Author: Morgan Laajala

Remembering Former Curator George Robinson

George W. Robinson Jr., age 78, of Ogdensburg, passed away peacefully on Sunday, April 14, 2024, at his home, surrounded by the love of his wife.

Survived by his devoted wife Susan Robinson, George leaves behind cherished cousins Sandy (Bill) Wilkins of Gansevoort, NY, Larry Gillis, Leonard Gillis, Dave Robinson, Steve Robinson, Stanley Robinson, and Jeanne Robinson, all of the Glens Falls area.

George was born on February 7, 1946, in Glens Falls, NY, to the late George W. and Gladys (Purdy) Robinson. He graduated from Glens Falls High School and pursued higher education, earning a bachelor’s degree in geology from Potsdam State in 1968, followed by a PhD in geological sciences from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, in 1978.

Throughout his distinguished career, George made significant contributions to the field of mineralogy and geology. He began as a high school earth science teacher in Heuvelton, NY, from 1968 to 1974, before venturing into self-employment as a mineral dealer from 1974 to 1982. His passion and expertise led him to serve as curator of mineralogy at the Canadian Museum of Nature from 1982 to 1996 and as curator of the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum and professor of mineralogy at Michigan Technological University from 1996 to 2013. Even after retirement, George continued his academic pursuits as a research associate in the department of geology for St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY.

George’s influence extended beyond his professional accomplishments. He served as an associate editor for esteemed publications such as the Mineralogical Record and the Canadian Mineralogist, and as a consulting editor for Rocks and Minerals. He was a committed member of the Rochester Academy of Science, contributing significantly to the Mineralogical Symposium.

An accomplished author, George published over 100 professional papers and popular publications, along with 8 books, including the renowned “Minerals” (Simon & Schuster, 1994). His dedication to the field was recognized with numerous accolades, including the dedication of the George W. Robinson Laboratory of Mineralogy at SUNY Potsdam in 1985, the naming of the rare lead chromate mineral “Georgerobinsonite” in his honor in 2009, and the prestigious Carnegie Mineralogical Award in 2012.

Beyond his academic pursuits, George found joy in collecting minerals and faceting gemstones, playing the piano, and birdwatching. His passions enriched the lives of those around him and left a lasting impact on the world of mineralogy and geology.

George W. Robinson Jr. will be dearly missed by his family, friends, colleagues, and the scientific community at large. His legacy of scholarship, dedication, and love for the natural world will continue to inspire generations to come.

As we bid farewell to George, may we find solace in the memories shared and the knowledge that his spirit will forever live on in the hearts of those who knew and loved him.

Memorial contributions have been requested to the A.E. Seaman Museum at Michigan Tech. Condolences and fond memories can also be shared online at www.foxandmurrayfuneralhome.com.

Copied from Dignity Memorial

Winter Rules on the Course

Spring is here, but winter rules may be in effect at many local courses as they slowly open up for the season. This vintage photo of the golf course at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge is a perfect snapshot to remind us of the simple pleasure of the game; good times with friends, beautiful views, and amazing courses. While Michigan Tech’s Portage Lake Golf Course may be our favorite for a scenic and pleasant 18-hole round, let us know your favorite local course in the comments.

A Message from President Koubek

Rick Koubuek
Rick Koubek, President

In late April, we celebrated 1,064 students who earned their degrees from Michigan Tech.

We also celebrated the opening of the new H-STEM Engineering and Health Sciences Complex and the Alumni Gateway pedestrian path. I am particularly grateful to our donors, Mike Trewhella and his family, along with the Harjus, for supporting our vision to create an inviting and welcoming entryway to campus. The Alumni Gateway is a representation of what we’ve always been—a welcoming environment for all who come to campus. This is in addition to the generous donation from Longyear-Able Medical Devices to name the lobby and student commons area in the H-STEM Complex.

As we wrap up these projects, we will soon turn our attention to renovating the McNair dining hall, classrooms in the EERC, and the Daniell Heights apartments. These projects will join ongoing construction already happening around campus—including East Hall, our new residence hall. As our campus grows, so does our community. In July, we will welcome three new deans to campus. We will also welcome our next vice president for research, as Dave Reed is retiring from Michigan Tech after 42 years of service. Dave has been an integral part of Michigan Tech’s success over the years and was instrumental in helping the University attain R1 status.

