March 20, 2018, Vol. 24, No. 14

A Bit of Tech History


Hello Kevin, I was a regular contributor to your predecessor’s newsletters and have always enjoyed reading the stories and tales of Yore. Just recently began surfing the Centennial MTU biography covering 1885 to 1985 of our history, it’s highly recommended reading and elucidating. I’ve rarely missed an August Alumni reunion over the past 40 years and having graduated in ’53 want to repeat as often as possible.
Michigan Tech’s history is truly remarkable resulting from Nature’s gift of native Copper some 1.5 Billion years ago with creation of a  geological heritage, lacking only in recognition as a World Heritage region, ref: retired Geology legend Prof. Wm Rose.
Just 6 years later Tech, struggling to meet financial needs for expansion across the board,  recruited Dr. Raymond Smith to chair the Metallurgical Engineering Dept. In 1965  Dr. Smith was named President initiating the first significant expansion of Michigan Tech including changing it’s name and achieving University Status.  One can only imagine the smoke filled rooms downstate over budgetary debates with a legislature, likely few of whom had ever crossed the Straits of Mackinaw.
Lots of interesting reading for another time but I wanted to mention only a couple of items uncovered. I was aware that the  Campus Bubble Greenhouse preceded Tech’s first high rise, the Chem-Met building circa 1966. The students adopted nicknames for both, when covered with snow the bubble was referred to as “The Igloo with the world’s tallest outhouse”. In the past an inviting exhibit, It was disappointing this year to observe a state of disrepair and lack of flora maintenance in this one of a kind CC structure. Perhaps a small assignment or voluntary project for Forestry, biosciences, bioengineering?
Within just ten years the Gates Center was a reality,  the SDC was operating, and the new Ice Arena project undertaken with little or no State Support. It’s an irony that Tech’s first two Division 1 NCAA championships were won with Dee Stadium as home ice, having endured  years prior to Dec. 1953 playing on natural ice that required Portage canal to be frozen over. The funds were so short when the arena was built that President Smith was assigned the job of painting the handrails. Not certain this took place but legend has it and nothing he’s ever done could be a surprise.
President Smith remains well remembered by the CC community and all who’ve had the pleasure to work with him,  we’ve been blessed since his retirement in ’85 with successors who’ve continued to establish their own legacies building on the foundations the Ray carefully laid 50 years ago.
      Bob Carnahan, 1953

Thanks for this, Bob—it’s this kind of history that we all keep alive as alumni. I got to read some of that centenary book as well not too long ago when we changed conference rooms. I’ll try to include some nuggets over the coming issues. As for the greenhouse, I’ll try to get a clearer sense of who has stewardship of it (I think it falls under biological sciences, but I don’t know for sure). If nothing else, I’d love to grow some exotic flowers in there if they’ll let me! See if I would finally have the right conditions to grow some Birds of Paradise… –Kevin