For some families, the impact of Michigan Tech can be felt generations later. That is the case with the Walter Wickstrom ’37 family.
Three of Walter’s children, Betty Wickstrom Kendrick, Jean Wickstrom Liles, and Phil Wickstrom—none of whom are Michigan Tech alumni or live anywhere close to Michigan Tech—all fund scholarships in memory of their father and to support Tech, which they credit with setting up their family for success.
“I feel strongly that Michigan Tech prepared Daddy and, in turn, helped us become successful,” said Jean. “So supporting Tech is payback for what it did for us.”
Walter Wickstrom Sr. earned a mining engineering degree from Michigan Tech in 1937 (then called the Michigan College of Mining and Technology). The family moved to Alabama in 1947 where he spent a large portion of his career employed by the Tennessee Coal & Iron (TCI) Division of US Steel. He was captain of TCI’s mechanical mining team and later mine captain of the Jefferson County, Alabama-based Ishkooda mines.
“Michigan Tech helped him succeed and be ready to not only work in the mine but to advance into management,” said Phil.
Betty added, “My father went to school during the Depression. I put a scholarship in his name because I want to brighten the day for current students.”
In 2021, Betty created the Walter William Wickstrom Memorial Annual Scholarship to support junior or senior mining engineering students from northern Michigan.
That same year, Jean and Phil established the Walter William Wickstrom, Sr. ’37 and Katherine Nelson Wickstrom Endowed Scholarship in memory of their parents. The scholarship goes to engineering students in the Upper Peninsula with preference given to those from Alger County, where the Wickstroms have a family summer home on Lake Superior named Camp Walter that was built by Phil. Walter Wickstrom bought the property back in the 1940s.
The three Wickstroms hosted two of their scholarship recipients at Camp Walter in late August. John Myaard is a senior mining engineering student from Hudsonville, Michigan who received Betty’s annual scholarship. Carly Lindquist, a senior chemical engineering major from Munising, Michigan, received Jean and Phil’s endowed scholarship.
“Receiving a scholarship provides a very real and immediate impact,” said Myaard. “I was excited when I first heard about it. It was right after I had spent my entire summer doing a field course for geology, so I wasn’t able to work that summer. I was very excited and grateful when I found out about the scholarship.”
“It’s awesome that we get to meet the donors,” Lindquist added. “It’s not just an amount taken off my tuition bill, which is really important, but it’s also much more personal and meaningful. I’ll always remember this meeting and what they’ve done for me.”
The chance to meet the students was also meaningful to the Wickstroms.
“We receive letters from each of the scholarship recipients and learn a little bit about them, but it’s a highlight to meet them in person and get to know them and their situations better,” said Jean.
“I save all the thank you letters I receive,” said Betty. “I’m very impressed by all the students I hear from. It is a real pleasure meeting John and Carly in person and hearing directly how the scholarships have helped them.”
While the three donors all cited the tax benefits of their philanthropy, their main motivation was the ability to help others.
“It really makes you feel good that you’ve helped somebody,” Phil said. “Meeting these students in person really drives that home.”