In this spirit, I’d like to also recognize a few of Michigan Tech’s faculty and students on their recent accomplishments, like MASU’s Distinguished Professor of the Year, Dr. Charles Wallace, and undergraduate student Marielle Raasio, who received the President’s Award for Leadership this spring. As one nominator put it, Marielle has created a community whose well-being and internal confidence encourages the desire to work, study, and build relationships. Finally, kudos to our hockey team for winning the Great Lakes Invitational and the Mason Cup conference championship, and participating in the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year—their 16th all-time appearance.

These examples are just a few of the many ways our alumni, faculty, staff, and students reflect the incredible community we call Michigan Tech. As always, thank you for representing Michigan Tech in your communities with such great pride and enthusiasm. I look forward to visiting with you at MTU’s annual Alumni Reunion or perhaps at another one of the many alumni gatherings planned in the future.

Sincerely,

Rick Koubek
President

Slushy Spring Days

The years go by, but some things never change. This flashback image to Shelden Avenue shows a slushy spring day in downtown Houghton, reminiscent of the spring weather this year. This image from the Earl Gagnon Collection is undated, but there are many landmarks and vintage cars that might allow an alum to help us identify the year of this photograph! What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

West Michigan Event Report: Volunteering, Hockey, and Pickled Eggs

Alumni and friends in the West Michigan area have been enjoying a variety of events, from volunteering at the zoo to cheering on the Huskies, and enjoying delicious pickled eggs! If you’d like to follow along with what is happening in the West Michigan area, check out the West Michigan Alumni Facebook Page.

Volunteer Day at the Zoo — October 2023

Some alumni in the West Michigan area volunteered to hand out goodies to children attending the “Boo at the Zoo” event at John Ball Park Zoo in Grand Rapids. They dressed in Halloween attire and socialized with the children and their families. Zoo staff set up booths and provided the goodies. It was a very cold day, but that did not keep them from having more than 1000 children stop by for treats!

Group of six alumni at zoo event
Volunteers Barb Way, Mike DeJonge ’65, Ben ’20 and Hannah Lutz, Emma ’12 ’16 and Adam ’16 Zawisza

Holiday Party at The Mitten — December 2023

To kick off the holiday season, a pizza and pub night was held at The Mitten Brewery in Grand Rapids in conjunction with our monthly meeting. This event drew 29 people. Various gourmet pizzas and delicious breadsticks gave everyone all they could eat. The Mitten Brewing Company—located in historic Engine House No. 9—was founded in November 2012 by lifelong friends Chris Andrus and Max Trierweiler. Their variety of beers offers something for everyone’s tastes.

Emma Zawisza ’12 ’16 helped host the event and attendees had the opportunity to score Michigan Tech swag, courtesy of the Office of Alumni Engagement. Anne Barton and Dave Cox ’76 won a classic Husky banner.

Great Lakes Invitational Pregame Social & Hockey Games — December 2023

Michigan Tech alumni and friends, along with Head Coach Joe Shawhan, gathered on December 28 for the 2023 Great Lakes Invitational (2023) pregame social, hosted by the Michigan Tech Alumni Board of Directors. The social took place at Peppino’s Downtown Sports Grille, just a short walk from Van Andel Arena, before the Huskies took on Alaska Fairbanks. Michigan Tech branded door prizes were awarded, including signed hockey jerseys and GLI apparel and tumblers, courtesy of the Office of Alumni Engagement. The Huskies won the first game against Alaska Fairbanks, 3–2.

On December 29, the Huskies took on Michigan State for the GLI championship. The game ended in overtime play with a 3–3 tie. The Huskies won the shoot out for a final score of 4–3.

Hosts included current Michigan Tech Alumni Board members: Steve Williams ’86, Tonya Moore-Bouchard ’96, Britta Anderson ’15 ’23, Michelle Wazny ’10, Emma Zawisza ’12 ’16, and Diane Cesarz ’94, and Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement Jordan Shawhan.

Everyone enjoyed this event and made several comments on the great social and great games!

