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April Is for Fools!

By Emily Riippa | University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections

Michigan Tech students drove a Jeep into Douglass Houghton Hall in 1951.

April brings with it April Fool’s Day pranks, but Michigan Tech students have been known to get up to some mischief all year round. In June 1951, the men of Douglass Houghton Hall drove resident Guenther Frankenstein’s Jeep up the stairs of their dormitory and into the hallway. Although the guys thought the prank was a riot, Frankenstein recalled that the college administration wasn’t laughing and wanted to expel him. They eventually settled for probation.

The next year, fourteen Tech students–also residents of DHH–spent the night in jail for a risque joke that maybe wouldn’t fall into the category of “crazy smart”: along with more than fifty of their peers, they besieged the student dormitory at the St. Joseph School of Nursing in Hancock, hoping to come away with lingerie. Standing outside the school’s Ryan Hall, they shouted their demands for underwear to the young women residing within. Some even wandered into the furnace room before police arrived and arrested members of the group for their disorderly conduct. Eventually, a judge ordered that all charges against the men be dropped.

A set of computer punch cards.

We’ve heard rumors about other pranks that have taken place on Tech’s campus over the years, including some involving tweaks to computer programs on punch cards, but the files of the archives are remarkably bare. Do these tales bring back memories of your own college escapades, whether they took place five years ago or fifty? We’d love to hear your stories!


What you said in February about Tech

All comments from our Michigan Tech Alumni Network on Facebook

Michigan College of Mining & Technology sweatshirt

“I almost threw this away recently since it is in such poor condition, but just could not do it. I got it soon after arriving in my first year. I think the shirts were sold at the Union or book store. I was pleased to be enrolled in ‘The Michigan College of Mining and Technology.’ The name was changed to Michigan Technological University soon after I graduated. It could still be called ‘Michigan Tech,’ however.”  –Brian K.

“I was part of the Dec. 2, 1985 snowbound students trying to make it to MTU through the storm. I had to wait it out in Marquette.”  –Don G.

“Being really intimidated going into a really bad job market in 05-09… the job market today gives graduates all the leverage… these companies should be eating out of your little hand! Be confident and make us Huskies that came before you proud! My MTU degree put me ahead of my counterparts and you have a lot to bargain with amongst companies!”  –Matthew D.

“It is fun and interesting to talk with new prospects. Most young people seem so much better prepared than I was at that age. Love the energy and the vibe.” –Michael D.

“I was there — section 207. Go, Huskies! Go, Red Wings!!” –Todd H.

“Standing outside the Admin building early in the frigid weather waiting to get in and sign up for interviews in 1981!! Well worth it in the end!!” –Jeff N.

This is Huskies helping Huskies! From Jonathan A., who received 18 replies. “Are there any folks that work in automotive casting processes? Would you know what simulation software is used in that industry and why? I’m writing a report for some grad school work and knew that a number of Tech grads probably work in this area.”


Cynthia H. posted this question and got 112 comments  …

“On the MTU Parent fb group, parents are concerned because their students are unhappy with the dorm food. What were some of your favorites from your MTU era? Also, what was awful?”

A sampling of responses…

“Fish bites were the epitome of disgusting dorm food. Tomato soup and grilled cheese were the best.” –Monica H.

“The ‘vat’ of peanut butter with the oil congealed on top (1980 Wads hall).” –Tina S.

“BLT day was the absolute BOMB. You can choose as much bacon as you desire.” –Brittany H.

“Loved the pasties & liver & onions were a fast gone item on the days they were served.” –Ellie C.

“We’d pile cheese sandwiches on top of the ceiling lights (hot, incandescents) in the Wadsworth elevator. What a smell! 😋” –Stan S. ’65 ’69

“Slimy hot dog day boiled in green water day.” –Jeff R.

“Beef tips were so bad (2008-2012) there was a students against beef tips Facebook group.” –Emma Z.

“They did not get better in 2013 😄” –Maggie S.

