Category: Alumni News

Scholarship Spotlight — West Michigan Chapter Scholarship

A group of Michigan Tech alumni has turned its social events into a significant benefit for Michigan Tech students. Members of the West Michigan Chapter of MTU Alumni, through events like pasty sales and pickled egg contests, are helping students complete their education through an endowed scholarship fund.

Kevin Grzelak has been involved with the West Michigan Chapter since 1997 and its president since 2003. He’s seen activity for the Chapter increase with the high number of Tech alumni living in the area. 

“We weren’t trying to raise money initially, but we started making a little money,” he said. “Then someone donated a fishing charter that we raffled off. It wasn’t long until we decided we should use the funds to start the scholarship.”

Events used to raise the funds include annual events like a Chapter Spring Dinner, a Vollwerth’s pasty sale, a golf outing, raffles for fishing charters, and a pickled egg contest.

Scholarship recipients are high school graduates from the counties of Allegan, Barry, Lake, Kent, Mason, Mecosta, Muskegan, Montcalm, Newaygo, Oceana, and Ottawa on the lower peninsula’s west side. Priority is given to children of Michigan Tech alumni. Students must maintain a 2.5 GPA, and the scholarship is renewable for up to five years.

Over the last 10 years, 14 students have received scholarships to continue their education. Many more will be helped as the endowment balance approaches $100,000.

“The work of the chapter and putting on events is spread over a large group of alumni,” said Grzelak. “We split up the tasks. It’s a pretty active group with good camaraderie, and we’re happy to support our alma mater.”

Contribute to the West Michigan Alumni Chapter Scholarship or support the Annual Fund Scholarship for any student with need.


Remembering Olsson and Santeford

Professor Emeritus Milton Olsson Passes Away

by Mark Wilcox, University Marketing and Communications

An educator, composer and conductor who spent more than three decades leading choral and orchestral groups at Michigan Tech has died. Professor Emeritus Milton Olsson died Saturday at UP Health System – Portage hospital in Hancock from complications resulting from catastrophic injuries he sustained in October. He was 80.

Milt Olsson

Olsson came to Michigan Tech in 1976 as director of choral and orchestral activities. His establishment of the Michigan Tech Concert Choir and his work as director of the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra (KSO) quickly brought him to prominence in the arts and music scene not only in the Upper Peninsula but throughout the state. Under his guidance, the Michigan Tech Concert Choir grew from less than 20 to nearly 100 members. Olsson began the Concert Choir’s tradition of performing internationally.

In 1993 Olsson was appointed the first chair of Tech’s newly created Department of Fine Arts, now known as the Department of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA). Olsson’s efforts and influence reached far beyond the MTU campus. He was a past president of the American Choral Directors Association of Michigan and was in high demand as a choral adjudicator and clinician.

Olsson earned degrees in music theory and composition from Wayne State University and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Colorado-Boulder in the literature and performance of choral music.

Olsson was widely respected as a composer and arranger and had several of his compositions performed by the KSO and other orchestras.

Among his highlights at Michigan Tech was the performance of his composition “MASS,” written to celebrate the opening of the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts in 2000.

According to his family, one of the most cherished memories of Olsson’s career was conducting the KSO with rock music legend Alan Parsons. The performances featured his son PJ Olsson, who is the Alan Parsons Project lead singer, and some of Olsson’s arrangements. They produced four sold-out shows.

In 2009 Olsson retired from Michigan Tech but remained active and vital in the music and fine arts community, and served as conductor of the Keweenaw Youth Symphony. 

Jared Anderson, chair of VPA, commented on Olsson’s legacy.

“Milt Olsson’s musical legacy will reverberate throughout the Michigan Tech community for generations. He was a gifted conductor, composer, teacher, mentor, administrator, visionary and friend. Joel Neves and I often joke that it took two of us to replace one Milt Olsson. He will be sorely missed in our lives and in the lives of so many students that he inspired over his long career at Michigan Tech, from 1976 to 2009.” 

Neves, the current conductor of the KSO, said the success of the orchestra is due in large part to the foundation laid by Olsson.

“Milt was a legend here in the Keweenaw: Everyone knew him, everyone loved him. I will be forever grateful for his personal mentorship and friendship, and of course his stunning musical mind,” said Neves. “Milt dreamed big and was hugely influential in the building of the Rozsa Center and taking the Concert Choir and Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra to greater heights. His artistic legacy is only matched by his humanity and kindness toward all. He was a great man, father, artist and colleague.”

Among Olsson’s survivors are his wife Trudy and their sons, Dave (Karyn), Stephan (Cathy) and PJ; and grandchildren, Cameron, Amelia, Ana, Kinzli, Bella and Sophia. He was preceded in death by his grandson Remi. 

