Archives—May 2012

Alumni Reunion Celebrates All Michigan Tech Women

It's Your Year! Women of Tech

Alumni Reunion 2012, scheduled for August 2-4, will, in part, celebrate the women who have attended and succeeded at Michigan Tech. Women have been enrolled as  far back as 1889, four years after the founding of the institution, with more than 10,000 earning a degree plus 4,000 who attended.

Back in the day though, women were far more likely to forego their Michigan Tech education to get married, start a family, or go to work to support their husbands. The Tech Wives Club was very active, and many local women began their education at Tech and completed their degrees at other institutions.

“We count them as part of the University family and extend a special invitation to attend the 2012 Alumni Reunion said Alumni Relations Director Brenda Rudiger. They are certainly considered among the ‘Women of Tech.’”

The spirit of the festivities will range from fond memories to enduring dreams—and some specially made libation to smooth matters. To mark this special occasion, the Keweenaw Brewing Company has created Keweenaw Belle, a special Hefeweizen brewed with locally grown berries.

All female graduates, former students, faculty and staff are invited to a number of special events during Reunion including a Saturday evening “Girls Night Out” party hosted by the Presidential Council of Alumnae.

The 2012 Alumni Reunion will feature the Golden M’s (those who graduated 50 plus years ago), the classes of ’62, ’72, ’82, ’87, ’92 and ’02. As well,  a group reunion is planned for Men’s Basketball alumni, and special events planned in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Department of Biological Sciences, the 85th anniversary of the Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics department, and the 35th anniversary of the Michigan Tech Student Foundation.

Bring the whole family to enjoy a variety of Reunion events for all ages including Tech Talks, picnics, campus tours and open houses, outdoor adventure trips, hands-on children’s science demonstrations, boat rides, a golf outing sponsored by the School of Business and Economics and more picnics, department open houses.

For more information on Alumni Reunion 2012, visit or contact Alumni Relations at 906-487-2400,

More about women at Tech…

Tech’s first female student enrolled in 1889, four years after the founding of the institution. Today female students comprise 26 percent of the student body. The goal is to have 35 percent by 2020.

These students will follow many successful alumnae, who share a status of have stood out among a male crowd. Tech women of high repute are everywhere. Catherine Leslie ’83 is the director of Engineers Without Borders USA. Kim Nowack ’85 is the chief engineer of the Mackinac Bridge Authority. Bonnie Klamerus ’83 ’91 was the structures manager for a landmark bridge that spans the Colorado River and links Arizona and Nevada.

Jeanne Farnum, who is 91, will be the oldest alumna at the reunion. She enrolled in geology at Michigan Tech in 1939. She has rock-solid Tech pedigree. She hails from a family of geologists. The Mineral Museum is named after her grandfather, A. E. Seaman, who taught and chaired the geology department. Starting with him, five generations of the family have been represented at Tech.

The year Farnum enrolled, she was one of 15 women among 959 students. She had a hand in founding Theta Chi Epsilon, the first sorority on campus. After a year, she transferred to the University of Illinois. “We were surrounded by all these men,” she recalls about the move. “I wanted to find some sisters.” The male to female ratio at Tech was 90 to 1; at Illinois it was 10 to 1.

She routinely returned to the Copper Country in summers to learn how to do field work. As well, she helped recruit female students in the UP and northern Wisconsin. “All the fellas were off to war,” she explains, “and they were looking for students.”

She has been a regular at Tech reunions since she was a little girl, what with her family ties. She and her husband live in Tucson. She savors her roots. “I always felt privileged to be raised in Houghton,” she says.

Sally Heidtke is another proud and satisfied alumna. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1981 and has worked with engineers from all over the world. “At not point in my career did I ever feel at a disadvantage,” she says. “There was never a question of being second-best. Tech prepared me extremely well.” She was one of a handful of women at Tech, but says, “I felt welcome and I belonged.”

Sara Rajala was the only woman in her electrical engineering classes while at Michigan Tech in the early 1970s. Now, she’s head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Mississippi State University. She sees herself as a role model and is busy “encouraging, promoting, and supporting women in engineering.” Her message to them: “Engineering is a wonderful discipline. Technology is changing so rapidly, the opportunities out there are enormous. Prepare yourself to take advantage of opportunity so you can help solve the world’s problems.”

The overall attitude of alumna is that good work transcends gender, and dreams transcend work. Says Barbara Jones ’92, whose education at Tech and service in the Peace Corps transformed her, “I learned that all of us, everyone, has an obligation to make the world a better place. I gained a feeling of responsibility for the world.”

Such sentiments will underscore a modest amount of libation at the reunion. The Keweenaw Brewing Co. is concocting custom beer for the event: Their special twist will be the addition of locally grown berries (thimbleberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries) to the brewing process. “They will add a complexity of underlying fruit flavors that brings summer to your palate”—as well as intoxicating memories.

Alumna Bonnie Klamerus, who earned a bachelor’s and a master’s in civil engineering in 1983 and 1991, respectively, was the structures manager for a landmark bridge, completed in 2010, that spans the Colorado River and links Arizona and Nevada, a quarter of a mile downstream from the grand and storied Hoover Dam.