“Maybe not everything was amazing, but there was no lacking for options. I remember making my own paninis and frequenting the salad and pasta stations. Just wait till they graduate and have to cook for themselves.” –Amy D. Wads 07-08.

“Students complaining about food is a timeless tradition. When they move out into apartments, they BEG for dorm food. I’d always have an extra swipe or two and would bring a friend once or twice a week.” –Ward R.

“I didn’t eat the hot food in Wads ever. But the sandwich, salad, and stir fry/omelet area were fine. And the staff did great accommodating my food intolerances.” –Rachel S.

“Just had a mini reunion with friends from Tech and we were talking about the food in the dorms. The Egg McTech was the crowd favorite.  Alumni from circa 1990-1994.” –Roberta W.

“I appreciated the salad bar, but the free Nutella and pb toast with hot chocolate definitely contributed to my freshman 15.” –Taylor F.  

“I remember telling my mom how great the dorm food was (DHH 1980-81). She made it clear that she considered that news insulting which surprised me since I thought she’d be happy for me. I tend to be naturally optimistic and thought it was pretty cool that you could show up, take whatever you wanted, finish every meal with ice cream, eat with friends, and you didn’t even have to do any clean up. Honestly, I don’t remember thinking there was any problem with dorm food.” –Kathy H.

“My son is very happy with the food (guess that tells you how good a cook I am …or as the case might be…am NOT!). I was in Wadsworth 1980 – 1981. They had a suggestion box on the wall. I remember someone stuffed a “tuna surprise” in the suggestion box. Tuna surprise was basically a tuna fish sandwich but on a hot dog bun.” –Molly B.

“I don’t know, I just graduated last year and to be honest the food in McNair was really really good. High quality food, prepared well, and there were a great variety of options for any diet. I’ll admit though that the food is noticeably less quality in the other dining halls, especially Wads.” –Hal H.

“Keweenaw Bowl, tacos, homemade pizza all great. Whatever “Greek food” they tried to make (gyros) were completely awful.” –Brittany K.

Dorm pizza in the 1970s.

“With proper installation, the Pizza we had in the 70s would double as a 10 year residential roof shingle. But…it was pizza and we always looked forward to it!! 😄😄” –Jim R.

“DHH’s greasy rotisserie hotdogs couldn’t hold a candle to Wads’ boiled doggies. Just like mom used to make…” –Matthew C.

When I was student cook in Co-Ed in early 70’s everything was Wonderful, 😄” –Randy S.

 

 

 


A Brief History of Women at Tech

By Emily Riippa | University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections

Photo from the 1980s of a Michigan Tech mining engineering student.

Huskies of yesterday and today will often mention “the ratio,” referring to the disproportionate number of male students compared to their female counterparts. According to the most recent statistics published by Undergraduate Admissions, women constitute some 28.2 percent of the Michigan Tech student body. This number may seem small, but it disguises a mighty tradition of accomplishment, innovation, and trailblazing. In honor of Women’s History Month, let’s take a whirlwind tour through how the lives of women at Tech have looked and changed over the years. Unfortunately, in such a small space as this, we can never do true justice to their stories!

Michigan Mining School admission record for Mary Louise Bunce dated Oct. 15, 1889.

Just four years after the Michigan Mining School was founded, at a time when coeducation was uncommon, the first women enrolled. Both Margaret McElhinney and Mary Louise Bunce taught in the public schools of Houghton, and in 1889 they became students themselves again, taking classes in chemistry and geology on a part-time basis. The number of women enrolled  remained small for many years, but their presence, once established, persisted. In 1933, Margaret Holley broke new ground for female Huskies by becoming the first woman to earn a bachelor’s degree from what was then called the Michigan College of Mining and Technology. Just a year later, she followed up her degree in general science with one in chemistry, then proceeded to a master’s program in general science again. So significant were Holley’s steps at Tech that she later served as a trustee and, under her married name of Margaret H. Chapman, helped to start a long-running scholarship fund in her name to support women’s education at Tech.