There will be no funeral, but a memorial service is being considered for the future. The family is encouraging those who wish to, to give to the Milton Olsson Endowed Scholarship at Michigan Tech


Professor Emeritus Henry Santeford Remembered

by University Marketing and Communications

Michigan Tech professor emeritus Henry Santeford passed away peacefully at his Superior Location home, surrounded by his family, on Sunday, Feb. 14, following a lengthy illness. Santeford, a Michigan Tech alumnus who spent more than two decades teaching at his alma mater, was 78.

A native of Chicago Heights, Ill., Santeford earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Michigan Tech and PhD from Colorado State University. In 1972, he joined the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences as a staff research hydrologist in Washington, D.C.

Santeford’s love of snow, ice and mountains made him the perfect candidate to head up the first National Weather Service/NOAA field station tasked with unraveling the mysteries of Alaska’s hydrology. His passion for teaching lured him back to academia at the University of Alaska, where he lectured at both the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses. In 1974, he was the recipient of Michigan Tech’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award.

In 1980, Santeford joined the faculty of Michigan Tech teaching water resource engineering with a focus in cold regions hydrology in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Highly respected by his students, he received the Chi Epsilon Outstanding Faculty Award multiple times, was the faculty advisor for the MTU Ridge Roamers and the Four Wheelers Club and was an active board member of the John Wesley House. He retired as professor emeritus in June 2001.

Following his passing in February, several former students remembered Santeford on Facebook:

  • “Dr. Santeford was one of my favorite professors at Tech. And I use the things I learned from him in my career to this day. I’m grateful for the energy and passion he invested in his students!”
  • “One of my favorite professors at Tech! He was animated, funny and had passion for his position, students and community. I’ll never forget his State jokes and I learned a lot about hydrology!”
  • “He made an impression on all of us — he was so lively and fun with his course work. I loved our labs — we were always making something cool to observe how water flowed and moved in different scenarios.”
  • “Dr. Santeford’s last year teaching was during my senior year in 2001. He helped shape the course of my career with his classes in hydraulic structures and hydrology. I remember him and his lessons with great fondness.”

Santeford was a 35-year fixture in the holiday kitchens of Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly and, as the son of a carpenter, he constructed the large oak cross hanging in the sanctuary of Grace United Methodist Church in Houghton, where he was a member. Among his survivors are his wife of 52 years, Sally, and their daughter, Jodi Santeford of Chicago.


Alumni Snow Statue Contest Results

Thanks to all the Michigan Tech alumni and employees who participated in our inaugural contest. Congratulations to our winners!

Multi-Day Snow Statue

Gold Medal

Multi-Day Snow Statue – Winner

Title: Paw Patrol Tackles Covid Boredom
Caption: “Ice or Snow We’re Ready to Go!”
Participants: Greg Mooren ’06, Molly Mooren ’06, Jana Fogarty ’05, Josh Fogarty ’03, Brian Mooren ’03, Mellisa Mooren ’02, Joe Mooren ’00, Sarah Mooren ’00, and children.
Location: Appleton, Wisconsin
Story: Doing a snow statue this year was particularly appealing to us as we seek creative ways to keep ourselves and our kids from going stir crazy, especially in the winter weather. Our kids love Paw Patrol and was great motivation to get out of the house and be active! The Paw Patrol’s motto is “No problem is too big, no pup is too small” which seems like a great thing to keep in mind as we face the challenges of COVID.


Silver Medal

Multi-Day Snow Statue – Second Place

Title: “Budd Torchorbit: Space Wrangler”
Participant: Max Dehtiar ’06
Location: Saginaw, Michigan
Statue Story: Galactic threats are ever present – especially the plots of evil emperor Gruz. But never fear – here comes interstellar space wrangler Budd Torchorbit! Now you can have your own Budd with this 1:8 scale action figure! Communicate with mission control, protect life forms with your laser, and fall with style with your amazing retractable wings! (Building bricks pictured not included).


Bronze Medal

Multi-Day Snow Statue – Third Place

Title: “Team TMNT/Looking back at our favorite childhood cartoons, we remember having many snowy cowabunga afternoons.”
Participants: Laurie Stark (’08/current employee), Ashley Ploetz (’08), Ryan Ploetz (’08), Susan Mattila (’08)
Location: Hancock, Michigan
Story: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon holds a special place in our hearts. The original cartoon was created in 1987 and was a 90’s classic. We remember watching Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael battle creatures, criminals, and invaders of all sorts before disappearing back down to the storm sewers to enjoy pizza in their lair! 
Our scene unfolds in that very lair where their pizza dinner has been interrupted by supervillain Shredder. Turtle Power! The ninja turtles quickly grab their weapons and pose for attack while their rat sensei, Splinter, looks on from behind, pleased at how much they have learned. Their weapons, made of ice, include throwing stars, nunchucks, a sword, and batons. Cowabunga! From the looks of it, they will soon defeat their enemy and be back to relaxing on the couch and eating pizza in no time!


