Category: Alumni

Time & Talent Showcases the Power of Knowledge Exchange

Time & Talent (T&T) is a testament to Michigan Tech’s commitment to fostering meaningful connections between the University and its alumni. The program, led by the Office of Alumni Engagement, has become an ongoing narrative of volunteerism and knowledge sharing.

In October, the T&T program invited a group of talented alumni to return to campus where they engaged with current students, faculty, and staff through presentations, lectures, and learning opportunities. Representing the October cohort of T&T guests were four alumni whose achievements span a variety of fields:

  • John Helge ’76 (Forestry)
  • Bruce Kuffer ’71 (Civil Engineering)
  • Paul Meneghini ’93 (Civil Engineering)
  • Brian Schwanitz ’77 (Applied Geophysics)
L-R: Paul Meneghini, Brian Schwanitz, Bruce Kuffer, John Helge

This assembly of accomplished professionals brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to campus. Their collective expertise covered a wide range of industries, including oil and gas, industrial water treatment, business development, operations management, and trenchless technologies for sanitation, water, and pipeline sectors.

During the visit, each alumnus served as a guest lecturer in a mix of classes that matched his practice. Where Helge spoke in classes such as Experiences in Environmental Engineering and Intro to Sustainability and Resilience, Schwanitz addressed students in Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Formation Evaluation and Petroleum Engineering. Meneghini and Kuffer both met with students from various disciplines, including Professional Development, Community Development and Planning, Social Sciences, Public Speaking and Multimedia, and Introduction to Public Policy.

Their collective wisdom resonated with a common theme: the importance of communication skills, no matter the industry. Kuffer, in particular, emphasized the significance of recognizing and learning what he coined as “the soft side of engineering,” which proved to be the key attribute of his successful career.

In addition to guest lectures and presentations, the cohort also met with various Michigan Tech staff and student organizations, including the Student Leadership and Involvement Office, Husky Innovate, Blue Key Executive Board, Law Club, Green Campus Enterprise team, and the Society for Environmental Engineering, where they not only shared their knowledge and expertise but also provided valuable guidance on how to navigate and succeed in a professional career.

Previously, the Office of Alumni Engagement hosted Tom Seel for the Time & Talent program. A 1985 mechanical engineering graduate, Seel shared decades of valuable experiences with students and faculty during his September visit.

The Time & Talent initiative isn’t just about a singular event; this University-wide program aims to bring a diverse cohort of alumni back to campus every semester. These cohorts may feature new rosters or the return of previous guests, depending on what schedules allow. As the Time & Talent initiative continues to grow, we anticipate additional volunteer opportunities to arise for alumni along the way. Whether through Time & Talent or other volunteerism, the Office of Alumni Engagement encourages all alumni to stay connected and active through a variety of events and opportunities.

Stay tuned for more interactions and upcoming Time & Talent events that promise to add new dimensions to the rich tapestry of alumni connections at Michigan Tech.

Interested in volunteering or know an alumnus who would be a good fit? Submit the nomination form on our website or contact Jordan Shawhan via email or call 906-487-3575.

Fall in the Keweenaw

After some unseasonal warmth, the crisp, cool air of fall is on the way. As fair winds transition to cooler breezes, the Copper Country leaves prepare to dance. Color touring in the Keweenaw is a rite of passage for everyone at Michigan Tech and many keep fond memories of exploring the fresh coasts, lush forests, and the forgotten ghost towns of the region. To spark some fond memories or inspire a modern-day color tour, here is a vintage, undated image of the ghost town at Central, Michigan (Keweenaw County) accented by rich fall color. Did you have a favorite place to explore in the autumn? Let us know in the comments!

Wickstroms Fund Scholarships in Their Father’s Memory

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.

Photo of Carly Lindquist, Betty Wickstrom Kendrick, Phil Wickstrom, Jean Wickstrom Liles, and John Myaard.
The Wickstroms hosted two of their scholarship recipients for lunch at their family summer home in Christmas, Michigan. Pictured (l-r): Carly Lindquist, Betty Wickstrom Kendrick, Phil Wickstrom, Jean Wickstrom Liles, and John Myaard.

“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.”