Women in a Michigan Tech lab.

The year that Margaret Holley finished her first bachelor’s degree, Tech enrolled a record-breaking number of fourteen “co-eds,” the nickname given to female students at the time. World War II changed not only the number of women at Tech but also the nature of what the college permitted them to study. Historically, women had been admitted to programs in science and some facets of engineering; Ilmi Watia, for example, received a civil engineering degree in 1938. Tech discouraged women from enrolling in certain mining engineering courses and highly technical programs. With young men away at war in vast numbers, however, the United States and Tech both found a need for women to step into roles that they had not otherwise filled. In 1943, the college promoted a new war training program for women that started to break down some of these barriers. The courses were intended for “all young women who wish to serve their country in this emergency by training themselves for essential jobs that carry pay commensurate with their vital importance,” according to a marketing brochure. Women completing the program–whose length varied from eight weeks to a year, depending on the course of study chosen–could immediately enter government or industrial work in roles ranging from the more traditional secretary to engineering technician, full professional practitioner (if they already had degrees in other subjects), and airplane ferry pilot. All courses carried college credit, and women who did not find the curricula of the war training programs to their fancy were encouraged to pursue the full range of coursework at MCMT, including technical fields.

The Smith House, which was used by female students.

From there, slowly and steadily, the population of Tech women continued to grow and blaze trails. In 1945, a women’s dorm opened in the house formerly occupied by Kappa Delta Psi. In the years that followed, the former residence of the Fred Smith family was converted to women’s housing, and, at various times, female students also resided in houses known by the names of Pryor and Robinson. The first woman to earn a degree from Tech in metallurgical and materials engineering graduated in 1947; the first female mechanical engineer at the college finished her program in 1948. By 1952, the college had begun efforts to recruit women in earnest, publishing pamphlets explaining the scientific and mathematical careers open to them with a degree from Tech. Women answered the call and enrolled in many courses of study, including forestry, biological sciences, and all varieties of engineering. By 1968, 8.5 percent of Michigan Tech students were female, rendering the college officially coeducational by the metrics of the time. That year, Co-Ed Hall (now known as McNair) opened to alleviate a shortage of on-campus housing for women. A few years prior, Wadsworth Hall had begun to offer a few spaces to female students. Douglass Houghton Hall, on the other hand, remained all-male until 1973.

Women at 2009 commencement.

Women’s involvement and visibility on campus continued to grow through the remainder of the 20th century. In the 1970s, for example, the first female cadets joined the Air Force ROTC program, and the first national sorority and women’s teams in nordic and alpine skiing came to campus. From 1975 to 1982, Michigan Tech’s nursing program graduated nearly 300 hundred women, representing a larger proportion of female enrollment than perhaps any other degree program on campus. Groups like Woman Sphere and Tech Women’s Connection formed to advocate for women’s issues and initiated important dialogues in the Michigan Tech community. Meanwhile, in 1993, a team of Michigan Tech women won the Intercollegiate Mining Competition, demonstrating both their prowess at mining techniques and the college’s historic roots. How appropriate for Michigan Tech women to literally break ground.

Michigan Tech student climbing.

In 1969, Dean Harold Meese wrote to the women of Tech that, in spite of being vastly outnumbered by men on campus, “you traditionally have more than overcome these odds academically by earning better grade point averages. This, I feel, is due to your above average intelligence and your strong desire to become a well educated person and to find a meaningful way of life.” Whether they joined the Husky family in 1889, 1959, 1999, or 2019, women at Michigan Tech have always exemplified a passion for knowledge and a dedication to leaving their mark on the world. They are making history, one day at a time.