24-Hour Snow Statue

24-Hour Snow Statue – Winner

Title: “I SHOULD HAVE TAKEN THAT LEFT TURN AT SAINT IGNACE!”
Participants: Wendy (Goodhue) Peffers ’92 and Dave Peffers ’91
Location: Pella, Iowa
Story: Bugs Bunny is always making the wrong turn underground on his way to a new destination. He has emerged only to find himself closer to the End of Earth than Houghton, his destination for the exciting Winter Carnival at Michigan Technological University. Bugs is examining his map to find out where he went wrong. A two-by-four is used to support the main body of the sign. One-by-ones were used to support the arms on Bugs Bunny. His teeth and map are made from sheets of ice.


24-Hour Snow Statue – Second Place

Title: “Snowby Doo”
Participants: Susan Conradson ’94 ’96 and Erica Conradson (future alumna)
Location: Cadillac, Michigan
Story: Snowby Doo is on the case of “where is the missing Houghton snow” and the answer is “in Cadillac, Michigan”.  He decided he no longer needs his trusty side kicks of Fred, Velma and Daphine since they are too much work to handle in a 24-hour building period with just one alumni and her 12-year old apprentice.  This statue was chosen because well, Scooby Doo is the coolest (yes, pun intended) crime fighting cartoon dog around.  He sits around 5 feet tall, and as you can see from the photo, he has put on a few pounds..likely due to eating Snowby Snacks or drinking too many fishbowls and eating too many pasties?? and he says, he is okay with Huskies…just no poodles please.


Other Entries

Title: “Ice Music: Salve Regina”
Story: After working for years on the Ice Church for St. Albert the Great as a Tech student, I didn’t just leave that behind after graduation. This past summer, I did some research on instruments that could be made out of ice. I made this pagophone (from the Greek for “voice of ice”) by carefully shaving ice blocks with a chisel. Played here is the ancient church hymn “Salve Regina”.

Pagophone — Salve Regina


Title: “Mumble dances his way to success”
Statue Story: Mumble is a baby emperor penguin that was born to dance, while all other emperor penguins naturally are born to sing. This makes Mumble an outsider amongst the other penguins. His dancing eventually wears on the other penguins and he gets kicked out of Emperor Land and winds up at Michigan Tech. Mumble feels right at home with the 200+ inches of snow and cold weather. He goes on to graduate from Tech with a double major in Performing Arts and Computer Science. He then finds his way back to Emperor Land where he opens his own dance club and virtual reality arcade. The dance club doesn’t get much interest, but the penguins are curious about the virtual reality. Mumble realizes this and writes some killer code that makes it seem like the penguins are great dancers in virtual reality. The penguins love how they look with their cool dance moves, suave clothing, and 80’s big hairstyles. They can’t get enough of it and are eventually inspired to learn how to dance for real.


Title: “Everest From the Paw Patrol, Made from Snow Sculpted by Trolls”
Story: Her name is Everest from the Paw Patrol. Our kids love Paw Patrol and thought Everest would be the perfect pup because she is a husky and loves the snow!


All Things Winter Carnival for Alumni

Due to COVID-19, Winter Carnival 2021 will look different than years past. Blue Key is focused on maintaining a positive Winter Carnival experience for Michigan Tech students. That means changes to the all-nighter and many events going virtual. Check out the announcements on the Winter Carnival website

Alumni-Student Broomball for 2021 Canceled
With the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services restrictions regarding athletic tournaments, the alumni-student tournament will take a year off in 2021.

Make Your Own Snow Statue for the Alumni “Snow” Statue Contest
Participate at home in the most cherished of Michigan Tech traditions! The Michigan Tech Alumni Board of Directors has partnered with Blue Key and Alumni Engagement to offer a “Snow” Statue Contest for alumni and their friends and families.

We encourage all alumni to enjoy Winter Carnival 2021 from a distance. If you do venture to campus, please respect guidelines for masks, social distancing, and gatherings. Help us stay at Campus Health and Safety Level Three so we can continue our hands-on learning moving forward.


Dean of Students Bonnie Gorman Retires

Dr. Bonnie Gorman, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, retired at the conclusion of the fall semester, ending a remarkable 24-year career at Michigan Tech.

During that time, she served in a number of key roles and collaborated with staff and students to launch Orientation Week, Make a Difference Day, Homecoming Cardboard Boats, the Waino Wahtera Center for Student Success and so much more. Bonnie was committed to student success both in and out of the classroom. Over the years, she implemented a variety of programs to help students prioritize their physical and mental health, grow as leaders, and be academically successful.

In 2014, Bonnie heard from students about their need for food assistance and within a year, she started the Husky FAN (Food Access Network).  The pantry continues to meet a critical need for students experiencing food insecurity, especially during this past year.

