Michigan Tech alumnus Erick Dyke (’91) is remembered as a student who studied everything but his studies for a while. Then he met his future wife, Michelle (Gornowicz), who also graduated from Michigan Tech in 1991. Erick started focusing on school, received his computer science degree and launched a successful video game development company, n-Space.
Erick passed away recently, but his memory lives on through an endowed scholarship fund, and the outpouring of memorial gifts in his honor is such that it has become the largest such fund in the University’s history.
Michelle, Erick’s parents, and colleagues from n-Space were in Houghton this week, and Michelle talked about how much Michigan Tech meant to Erick.
"We had our first date here, graduated from here and got married a month later," she said. "He was very proud of his degree, and he said he felt that he could do anything. He didn’t focus on academics as much because he was so active with WMTU radio and with Sound and Lighting Services, and he was so outgoing."
In 2000, Michigan Tech honored Erick with the Outstanding Young Alumni award.
The first two scholarship recipients, fourth-year students Corey Cousino and Tim Schmalz, were present, too, and they enjoyed hearing many great stories about Erick from his family, colleagues, and faculty mentors.
Schmalz was "inspired by Erick." He’s playing football while triple majoring in computer science, computer engineering and electrical engineering. "I want to learn how everything works," he said, sounding like a younger version of Erick.
Cousino, a computer science major, was "honored by the award." Among other activities, he is doing IT work for the Ford Motor Company at Tech’s Lakeshore Center, an appropriate position, since the Dykes are "Ford people," from metro Detroit, including Erick’s grandfather, who worked for the company for 44 years.
What Erick did post-Tech is nothing short of amazing.
As a 27-year-old, along with Dan O’Leary, who was then 25, and Sean Purcell, they created n-Space and rattled off a series of hit titles in video gaming: Duke Nukem, Star Wars and Call of Duty, among others. They also succeeded in the softer side of software, creating Rugrats for the then-ignored younger set and, more recently, Hannah Montana.
Some of their projects sold in amazing amounts: Rugrats remains the seventh-best selling PlayStation I title of all time, due in part to one famous fan: Oprah Winfrey. And diversifying their game offerings has also helped them survive while some forty videogame companies have folded in the last year or so, according to n-Space CEO O’Leary.
Erick’s dedication to task was omnipresent, said O’Leary. "He was vigilant about the shipping date, and he was as stubborn as an ox."
Erick’s work ethic rubbed off on his employees, many of them Tech alumni, as evidenced by the welcome they gave Michigan Tech Vice President for Advancement Shea McGrew when he and President Glenn Mroz visited n-Space in its Orlando, Florida, headquarters.
"They said, ‘It’s nice to meet you and all that, but we’ve got to get back to work,’" McGrew recalled.
"You could call our company ‘scrappy,’" said O’Leary, who was very close to Erick. "We were like brothers, so we fought once in awhile, too!" O’Leary said Erick was very convincing in everything he did. "If our company is like a family, then he was the father figure who everyone looked up to," he said. "He was n-Space."
n-Space employs 105 people including many Tech alumni. "We are still relatively small," O’Leary said, so that family atmosphere remains.
At the end of the presentation, before the photo shoots, the students were asked some questions by the n-Space brass.
"How do you measure the success of your project?" O’Leary asked, referring to the Huskies Game Development Enterprise team, of which Cousino is president.
"By the quality of the product," answered Cousino. "We have cycles of people we work with, new students every semester, but we need to keep the project moving along from group to group to group and maintain the quality."
His dedication to task sounded familiar.