Michigan Tech alumnus to provide more than 20 pre-college students with full scholarships to the University’s Summer Youth Programs.
Most of David Brule’s philanthropic contributions over the years have no formal record or press. With more than 40 years in business and thousands of employees, Brule ’72 has seen and heard of hardships. Whether an employee in need of a new furnace, a sudden illness involving a young child or a tragedy such as a house fire, Brule has always been motivated to help.
Brule’s legacy of giving was first cultivated during his time as a business leader in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP). Born, raised and schooled in the UP, Brule has deep gratitude for the region’s people and opportunities. After a brief stint at Northern Michigan University and a taste of a career as a lineman, in 1969 Brule transferred his spark for all things electric north, to Michigan Technological University. Older and a “little wiser,” Brule said he felt committed to the rigorous academic experience Michigan Tech offered. Here, his aptitude for analytical thinking was refined.
Brule has long supported Michigan Tech and its outreach arm, Summer Youth Programs (SYP), and this year, his giving holds new possibilities for middle schoolers at Bothwell Middle School in Marquette, Michigan. Together with his wife Thu, Brule will fund full-ride scholarships for more than 20 pre-college students to experience the weeklong STEM explorations held on Tech’s campus in Houghton.
“Legitimate priorities have to take place in a family, and sometimes — often — that won’t allow experiences such as these,” Brule said. “SYP is so much more than a camp — it’s a life-changing experience to be in an academic environment, challenged by science. Their life expands in that short week.”
Brule also has a vested interest in the Michigan Tech College of Business, dating back to 2006 when he helped launch the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. In 2019, a new $50,000 donation made on the Day of Giving (April 11) goes directly to student scholarships.
“My interest in business stems from my own experiences in the working world. Tech’s business program synergistically blends business with technology, and as I experienced, that is critical in today’s environment,” he said.
Engineering a Thriving Business
An electrical engineer by training, after a few years of hands-on engineering, Brule’s career pivoted toward the leadership ranks when he established a new division for northern Michigan-based M.J. Electric in 1975. By 1978 he was a vice president and by 1992 he purchased a majority stake in the company, which would go on to spawn BOSS Snowplow, one of North America’s largest manufacturers of snow and ice control equipment, and Systems Control, the largest control and relay panel manufacturer in the nation. Brule credits his Tech-honed analytical ability and exposure to STEM for his formidable success in business.
His fondness for this land is rooted in its hard-working, authentic people. The Northwoods Ethic, a term Brule penned long ago, is to this day etched in the walls of his former workplace: Hard working. Integrity. Honesty. Traits embodied by “Yoopers.”
“I always credit my achievements in business to my employees. Anyone can have an idea, but you need dedicated, hardworking people to bring it to life,” Brule said.
Putting People First
Throughout his career, Brule made helping people a priority. “Education is the great leveler in society,” Brule said. “When young people have opportunity, success follows.”
His devotion to help has led him to Nepal, India, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Zambia and South Africa, where through the nonprofit Room to Read, he supported building new schools and libraries, and sponsored scholarships so young girls could pursue an education.
Closer to home, Brule has held a deep interest in and a long-standing relationship with the Special Olympics; each year he and his company planned a bowling event for hundreds of Special Olympic athletes. “Working with them was an incredibly rewarding experience. At the end of the day we were physically exhausted, but spiritually revived. There is so much joy in something as simple as bowling together.”
Making an Immediate Impact
Retired since 2018, Brule recently married Thu and the couple have immersed themselves in projects that make a difference in the lives of young people and families. This fall, they were publicly lauded for their support of the YMCA branch in Marquette, Michigan.
“Thu and I are regular users, and the facility serves more than 5,000 community members — it’s essential for the physical and mental health of the community,” Brule said. “A million little miracles happen every single day in these organizations, which are unfortunately always underfunded.”
Typically, it isn’t the couple’s style to give in a public manner. But Brule says they have come to realize that communities — especially tight-knit, remote UP towns — need philanthropic leaders; giving needs to be visible to inspire more people to do so.
“Dave and Thu are people of action,” said Dean Johnson, dean of the Michigan Tech College of Business. “It’s inspiring to work alongside donors such as them because together we can directly and immediately impact future Michigan Tech students.”
The Brules hope by investing in young people, more will have the opportunity to graduate and stay or return to the Upper Peninsula. “Dreams can become reality, and that process starts with a great education. Thu and I don’t just give — we expect a return, it’s just that the return doesn’t come to us. It goes to those we help. It’s never a handout, it’s always a hand up.”
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.