Tag Archives: Gene Hesterberg

“Best Forestry School in the Country”

A message to Dean Gale.
I thought your “Message from the Dean” in the current issue of the SFRES magazine was right on the money.

Speaking as an educator, you posed the question ”Are we providing students with the knowledge base they’ll need to address new issues that go beyond what they learned in their formal education?” My own career experience illustrates the importance of being able to do just that, and your recognition of the importance of this key issue speaks well for your program.

I had a 34 year career with the Bureau of Land Management primarily in western Oregon. Michigan Tech prepared me well for my early experiences, once I got used to the differences in scale. I still remember putting in a cluster of inventory plots in a 800-year old stand of Douglas-fir, and cruising a stand of timber on a beautiful riverside terrace that averaged 220,000 board feet per acre. But as my career evolved, I quickly got involved in issues that did indeed go far beyond my formal education.

For most of the latter half of my career, I was the BLM’s Chief of Forestry Planning with responsibilities covering 3,000,000 acres of forest land in Oregon and Washington. These responsibilities included forest inventory, the determination of the sustainable allowable harvest level and oversight of the program to bring that level of timber production to market, and the integration of the forestry program within the land-use planning process.

Early on, the process was relatively simple, and I was guided by the principles and philosophies I learned under Gene Hesterberg, Vern Johnson, and Eric Bourdo in old Hubbell School. Very quickly, however, it became necessary to “go beyond” as you suggest.

One of the first things I had to deal with in this context was the integration of management considerations related to anadromous fisheries. The spawning and rearing streams that salmon and steelhead depended upon were intimately associated with some of our finest timber producing lands. Some of the interactions between fish and timber production were quite subtle, in that relatively minute changes in water temperatures or quality, or the timing or magnitude of stream flows, could have drastic effects on fish production.

Furthermore, it quickly became apparent that the Douglas-fir old-growth seral stage itself was quickly becoming an endangered and scarce resource that needed special handling and management. Hundreds of wildlife species were uniquely dependent upon it, not to mention its importance in more esoteric areas like carbon sequestration and as refugia for mychorrizal fungi.

The point I’m trying to make is that my career quickly moved beyond the specifics I learned in my formal education, but I was able to traverse uncharted waters because of the sound knowledge base and the integrative attitude and adaptive capabilities I acquired at Michigan Tech.

That’s why it is so heartening to read your message. You’ve got the best forestry school in the country on the right trail, Peg. Keep on chuggin’.

Ron Sadler
1957


Summer Camp Memories: Doug Davies – 1969

Great piece on the summer/fall camps in the Fall 2009 issue of the FRES newsletter.  I read it with a constant grin on my face remembering the summer of 1968 when I attended camp.  I just missed the Alberta experience as it was held on campus that year.

Many of our classes were held in the old Hubbell building.  And yes, we had Gene Hesterberg, Bob Sajdak, Mike Coffman, Norm Sloan, Hammer Steinhilb and others as instructors and Glenn Mroz drove the bus. You’ve come a long way, Glenn!  We also had a couple of women at our camp.  It took Summer Camp  for one of them to realize she was claustrophobic when she went in the bush.  She switched to biology the very next term .

That camp produced some of the very best times I had while at Tech.  I learned more doing those “hands-on” exercises than I would have spending twice the number of hours in a classroom.  The experience of the instructors was invaluable and served me well throughout my entire forestry career.  I had occasion to work with people who had graduated from other forestry schools that didn’t have a camp and I can tell you that their lack of practical knowledge was very obvious.  I had to actually teach a couple of them how to run a compass!!

I can still hear Vern Johnson speaking that famous phrase “C’est la vie” although he pronounced it “Sell a vee” which gave rise to the phrase coined by the students “If you can’t sell a W, sell a V”.  Thanks much for including that piece in the newsletter.


Why I came to Tech: John DePuydt – 1971

During spring break of my senior year (1967) of high school, my Dad, my cousin Chuck (his company sold hockey equipment to John MacInnes and Michigan Tech hockey), and I drove up to Tech from the Detroit area for a visit. I had been accepted at Tech already and I wanted to see what I was getting into.  I chose Tech because I wanted to play hockey (I played on the Freshmen team) and to go into Forestry, and to get into some of the great hunting that was talked about up here.