Championship Alpine Skiing — March 2024

Holly Grzelak, daughter of Kevin ’89 and Lynn Grzelak, and a current mechanical engineering student, represented Michigan Tech at the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association Alpine Women’s Giant Slalom National Championship race in Lake Placid, New York. In one of the largest races held to date with 150 female athletes, she placed 33rd. Congratulations, Holly!

Pickled Egg Contest — March 2024

After a four-year break, the annual pickled egg contest took place at Schmohz Brewery in Grand Rapids. This year, we had five entries and approximately 20 people attended the event. All the eggs were great, so it was difficult to pick a single winner. However, by a slight margin, the first-place winner was Robert Casler. Mike Dunphy ’03 took second place, and third place went to Joshua Manning ’12. It was a great event and everyone enjoyed eating many pickled eggs and drinking Schmohz beer. Jim Crouch ’90 hosted the event. The Office of Alumni Engagement provided the prizes.

Spring Recreation in the Keweenaw

One of the benefits of being a Michigan Tech student is you are never more than a few minutes away from lakes and rivers for endless spring recreation. March is an especially great time for Brown Trout and Lake Trout fishing. The great undated image from the Brockway Photograph Collection shows off some of the trophy fish that are possible in our sportsman’s paradise. Do you have a favorite honey hole that you fished while you were here? Let us know your angler’s secrets in the comments!

Seasonal Sports in the Copper Country

In the wake of an unseasonably warm Winter Carnival, it makes sense to wonder what season we are really in! The snow that usually lingers until late spring, and even early summer in the deep woods, is nearly nonexistent so spring seems right on the horizon. Even though broomball, skiing, and other winter sports have been scarce this year, it is still possible to get some fresh air by hiking the trails or a good old-fashioned game of mud ball! When the weather gets warmer and the snow starts to go, what is your favorite thing to do in the Copper Country? Let us know in the comments.

2024 Alumni “Snow” Statue Results

Thanks to all the Michigan Tech alumni and friends who participated in the fourth annual Alumni “Snow” Statue Contest. Congratulations to the winners!

“Snow” Category — Winner

Title: In the Woods and Water Sasquatch Says Winters Are Getting Hotter
Participants: Kristen ’08 and Paul ’08 Roell, and their little Huskies Abigail (7), Philip (4), and Mae (1)
Location: Rapid City, Michigan

When camping in the UP forests or exploring the Lake Superior shore, has anyone seen this guy before? Whether the kids are watching for him while driving the Seney stretch or listening to scary stories about him around the campfire, Sasquatch brings fun to our family outdoor adventures. Our snow squatch began has a 6+ foot pile of snow, but with the warm temperatures, this elusive squatch is quickly melting away!

“Snow” Category — Runner Up

Title: Land of the Icy Blue Waters
Participants: Susan ’94, Scott ’90, and Erica Conradson
Location: Cadillac, Michigan

Sascha, the Hamms bear, has taken a wrong turn and ended up in the Land of the Icy Blue Waters, located in Michigan instead of her native Minnesota. She enjoys the Great Outdoors by fishing out of her hallowed canoe, having a cold drink, and singing “From the land of icy blue waters, from the land of pines and lofty balsams…” She better pay attention because the big fish is about to swim away. In keeping with the theme this year, she loves the outdoors, and she is partaking in the Tech Carnival tradition of celebrating winter and having a beverage.

“No Snow” Category — Winner

Title: Michigan Birds of Winter Will Enjoy This Gourmet Dinner!
Participants: Lisa ’88 and Stephen ’86 Williams
Location: Cadillac, Michigan

Considering how much the birds (and other critters) enjoyed our entry last year, we decided to apply the craft to this year’s theme. Our statue pays tribute to those tough feathered friends that stick around during the (usually) brutal Michigan winters and roam our forests and shores. This statue is constructed in Cadillac, Michigan, out of completely consumable food products and bird/sunflower seeds. Representing some of our finest forest creatures (frogs, fish, birds, and squirrels), the sunflower seed-filled dough animals have been baked golden brown and are served up on a remaining snow drift. The backdrop is a sunflower seed-covered mountain that falls into the birdseed river. To ensure anyone who sees this has no doubt of the origin, we’ve thrown in a silhouette of the UP, a Piano Dog, and a couple of pasties! Now that the pics are snapped, it’s already under siege by our local feathered and furry friends!

