get involved with TIAA-CREF, which made people’s retirements portable. In conjunction with this change, he also created an early retirement plan affectionately known in MTU circles as "the Gooch Plan" which enabled current employees at the time to retire comfortably and to make room for the next generation of faculty and staff who were being brought on to move the University forward. He also helped initiate dental benefits for Tech employees.
"Getting along with people was my forte," he said. "Whatever direction Ray and the board wanted to go, I worked to make it happen."
Gooch his wife, Jeanne, made their home in Chassell on the Sturgeon River. Because of their location, the Gooches served as canoe guides for students. They were involved in the establishment of Summer Youth Programs and shared their access to the water with the youth.
The Gooches' neighbor in Chassell was President Smith. "Ray and I spent a lot of time together in my living room talking through things we didn't get a chance to discuss during the day at work," recalled Gooch.
In light of the riots at Kent State University in 1970, Gooch was instrumental in helping form Michigan Tech's Department of Public Safety.
Gooch took part in the early retirement plan he helped create, and retired from Michigan Tech at age 50 in 1984. He went on to work as a consultant in employee relations for 15 years.
In 2015, the Gooches established the John and Jeanne Gooch Endowed Scholarship to benefit students from Chassell attending Michigan Tech. Thus far, four students have benefited from their scholarship.
"Jeanne and I grew up together in a coal mining community in Pennsylvania not unlike the Copper Country," he said. "Jeanne put me through undergraduate and grad school. We have a scholarship set up at Penn State for married students in addition to the one here at Tech. We’ve been very blessed, and we want to support students as they get started in their careers."
Because of his long-time dedication to Michigan Tech, Gooch received the 2023 Honorary Alumni Award.
Updated June 2023