While we were visiting, we got a chance to go to the Forestry building (Hubbell School) and meet Dr. Hesterberg.  Upon meeting Dr. Hesterberg (he insisted we call him Gene) and seeing a mounted Ruffed Grouse on his desk I knew I was in the correct place!  My classmates and I were the first freshman class in the new building. We were also the first class to have Summer Camp on campus.

After I graduated I never left the area and have been here for 44 years!  Incidentally, my parents moved the entire family up here just before I graduated.  My brother, Drew, was at Tech with me and he graduated in 1973, and the DePuydt name has been a stable name in the Copper Country for many years and many more years to come!


Larry Jokinen – 1991

Larry “Tree Hugger” Jokinen, who was at  Tech in 1979  and finished his Forestry degree in 1991, stopped by the school while visiting the Lake States for a Fall (2010) color tour. Larry commented, ” I miss the Copper Country in the Fall. ”

Regarding Gene Hesterberg, Norm Sloan and Bob Sajdak, he said,  “I had  these men as professor/instructors in college during the early 70’s. These men were all a great inspiration to me in college, especially Gene.

Larry is employed with the Idaho Transportation Department and lives in Stanley, Idaho.


Keith Creagh Tapped to Lead State Agriculture Department

By Marcia Goodrich

January 11, 2011— This afternoon, Keith Creagh is running a minute or two late. “Just catching up with the head of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board,” he says, by way of explanation.

Keith Creagh '74, the new director of Michigan's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

Creagh (pronounced “kray”) is catching up with many people these days. The 1974 forestry graduate was tapped by Michigan’s then-governor-elect Rick Snyder to lead the newly named state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and he’s been busy laying the groundwork for what he hopes will be at least four years of collegial, effective policymaking.

The words “collegial” and “effective” do not immediately spring to mind in association with Michigan state politics, which has suffered from much the same partisan acrimony as the nation as a whole. Nevertheless, Creagh is unfazed.

“I am familiar with the waterfront,” he notes.

Indeed. Before leaving government for the private sector in 2007, Creagh spent 33 years with the state Department of Agriculture, including 12 years as chief deputy director. He served under eight directors and three governors of both political stripes: James Blanchard, John Engler, and Jennifer Granholm. And he is absolutely convinced that progress is not merely possible but practically inevitable if you follow three simple rules.

“First, get good information to good people: that’s how you get good decisions,” he says. “Second, do the right thing, and don’t worry about who gets credit. And third, make sure your policy is not exclusionary.”

In other words, welcome all the stakeholders to the table. “If I put a farmer, a retailer, a food processor, a food bank person and an environmental advocate in the room, at the end of the day, if they are all aligned, how can you not get good policy?”

The same is true, he says, for Republicans and Democrats. “There are great politicians on both sides of the aisle,” says Creagh. “You just need to find and leverage those relationships to develop policy.”

The new administration will reflect that collaborative modus operandi, he says. “There’s going to be some heavy lifting,” says Creagh. “Governor Rick Snyder is fostering a different operational format. He’s clustering thematic areas, so there’s strategic alignment.”

The Snyder administration is breaking apart the Department of Natural Resources and Environment to form the Departments of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Natural Resources (DNR). The new DNR and DEQ are grouped with Agriculture in a new Quality of Life cluster. Creagh’s former boss Dan Wyant, who headed the agriculture department for several years under Engler and Granholm, leads the DEQ and the Quality of Life cluster. Another former colleague, Rodney Stokes, is now the DNR director.  “When I was given an opportunity to work with these two individuals, I couldn’t say no.” Creagh said.

“We all realize that natural resources, the environment and economic growth will benefit from a comprehensive and integrated policy approach. Governor Snyder is asking us to develop policies that are aligned with this vision and concept.”

Creagh, a member of the advisory board for the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, has close ties with Michigan Tech. “Fundamentally, it all started at Tech,” he says. “Everything in my life has been built upon that.”

The first in his family to go to college, he attended the University with Peg Gale, now dean of the School. “And [Michigan Tech president] Glenn Mroz was a classmate,” he says.

Former dean Gene Hesterberg got him his first job, “at a time when there were a lot of foresters, and competition was pretty keen.

“He went out of his way to make a difference,” Creagh recalls. “When Glenn was dean, he did that, and Peg does too. They focus on what’s right for their students to provide a foundation for their future success.”

He hopes that over the next few years he can play some part in the success of the state. “I have four kids, and two of them are out of state,” says Creagh. “I want to give that generation an opportunity to live and work in Michigan just like I did.”