She says that, as a woman in engineering, good work has trumped gender bias. “When people see that you know what you’re talking about, you fit in. I learned that all of us, everyone, has an obligation to make the world a better place. I gained a feeling of responsibility for the world.”

Charlotte Iola Field earned a BS in Electrical Engineering in 1977. In many electrical engineering classes, she was the only woman, but there were no gender issues. “It wasn’t hard that way,” she recalls. “No uncomfortable stuff. We had study groups–great people. We all helped each other.”  She acknowledges that “A lot of people—men and women–have helped me along the way.” In turn, she wants to be known for helping others. “I believe in people.”

As a woman, she has had some pioneering roles in her career and the worst thing about being the only female in the room? “People who don’t know you or your reputation expect you to prove yourself. This is a big problem for women early in their career. All people need to assume that the individual in question is a valued resource until proven otherwise.”

They lead students and young alumna like Jessica Koski ‘09, who attributes her education to her boldly speaking out from the Native American perspective. Koski’s , native name, is “Nee-gon-e-go-quay,” which means “leading woman.”

“Are you a leader?” she is asked.  “I’m getting there,” she says. “It’s a lot of responsibility.”

Alumni Association Recognizes Four Outstanding Alumni

One of the most important activities of the Michigan Tech Alumni Association is the recognition of the achievements and contributions of our many outstanding alumni and friends.

Alumni Association Outstanding Young Alumni graphicOutstanding Young Alumni Award – Kristina Marshall ’98 Business Administration

Kristina is the President and CEO of Winning Futures in Warren, MI, a non-profit school based goal setting, mentoring, and scholarship program for teens.

Since graduating from Michigan Tech in 1998, Kristina has grown the organization to impact 20,000 youth, awarded $1.5M in scholarships, and implemented the Winning Futures goal-setting and evidence-based life skills curriculum into 100 schools and non-profits across 30 states.

Kristina’s accomplishments have also been recognized with Crain’s “40 under 40”, Detroit Young Professional’s “Vanguard Award” and  the Women Official’s Network “Wonder Woman Award” for Distinguished Youth Advocate.

Outstanding Service Award – Tanya Wareham Klain ’90 Mechanical Eng. (deceased)Alumni Association Outstanding Service Award graphic

Besides earning her Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1990, Tanya was active in her sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, Undergraduate Student Government, Residence Hall councils, the Alpine Ski Club, and was a member of the Michigan Tech Student Foundation.

After graduation, Tanya went to work for General Motors where she was a member of GM’s university relations and recruiting team. She was an ardent supporter and the designated GM key contact for the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

As a Tech alum, she served on the board of directors of the Alumni Association and was very active in Detroit area alumni events. In 2004, Tanya was inducted into the University’s Presidential Council of Alumnae in recognition of her professional accomplishments and University support.

Her stewardship and leadership were based on fond memories and a commitment to serve. On December 7, 2008, Michigan Tech lost a devoted alumna, a stalwart supporter, and a dear friend.

award graphicDistinguished Alumni Award

Dr. Olive M. Cornish Kimball ‘52 General Science ’00 Honorary Doctorate of Clinical and Laboratory Sciences and John Soyring ’76 Electrical Engineering, ’06 Honorary Doctorate of Engineering

Dr. Olive M. Cornish Kimball ‘52 – Olive is a native of Calumet, Michigan and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in general science (medical technology) from Michigan Tech in 1952. She also earned both a masters degree in science education and a PhD in educational psychology from Northern Illinois University, and has studied at Bryn Mawr College and Harvard University.

As CEO of the Chicago-based National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Olive was responsible for all of the agency’s operations, including accreditation of approximately 700 academic programs nationwide. She was previously an administrator and professor of allied health programs at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. Prior to her academic career, Olive worked as a scientist and researcher and has been published in numerous professional journals. She has been honored by the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professionals.

Olive served as a Michigan Tech Fund Trustee and the University has awarded her an honorary degree of Doctor of Clinical Laboratory Sciences (2000), the Board of Control Silver Medal (the first woman to receive this honor), and has inducted her into the University’s Academy of Sciences and Arts. Olive also belongs to the American Association of University Women, the League of Women Voters of Illinois, and volunteers at a shelter home for abused women and children.

John Soyring ’76 After graduation, John joined IBM and during his 36-year career with the company, he held a variety of technical, professional, managerial and executive positions. He later completed graduate studies in the fields of computer science, electrical engineering and business administration at the University of Minnesota and State University of New York. In 2006, he received an honorary doctorate of engineering from Michigan Tech and later received an Honorary Doctorate from Moscow University.

Before his retirement from IBM in January 2012, John was involved in global business leadership for a multi-billion dollar annual revenue portion of the IBM software business. He has now started his own firm, Sisukas Consulting LCC.

Listed as one of Tech’s most notable alumni on, John has been a keynote speaker on campus numerous times and was the Commencement Speaker in 2006. He also supports students through the John Soyring Annual Scholarship. John is a member of the Industry Advisory Council of the American Indian Science & Engineering Society (AISES). He is also a member of the Michigan Tech Fund Campaign Committee and the College of Engineering Advisory Board.

These awards will be presented at the Alumni Reunion Dinner on campus, Friday, August 3. For more information on the Alumni Reunion dinner and other reunion activities, visit or contact Brenda Rudiger, or call 906-487-2400.