90 years of Huskies, Outdoor Adventure Program turns 10, Alumni Reunion, and a Q&A.
90 years of Huskies
When Alyssa Smith graduated from Michigan Tech with a master’s degree in civil engineering in December 2015, she did more than receive a diploma. She wrote another chapter in a family history that began nearly 90 years ago.
Smith is the latest member of her family to attend Michigan Tech, an odyssey spanning four generations. She is also the third generation of female Tech graduates. Alyssa earned her undergraduate degree in 2014 and her older brother Kealy received a degree in computer and electrical engineering in spring 2015.
The sibling’s family journey began in 1927 when their great-grandfather, Paul Edgar Young, left the University of Toronto and came to Houghton to attend the Michigan College of Mines. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mining engineering and won three varsity letters in basketball and was a member of Theta Tau fraternity.
In the years before the Great Depression, Paul began an educational tradition that his son, daughter-in-law, two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren would follow. Young’s son, Michael, attended Tech from 1961 to 1965 and, like his father before him, majored in mining engineering. Young was also a member of Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Gamma Epsilon, and Blue Key.
It was at Michigan Tech that Michael Young met Priscilla Mae Schaffer, a geology major who would become his wife. Michael and Priscilla live in Portage, Wisconsin, where Michael still consults in the mining industry.
Priscilla Young’s tales of her days in Houghton would influence her granddaughter decades later.
“My Nana would always talk about Tech when I was younger,” Alyssa Smith said. “She would talk about how she was one of a small population of women up at Tech, and so she had to show all the boys up in academics, which she did.” Priscilla was a member of Tau Beta PI and Sigma Gamma Epsilon.
"Walking across that stage to receive my diploma with my husband, both of us with honors, was a special memory."Leora Smith
Priscilla recalled the gratifying feeling of being the only woman in the geological engineering department, yet having the highest GPA. Even though she left campus in 1965, before earning her degree, she did return 18 years later to complete her degree in geological engineering.
“There I was, in 1983, traipsing through the woods with the ‘youngsters’ to take the final class I needed to get my geological degree from Michigan Tech,” Priscilla says. One of those youngsters just happened to be her daughter Leora.
Priscilla and Michael’s daughter, Leora, became the third generation of Youngs to attend Michigan Tech in 1984, majoring in medical technology. Like her father and grandfather before her, Leora embraced Greek life, joining Alpha Xi Zeta. She also experienced another historical aspect of life at Tech, broomball. She said she was one of the first females to work with flooding and upkeep on the outdoor broomball rink.
A year after she arrived at Tech, Leora was joined by her brother David Young, an electrical engineering major. However it was another man who provided her with her fondest Tech memory.
“Walking across that stage to receive my diploma with my husband, both of us with honors, was a special memory,” Leora Smith says.
Leora and Brett live in Iron Mountain where Brett is in mining/manufacturing, and her brother David is a sales manager for Great Northern forestry products in Elk Mound, Wisconsin. He started at Michigan Tech as an electrical engineering major but moved to management.
With her family history entwined with Michigan Tech, it is no wonder that Alyssa Smith says her career path and education choice were determined pretty early on.
“When I was in middle school, I already knew what I wanted to do—design buildings,” she says. “I decided to go into civil engineering. Michigan Tech was the obvious choice.”
Kealy also had an obvious choice in terms of his major, “I have always had a love for anything electronic.” When it came to choosing a college the answer was clear. After one semester he added the electrical engineering major.
Alyssa is currently living and working in St. Paul while her brother is working in Grand Rapids. Both are planning weddings in the near future—both to Tech alumni.
So there it is, the latest chapter in the Michigan Tech saga of the Youngs and Smiths, but it might be best to leave the book open. It may be a couple of decades away, but there’s no telling how many great, great grandkids will be Huskies.
Outdoor Adventure Program celebrates a decade
By kayak, paddleboard, canoe, skis, and snowshoes, Michigan Tech’s Outdoor Adventure Program (OAP) provides excursions and equipment rentals for faculty, staff, and community. Created in 2006 with support from Charles J. Nelson ’36 and Patricia Nelson, the program gets Huskies out enjoying Keweenaw Peninsula’s trails, woods, and waters.