“No Snow” Category — Runner Up

Title: Wilbrrr’s Winter Wednesday
Participants: Ben Thompson ’09, with his children Aspen and Laurel, and Drew Vettel ’05, with his children Maeda and Jackson
Location: Woodruff, Wisconsin

We took a family vacation with friends to Woodruff, Wisconsin, and stayed at an Airbnb on a quiet little lake. The statue was built at the end of the dock at the place we are staying at. We harvested some broken pine boughs and flower parts from a kiddo craft project to add some character to the entry. Wilbrrr is sporting a pine mustache and mohawk. The statue was mostly built by Ben and Drew, but our eldest daughters helped a bit and we had plenty of playtime in the snow with them too (sledding, making snow angels, learning cross-country skiing, etc.).

Glimpses of Snow and Stage: Winter Carnival Contests through the Years

As we prepare for Winter Carnival, we thought it timely to share an image of the upcoming Archives display to be featured at the Alumni Social + Winter Carnival Contests Exhibit on Saturday, February 10. Glimpses of Snow and Stage: Winter Carnival Contests through the Years will feature rich images and small displays of Michigan Tech memorabilia. Skits, the beard competition, human sled dog race, human bowling, snow statues, and many other traditions will delight one and all! If you have a Winter Carnival memory to share, please let us know in the comments.

From Michigan Tech to Mars

Jessica Elwell
Jessica Elwell ’02 ’03

Jessica Elwell once sat with her Senior Design team daydreaming about how they could solve all the problems of the world with thermodynamics. Now, she is actually solving one of those problems by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen and sustainable fuels.

Coming around the bend in Chassell during her first campus visit, Elwell thought, “Oh, this is home now. This is where I need to be.” The remote environment, affordability, and quality of the engineering education were all factors that led her to choose Michigan Tech. She graduated with a BS in Chemical Engineering in 2002, followed by an MS in Chemical Engineering in 2003.

Her career began at SE Johnson as a research engineer, but following that she frequently jumped industries, looking for what the position would add to her skill set versus what the job actually was. “I’ve had the opportunity to go from specialty chemicals to bio labs to ceramics to defense and aerospace. I even worked in weapons manufacturing for a bit,” she said. “It’s been a really diverse path.”

Now, Elwell is chief operation officer at OxEon Energy, a start-up specializing in complementary energy technologies capable of converting carbon dioxide and water to sustainable fuels, leading the way to solve the world’s energy-related problems. Elwell was a founding member in 2017, but left to gain experience and returned to the company in 2020. While formally working together at OxEon for just five years, the team has actually been collaborating for more than 30.

Elwell standing in front of Curiosity Rover Mockup at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory holding the Solid Oxide Electrolyze for MOXIE
Elwell in front of Curiosity Rover Mockup (same class as Perseverance) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory holding the Solid Oxide Electrolyze for MOXIE

It was this team that designed, developed, and manufactured the Solid Oxide Electrolyzer at the heart of the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment—or MOXIE—which was named one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2023. The device was attached to Mars’ Perseverance rover, successfully converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. Because of Elwell and team, if astronauts ever land on Mars, they will have air to breathe and propellant produced on Mars to support a return mission.

“We are the first team ever to produce a technology that made a commodity off of the surface of Earth from the resources that are available in that location,” Elwell said. “As technical program manager, that is my biggest achievement. That team, and that product, is what I’m most proud of.”

OxEon is currently scaling up manufacturing on the devices and using them to produce fuels on the Earth.

Elwell credits Michigan Tech for giving her the tools she needs to succeed. “I’ve worked with the best of the best in high-profile engineering companies. I appreciate the background that Michigan Tech gave me. I can sit in any of those rooms, at any of those tables, and I belong.”

Residing in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her two children, Alton and Kailyn, Elwell enjoys spending time outdoors in the beautiful Utah mountains, being active in the development of a sustainable fuels economy through industry associations and government activities, and volunteering for Women Who Succeed. Elwell is on the Board of Directors for the United States Hydrogen Alliance, as well as the Board of Governors for Utah’s Aerospace and Defense Association, 47G.

Jessica Elwell with leadership of 47G
Elwell with leadership of 47G—Utah’s Aerospace and Defense Association