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 www.mtu.edu/reunion or contact Alumni Relations at 906-487-2400, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.”