West Michigan Event Report: Summer 2023

Alumni and friends in the West Michigan area have been enjoying a variety of events, from the annual Spring Dinner to baseball games, and sending off new Huskies to Houghton! If you’d like to follow along with what is happening in the West Michigan area, check out the West Michigan Alumni Facebook Page.

Spring Dinner — April 2023

Michigan Tech alumni in the West Michigan area attended the annual Spring Dinner at the Egypt Valley Country Club in Ada. The evening featured two distinguished keynote speakers: K&A Founder Mark Kieser ’88 and Mike Foster ’11 ’20, who is working for K&A on the Mona Lake cleanup project. K&A is an environmental science-engineering firm focusing on water resources. The two gave an engaging presentation on the Mona Lake cleanup and shared how they are taking it “From ick to awe”. Emily Rounavaara, assistant director of Alumni Engagement, awarded door prizes based on trivia questions that included tuition and room and board costs in 1974 and the year when Dave Cox ’76 attended Michigan Tech. Jim Mitchell ’65 also contributed to the evening by sharing a history of Tech coaches, providing a fascinating glimpse into the University’s past.

Whitecaps Baseball Game + BBQ — June 2023

Michigan Tech alumni gathered at LMCU Ballpark for a barbeque before the Saturday night game between the West Michigan Whitecaps and the Great Lakes Loons. Thirty people enjoyed a great buffet and had the opportunity to win MTU-branded door prizes, courtesy of the Michigan Tech Office of Alumni Engagement. The West Michigan Whitecaps compiled 14 hits while the pitching staff dominated for a much-needed win and 10-0 shutout of the Great Lakes Loons in front of 7,902 fans—a season high in attendance.

New Student Send-Off — August 2023

West Michigan alumni helped send off first-year students to Houghton at Millennium Park. Kona Ice served gourmet shaved ice and Schmohz Brewery provided root beer. Tom Hampton, regional admissions manager, organized the event that drew 46 incoming students and their family members. There were several alumni and existing students present to share their stories with new students. Each of the new students had the opportunity to introduce themselves and share something about their field of interest, and what they are looking forward to at Michigan Tech. Following introductions, the students came together for a group photo that marked the beginning of their exciting adventures at the University.

Welcome to Michigan Tech, Class of 2027!

Paying It Forward: Seel Gives Back Through Time & Talent

After retirement, Tom Seel is entering his next chapter through mentorship and meaningful connections.

Graduating from Michigan Tech in 1985 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering, Tom Seel spent 35 years dedicated to a successful career in the automotive industry. Seeking a way to share his expertise and prepare current students for the evolving worlds of industry and academia, he found the perfect avenue to fulfill this purpose through the Time & Talent (T&T) initiative at Michigan Tech.

Tom Seel
Tom Seel ’85

“My career was completely rewarding and absorbing. Upon retirement, I realized that I now had time and relevant knowledge,” Seel said. “From my perspective, that time and knowledge came with a responsibility to share. Tech started my career with a well-rounded pragmatic engineering education. Logically the place to share is where it started. The mission of the Time & Talent initiative was a perfect match.”

The impact of alumni involvement in higher education extends beyond the classroom, especially at Michigan Tech. T&T creates opportunities for alumni engagement by connecting talented Michigan Tech alumni to current students, faculty, and staff through guest lectures, presentations, and learning opportunities.

Efforts from T&T volunteers like Dan Green ‘83 and Jenny Johnson help unlock the potential of a program like Time & Talent. Leveraging alumni networks for student success, Johnson reconnected with Seel to discuss his interest—the timing couldn’t have been better.

“As an alumni, Time & Talent is about building relationships with students and professors. I can honestly say I gained new insights from the students with each guest lecture I gave,” Seel said. “Thank you is due to the professors who were willing to give up some of the valuable class time with students. It was clear to me that these professors understood the value of adding some industrial perspectives into the classroom. Tech is a special place and it is great to see and contribute to programs like Time & Talent.”

Seel’s sentiments continued to express appreciation for the faculty involved, including Ruth Archer, Laura Connolly, James DeClerck, Darrell L. Robinette, and Manish Srivastava, representing Michigan Tech’s Enterprise Program, College of Business, Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, and Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology.