OAP started in the Memorial Union Building with one staff and five student-staff members. Today, original leader Jared Johnson is still director, assisted by a 25-student staff.
In 2010, OAP moved to O’Connor House on US 41. Outreach continues through guided trips, leadership training, and working with Michigan Tech’s many student organizations, from the cycling crew to the International Club. Find maps, the latest weather forecast, even reflective gear for nighttime adventures.
OAP also rents camping equipment. “We can get alumni set up with most things they need. They are able to rent from us just like a current student,” notes Johnson.
Breakers to Bridge is coming this fall. “Since OAP is 10 years old we are doing a large, timed paddle event that is 10 miles in length,” he says.
Ten ways you can be a resource for Michigan Tech and our students:
Our alumni are our most valuable and vital resource. Whether it’s your time, talents, or treasure, every contribution is significant.
Here’s how you can help:
- Talk about your Michigan Tech experience with friends, coworkers, children, and grandchildren. As successful professionals, alumni are our best recruiters!
- Support the Annual Fund. Every gift counts! Network with fellow Huskies—attend chapter events in your area.
- Network with fellow Huskies—attend chapter events in your area.
- Share your professional experience with current Michigan Tech students in the LinkedIn Alumni-Student Professional Networking group.
- Stay involved—follow and interact with us on social media.
- Follow and interact with us on Facebook or Twitter.
- Help us recognize outstanding alumni and friends of Michigan Tech through our awards program.
- Stay connected—when you see “906” calling, pick up the phone and learn what’s new on campus from our student callers.
- Give your ride a touch of Husky with a Michigan Tech license plate.
- Get your company involved through sponsored research projects, matching gifts, internships, corporate chapters, student organization sponsorships, or Career Fair participation.
Have a unique skill or area of interest?
Let’s explore potential opportunities to be of service to a department, program, student organization, or your class, local, or corporate chapter. Contact Alumni Engagement at email@example.com or call 1-877-688-2586.
Jim ’81 (Civil Engineering) and Shawn ’82 (Computer Science) Rathbun left Tech after
graduation, returning years later after careers, kids (all Tech grads), and a once-in-a-lifetime
gap year took them across the US on a tandem bike.
Q. What are your best memories of your time at Tech?
Jim/Shawn: Meeting new friends and falling in love. Looking out the window of East Coed Hall (now McNair) and seeing the beautiful fall colors and the Portage and being amazed to be able to live in such a beautiful place!
Q. What were you involved in while you were students?
Jim: I split my time between studying, working, and hanging out in the TV lounge.
Shawn: Homecoming activities like root beer chugging! Winter Carnival activities especially
speedskating—my 1st place trophies were still in the trophy case at McNair last time
I looked! Intramural sports—a big reason why I came to Tech was because they had women’s
intramural ice hockey! And it wasn’t no-check the way women’s hockey is now!
Q. What did you do after you left campus?
Jim: I was in construction project management and facility engineering.
Shawn: I’ve been a computer software developer, project manager, and consultant.
Together we raised three children who are all graduates of Tech: Aimee ’05 civil engineering, Walt ’08 geological engineering, and Matt ’12 computer engineering and computer science (double major).
Q. What are you doing now?
Jim: I am working as a facilities engineer in the facilities management department at Tech.
Shawn: I work remotely doing part-time consulting work.
Q. What motivated you to return to the Copper Country?
In spring 2014, we quit our jobs to take a cross-country trip on our tandem bicycle. Our three month pedaling adventure from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Anacortes, Washington, was the trip of a lifetime! After the trip, we wandered the Pacific Northwest by bike as we awaited the birth of our first grandchild. Once we welcomed sweet little Paxton James Rathbun into the world, we kept up the nomadic life. We took the ferry to Alaska, Amtrak back to Michigan, and then flew to Europe with our backpacks and Eurail passes. Our “gap year” was a year to remember, but then it was time to get jobs again. Shawn’s former employer asked her to come back and then offered her remote work once Jim secured his job at Tech. We had always dreamed of returning to the Copper Country and are once again gazing out our window at the Portage, thrilled to be living in such a beautiful place!
Q. What are the best things about living and working here?
The warm, friendly people, and the simple life—walking to work, the Aurora Borealis, Lake Superior, fishing, the snow—seriously!
Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.