Michigan Technological University (mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences


Former Forestry Head Gene Hesterberg Dies

by Marcia Goodrich, senior writer

“Gentleman” Gene Hesterberg, 92, who booted more than one errant forestry student back onto the road to graduation and found jobs for countless others, died Sunday, Sept. 26, at the Delaware House of PortagePointe, where he had lived for the past two years.

Hesterberg, of Hancock, came to Michigan Tech’s forestry department in 1948 and rose through the ranks of the faculty. He was named department head in 1962 and held that position until his retirement in 1981.

Gene at a School BBQ for the students with (l to r) Jim Schimierer, Glenn Mroz and David Flaspohler
Gene Hesterberg at a School BBQ in 2003 for the students with (l to r) Jim Schimierer, Glenn Mroz and David Flaspohler.

“He really was inspirational to a lot of students,” said Dean Peg Gale (SFRES). “When I talk with alumni, they tell me about Gene and the influence he had on them, not only while they were at Tech but also in their careers.”

Karin Van Dyke ’78 was among them. “Gene was a big help to me and hundreds of other forestry students. He was responsible for my first job,” she said. “And he was very approachable. He had an open-door policy before open-door policies were invented. Plus, how could you not like a guy who called you ‘Pard’?”

It’s even conceivable that Michigan Tech might have a different president had it not been for Hesterberg’s well-timed intervention in the career of a certain forestry undergraduate.

“Gene had a gift for remembering names, and that worked really well until the student population in forestry got up to about 700,” said President Glenn Mroz. “Then it became an impossible task for even the most gifted mind. So everybody became Pard. I was, everybody was.”

Hesterberg went hunting and fishing with students, as well as teaching and advising them. “As a result, he had a familiarity with students that was almost unheard of,” Mroz said. “Gene never hesitated to give anybody the Dutch uncle talk when they really needed it. As you might have suspected, I was one of those people. I had dropped out of school at one point, and Gene readmitted me. It was a couple years later that he urged me to go for a doctorate.”

Hesterberg also played a key role in building the foundation of the School’s research program, Mroz said. “He was involved in research himself, and he knew that graduate studies would play a big role. So, he hired people like Marty Jurgensen and Norm Sloan to position the School for the future.”

Hesterberg received the Clair Donovan Award in 1975 for his efforts on behalf of a student football player who had been injured and needed to use a wheelchair. “He put together a curriculum for him so he could finish school,” Mroz said.

Among his other honors, Hesterberg received Tech’s Distinguished Teacher Award in 1980, was named a fellow in the Society of American Foresters, and was inducted into the Michigan Forestry Hall of Fame. In 1962, the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters awarded him its Academy Citation for outstanding contributions in conservation, research and teaching.

He established the Gene and Margaret Hesterberg Scholarship in 1979, named for himself and his late wife, and provided a generous donation to the School to support the expansion of the U. J. Noblet Forestry Building. Hesterberg Hall is named in his honor.

He was born Aug. 30, 1918, in Cincinnati and served in the army during World War II. He earned a BS from Purdue University and MS and PhD degrees from the University of Michigan, all in forestry, and was a biologist with the Michigan Department of Conservation before coming to Michigan Tech. Hesterberg was active in the community, serving on the Lake Linden Board of Education and on the Keweenaw Memorial Hospital Board. He owned a sawmill and Silver Forests, a timberland operation of several thousand acres.

“He hired me in 1975, and I’ve been here ever since,” said Mary Jurgensen, the School’s scheduling counselor. “Gene was like a father to all of us. He treated us all like family, and he was so great with students, a one-man career center. He found jobs for everybody.”

“People used to call him ‘Gentleman Gene,'” she said. “And he was a true gentleman. He was always thinking about the School, the students and the faculty, working hard for them. He was a great guy.”

Van Dyke agreed. “He was an awesome guy,” she said. “The world has lost a great forester and a great friend.”

Hesterberg is survived by his wife, Judith, of Hancock; sons William (Sharon) of Rosendale, Wis., and John (Debby) of Port Huron; and grandchildren Brian, Christopher and Katie. Services were held Tuesday at the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church in Hancock. Burial was in the Oskar Cemetery. Memorials may be given to the Alzheimer’s Association or to the Activities Fund at PortagePointe.

Memorial Chapel Funeral Home in Hancock assisted with arrangements. To view the obituary or send condolences, visit the Memorial Chapel website.