What you said in January about Tech

From Facebook:

“Funny thing we live in a small town in Wisconsin. I am shooting pool and just met a 2014 mechanical engineer grad from Mich Tech that is an engineer at Sea Grave, a local fire truck manufacturer.” -TS

“My husband and I were at the bear sanctuary in Minnesota last summer. A Husky was doing an internship there. She knew my son. Also met an alum who was in his 80s. Small world.” -DB-A

“You can find Huskies everywhere! Especially if you’re wearing MTU gear or sporting a decal on your vehicle. We were at a bar in the small town of Crivitz, WI where I grew up and we found a Husky!” -CD

“We are in Pound. We were visiting our Husky out in Washington state this summer for his internship. We ran into probably 10 alumni. Amazing.” -JM

Always a favorite week at Tech. The sculptures look like they continue to be amazing” -Dawn F.

“One day in winter ’82-’83 I think. Not completely positive. Those details are are a little foggy. However, Jim’s food mart remained open that day, and I recall trekking over there with a sled and returning home with cases of survival essentials (of the liquid form)😂. We didn’t have fancy video games then, so we played euchre and poker and later on when we were really glowing we sledded down Agate Street from the top. Now that was a real thrill! Thankfully we had trustworthy spotters at the bottom waving us off if a car was coming down College Ave!” -Pete J.

“Back in 61–64 we closed once. The president looked out at Mt. Ripley and saw all the students over there skiing. ‘If they can make it to Mt Ripley they can make it to class! I’ll never close again.’” -David H.

“Sure did! Having Rosa Parks as the speaker at my graduation ceremony was one of many highlights of my time at MTU!” -Mary C.

“I was in my cap and gown. I think in the 4th row. I remember thinking at the time how petite she was. But yet, she had such a powerful presence.” Julie V.

“I always rode on my sorority’s dog sled. So much fun!” Tiffany M.

“White out so bad it was terrifying to try to cross 41. Would have probably been ‘81” -Mark C.

“ It was -35. My car was the only one that would start, so I had a car full of students from the apartments. We went to school. ’84 or ’85.” -Dan H.

“ Yes! Spring 1985, first day of spring term, I was at the Admin Building, changing some of my classes, signs everywhere that classes were canceled at noon. I went over to a friends house and NO ONE believed me! “Oh”, they said, “Tech never cancels”. So they went to class and I stayed in and watched TV!” -Sue G.

“When I was a Tech there was a story that the school was closed once and all the students took trays and went sledding.” -John H.


History of Tech’s Library (Yes, the actual library)

By Emily Riippa | University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections

Van Pelt and Opie Library in 2017.

Classes are back in full swing at Michigan Tech, and that means that students are hitting the books. Huskies can be spotted deep in concentration around lab equipment, state-of-the-art computers, well-decorated whiteboards, and, of course, library tables. Drive past the Van Pelt and Opie Library late at night, or walk through the first floor reading room in the afternoon, and you’ll find students meeting with friends and powering through problem sets with help from classmates. In recognition of the importance of the library to Tech students, the building closes completely only once a year, the night of Winter Carnival’s all-night snow statue competition. Though the library and its resources have been powering Huskies for decades, the space dedicated to the library and what it provides have seen significant changes. Let’s journey back into the Michigan Tech Archives to see the life of the library over more than a century.

Michigan College of Mines Library circa 1920s.

The library of the Michigan Mining School began with a gift of 3,000 bound volumes coordinated by J. Sturgis, a member of the Houghton County Historical Society; materials owned by the school’s faculty apparently supplemented these holdings. As enrollment grew and the Michigan Mining School became a college, the library blossomed. In 1912, to help students and professors alike make best use of the burgeoning collection, the Michigan College of Mines helpfully produced a “Handbook of the Library” to inform students about available materials, special features, and etiquette for this hallowed ground. By this point, the college’s books and other publications resided in a “fire-proof structure” that also housed the MCM geological and mineralogical collection. College business and executive offices shared the space, as well. As the Academic Office Building, the old library continues to host office spaces for various departments to this day.

Michigan Mining School stacks.