Bonnie is well known for her Meet the Dean of Students buttons which she distributed as a way to meet all incoming students each fall. #tenacity

Comment below to thank Bonnie for her service to Michigan Tech and share a memory.


Show Us Your Husky Mask

Using our Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn channels back in December, we offered Michigan Tech Alumni a free mask in exchange for updating their contact info.

We’re happy to say that we’ve given out our entire supply of 1,500 masks!

Thanks to those alumni who shared photos of themselves with their masks. A gallery of photos we’ve seen is below.

Even though we’re out of masks, we encourage you to give us your updated contact information. We’ll be able to let you know about alumni reunion, future alumni events in your area or other things happening on campus. You can do so here.

If you’d like to purchase a Michigan Tech mask, they are available at University Images.


Alumni Snow Statue Contest

Calling all alumni! Participate in the most cherished of Michigan Tech traditions.

Here’s your chance to show your family and friends what an iron is really for. Or maybe you’ve had a great idea for a “snow” statue made out of something other than snow.

We know that nothing compares to snow in the Keweenaw. We also hold tightly to our Tech traditions like Winter Carnival. 

For Winter Carnival 2021, the Michigan Tech Alumni Board of Directors has partnered with Blue Key and Alumni Engagement to offer a “Snow” Statue Contest for alumni and their friends and families. 

The contest runs through January 31, 2021, with a midnight EST deadline. Judging begins after that, with winners announced on February 4.

There will be multiple categories for competition, accounting for a variety of materials that may be available to our alumni as well as multi-day and single day events.

Contest Rules

Contest runs January 1-31 with a midnight EST deadline. Participants must include at least one Michigan Tech alumnus/alumna

Categories

  • Snow Statue – 24 Hour
  • Snow Statue – Multi-day
  • Other Material* Statue – 24 Hour
  • Other Material* Statue – Multi-day
  • Fabricated Statue**
  • Virtual Statue***

Statues should be self-supporting and sculptural (three dimensional) 

*Other materials could include such things as sand, clay, wood, LegoⓇ bricks, styrofoam, metal, glass, and plastic. 

**Fabricated (e.g., 3D-printed, cast, machined) statues must be original designs by participant(s) (not templates) and will be judged separately from other materials.

***Virtual statues include 3D drawings, animation or other virtual designs.

Statues must include a name and title/caption (e.g., Sigma Mu Delta, “Oh No! It’s the Loch Ice Monster” ). 

Statue descriptions may be included in the entry form. Please see example below. 

“The legend of the Loch Ness Monster becomes a chilling reality for two hapless fishermen on Loch Ness. The fisherman in the front of the boat is frozen in terror while his companion continues to reel in his catch. A few fish poke their heads out of the water to view the scene. The backdrop is a looming Scottish castle from which an ominous Scotsman drones on his bagpipes in honor of the monster’s visit from the depths. A two by four is used in the axis of the Scotsman as are thin wooden dowels in the individual pipes of the fishermen. Rope, string, and a thin wooden dowel are used in the fishing pole.”

Additional coloring (beyond your material base color) may only be used in the lettering of your group’s name, insignia, or statue title/caption. Coloring is limited to the statue title block; absolutely no coloring can be used on the statue itself.

Statues will be judged based on photos and entry form submitted. Winners will be announced February 4, 2021, and featured in a special Winter Carnival Alumni eNewsletter in February.

Entry Forms:
Use this form if you have a Gmail account
Use this form if you do not have a Gmail account

Email questions to mtualumnistatue@gmail.com


Alumni and Friends Virtual Book Club

Beginning January 12, join us as we journey along with Michigan Tech alum, Vic Foerster ’74, as he recounts some of his many adventures on his beloved Isle Royale. Through Naked in the Stream, we will travel with Vic and his friend, Ken, observing nature, the people they encounter, and the absolute laws of mother nature.

This experience will be both via live “zoom” coffee chats (weekly on Tuesdays from 2-2:30pm) and optional written discussions. Vic will join us at the conclusion for a live author address!

Week 1: January 12:  Chapters: Prologue – Little Brothers and Sisters

Week 2: January 19:  Chapters: Of Moose and Wolves – From the Water

Week 3: January 26:  Chapters: Top of the Food Chain – The Waves of  Minong

Week 4: February 2:  Chapters: The Crossing – Men, Women, Canoes and Kayaks

Week 5: February 9:  Chapters: Fishing for Words – Naked in the Stream

Week 6: February 16: Author Address

Click here to register today!

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the book so that you are ready to make the journey with Vic and Ken to Isle Royale!

If you have any questions feel free to contact Heather Sander, Assistant Director – Alumni Programming at hesander@mtu.edu or (906) 487-2466.