Those visiting the library were advised that the now “26,000 volumes, 14,000 pamphlets, and 1,450 maps” were “largely scientific and technical in character,” befitting the college’s curriculum. Future mining engineers could find “complete sets of all the important mining and engineering publications,” as well as “journals of scientific lines allied to mining engineering.” So patrons would be able to successfully navigate the two-winged brick building, the handbook included a useful sketch of the floorplan, showing the locations of books, newspapers, minerals, and the “modern equipment” of which library staff were proud. To clarify the availability of materials, the handbook explained that, while “the Library is intended for free reference use[,] the privilege of borrowing books for home use is accorded to all officers of instruction and to all registered students. This privilege is extended to all responsible persons who apply to the librarian for it.” Now, faculty and students are joined by all Michigan Tech staff members in enjoying the ability to check out books, and community members may also apply for courtesy cards allowing them the same opportunity.

Michigan Tech library in the academic office building.

A growing library with a diverse collection needed able workers to sustain it. In 1940, the Daily Mining Gazette published a profile of the Michigan College of Mining and Technology that explored its staff and the special collections in their charge. Librarian Madeleine Gibson, an alumna of Wellesley College and the University of Wisconsin who remained at Tech for 35 years, led the trio. Under her worked two library assistants, Florence McGee (who also served as a cataloger) and Lillian Combellack. The three women oversaw holdings that had grown to 39,000 “books and bound serials, and a collection of pamphlets on scientific and engineering subjects.” Gibson, McGee, and Combellack also cared for a depository of documents produced by the federal government and the Michigan state government. The Gazette noted that a special display case had been designated as housing for the “John M. Longyear Spitzbergen collection, consisting of books, magazine articles and pamphlets on Spitzbergen.” The eponymous Longyear, a lumber baron and former member of the university’s Board of Control, had established a coal mining company on the remote Norwegian island territory of Spitzbergen (also known as Spitsbergen), and materials pertaining to the company logically found a home at the MCMT. Students whose interests bent more to music than Norwegian mining could check out a set of musical books “donated by the Carnegie corporation of New York City.” Patrons could peruse the shelves during the extensive reading room hours held six days a week.

New library “snowbreaking” in 1965.

By the 1962-1963 academic year, the library building was bursting at the seams. Campus boasted over 2,700 students in more than twenty fields of study, and the library, built to accommodate a much smaller collection and student body, now housed 78,000 volumes. Governor George Romney requested $750,000 in planning funds for a new library from the state legislature, a decision that Tech president J.R. Van Pelt credited with expediting the construction by two years. Herman Gundlach, Inc., submitted the successful bid for the general contract, and work began shortly thereafter, with a “snowbreaking” held on February 11, 1965. The building, situated just east of the Memorial Union Building on College Avenue, totaled 80,000 square feet over four stories, offered space for 225,000 volumes, and seated 1,000 students. According to a December 1964 press release, each of these figures represented a six-fold increase of the prior capacity. The design of the library also emphasized “flexibility provided by a modular plan of construction,” simultaneously reducing the number of interior walls, and created private study areas “around the periphery of the stacks.” Graduate students and faculty enjoyed designated study spaces, and new homes were made for the Michigan Tech Archives, microforms, and typing stations. In a move that might seem confusing to modern eyes, the design prominently incorporated a smoking room for patrons. On October 29, 1966, dignitaries gathered at a large dedication ceremony for the completed new facility, which architect Ralph Calder characterized as “the most inspiring” of campus buildings “because it is the intellectual focus on campus.” The library subsequently received the name of J.R. Van Pelt, in honor of the president who led Tech during its construction.

Van Pelt Library in 1999.

Time marched on, and campus growth and development once again compelled changes to the library building. When the North Central Association made a university accreditation visit in the 1997-1998 school year, reviewers suggested that Tech “plan to increase the size and scope of library resources” and find funding for future improvements of the library physical plant. A proposal in 2000 to create a Center for Integrated Learning and Information Technology (CILIT), which would help to provide some of the improvements and connect the library to Fisher Hall, met with some resistance from staff writers at the Lode, and the building, as proposed, never came to fruition. Instead, the suggested CILIT structure became Rekhi Hall. Meanwhile, a $5 million donation from John Opie (class of 1961) and his wife Ruanne funded the most extensive renovation and expansion of the library since the mid-1960s construction. The Opie Library expansion to the Van Pelt Library, dedicated in April 2005, created a soaring new reading room with a prominent glass front, two dozen study rooms for team projects and collaboration, and “the latest technologies, including an information wall” to provide “the latest on library and campus activities, as well as a steady stream of news and weather.” In the 54,000 square feet of additional space, students also had access to a large number of public computers. Meanwhile, visitors to the garden level would find the archives had been moved from their place on the second floor to a new, purpose-built facility that expanded reading room seating and provided secure, climate-controlled storage for irreplaceable historical records.

Postcard of the Van Pelt Library.

The building may be different, from its style to its location; the collection may have grown from 3,000 to several hundred thousand volumes; the smoking room may, thankfully, have given way to computer labs and cafes. Despite the changes over the years, it’s undeniable that the library has always been and remains a cornerstone of Michigan Tech.

What memories of the library stand out for you?


University Cancellations

Instances Michigan Tech closed campus / cancelled classes.

Information sourced from alumni comments, past issues of Tech Alum Newsletter and local media. Comment below and help us fill in the blanks!

Date Reason Closed
Jan. 26, 1938 Snow/Wind
Nov. 22, 1963 Half Day; President Kennedy assassination
Nov. 25, 1963 President Kennedy funeral [per Kenneth Kok]
1964 Half Day; Snow
Fall 1967 Half Day; Power Outage [per Delbert Eggert]
Nov. 27, 1967 Snow (road closures prevented students from returning from break) [per Tom Porritt]
May 1970 Student Protests (following shootings at Kent State) [per John Baker]
Jan. 25, 1972

Snow (perhaps only some professors canceled [per Jim Rosteck])

Nov. 10, 1975 Half Day; Power Outage (Day of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald) [per Garth Bayette]
Nov. 11, 1975 Power Outage (storm/high winds) [per Garth Bayette]
1979 Rain/Flooding [per Michael Sprague] 
1979 Snow
Jan. 18, 1982 Cold/Snow
1983 Half Day
Dec. 2, 1985

“Thanksgiving Drive” Many roads closed – students unable to return to campus following Thanksgiving break.

Jan. 19, 1994 Half Day; Cold (campus closed at noon)
Jan. 20, 1994 Half Day; Cold (campus opened at noon)
Jan. 18, 1996 Snow (also the day of the bank robbery/hostage situation at MFC-First National Bank in Houghton)
Potentially a second day of closure that month [per Dulci Avouris and Brian Juopperi]
1997 Cold/Snow/Wind
2000 Cold/Wind
Sept. 11, 2001 Half Day; 9/11 (maybe not an official closure)
Nov. 5, 2001 Partial Campus Closure; Bomb threat at U.J. Noblet Forestry Building
Nov. 14-15, 2002 Power Outage (electrical cable failure) [per J Haapala and Becky Ong]
Summer 2003 Power Outage (Squirrel ate wires in a transformer)
Mar. 2, 2007

Snow

Jan. 30, 2008

Snow/Wind

Feb. 29, 2012 Half Day; Snow/Wind
Feb. 19, 2013 Half Day; Snow/Cold — Career Fair still held
Feb. 20, 2013 Snow/Cold — Career Fair Interviews still held
Feb. 21, 2014 Half Day; Snow/Wind
July 22, 2016 Power Outage (repairing transformer problem in Daniell Heights)
June 18, 2018 Flood — Day after Father’s Day Flood
Jan. 30, 2019 Cold/Snow
Jan. 31, 2019 Cold/Snow 
Feb. 25, 2019 Snow/Wind (25+ inches and gusts up to 68 MPH)