For economics professor Laura Connolly, Seel’s wealth of experience afforded the ability to connect what students learn in the classroom to their future careers, emphasizing how cross-disciplinary knowledge enhanced his career success by understanding both business and engineering aspects. Connolly saw firsthand the potential of alumni-student programming.

The Time & Talent program has the potential to create a lasting impact on many students. The program not only directly connects alumni with current students, but it also illustrates to students the benefits of giving back as they progress in their careers.

Laura Connolly

In the words of Joseph Kodwo Awuni, a graduate student studying mechanical engineering, the Time & Talent initiative creates practical benefits for students seeking guidance and preparation for their future careers.

“It really helps, definitely. Now that we are going into the field, we need some form of experience and then some form of guidance. Alumni are already exposed to some of these things,” Awuni said. “So, when they come around we are able to listen to their experiences. We are taught about current trends in the industry and it helps and prepares us to also think for ourselves as young engineers who are now entering the field.”

After a distinguished career, the Time & Talent initiative at Michigan Tech allowed Tom Seel an opportunity to share decades of experience with students and faculty. Through guest lectures and volunteer connections, the program not only bridges the gap between academia and industry but also highlights the importance of giving back.

A Message from President Koubek

Last week heralded a new beginning for nearly 1600 students starting their academic journey at Michigan Tech. Here are a few facts about this year’s entering class:

  • Applications for undergraduate and graduate education were both at all time highs with over 22,000 undergraduate applications and over 33,000 graduate applications.
  • Michigan Tech enrolled a freshmen class on par with the last two years, making these last three classes the largest since the early 1980s.
  • Female enrollment continues to grow, positioned to be the largest number of women in Michigan Tech’s history. This also holds true for domestic ethnicity/racially underrepresented students.
  • New undergraduate students come from 35 states with the largest out of state class Michigan Tech has ever seen. Illinois is now our second largest out of state population after Wisconsin. This is followed by Minnesota and Texas.
  • Academic credentials of this class are aligned with the last two years making these three classes the most academically talented in institutional history (as measured by GPA).

It’s no surprise that our excellent academic programs are driving unprecedented interest from our students at a rate outpacing national trends. This is certainly boosted by the latest Wall Street Journal rankings, which named Michigan Tech 16th overall among U.S. public universities on the WSJ’s list of Best U.S. Colleges 2024.

As our student population grows, so does our campus infrastructure. The H-STEM Engineering and Health Technologies Complex is nearing completion. Renovated space will be used as classrooms and learning labs. The addition will house high-tech, flexible laboratory spaces, teaching labs, offices, and common areas that will meet current industry standards for safe operation and the training of students.

And, soon we will break ground on a new 512 bed residential building located on the east side of campus. This is in addition to several renovation projects underway including classroom and teaching lab renovations, new gym equipment in the Student Development Center, and elevator replacements. We are also delighted to announce the addition of Alumni Way, thanks to the generosity of one of our donors.

Our corporate partners have also embraced this growth, proven by the unprecedented 391 companies that are registered to participate in Michigan Tech’s career fair later this month, and another 18 companies on the waiting list.

As companies look to make excellent hires at Michigan Tech, I have the honor of working with two excellent individual student leaders worthy of an introduction. Mason Krause serves as the 2023-24 undergraduate student body president and Karlee Westrem was elected to serve as the graduate student body president. I met them both and am excited to support their efforts this year.

I am delighted to work with them and the many other faculty, staff, alumni and donors who share the same passion for Michigan Tech. It’s through our shared commitment that we are able to achieve such remarkable results. Thank you for your support of our fine institution.

Sincerely,

Rick Koubek
President

Celebrating the Parade of Nations

Fall semester brings back many important traditions. On September 16, the 34th annual Parade of Nations and Multicultural Food Festival returns to Houghton. Since 1989, the local communities and campus groups have been celebrating the rich cultural diversity of the Keweenaw. The Parade of Nations is a cherished way to not only find common ground but also appreciate our differences. What is your favorite part of the celebration? Let us know in the comments or share a Parade of Nations memory!

Pete Kero ’94 Helped Turn Old Iron Range Mining Lands into a Bike Park

Pete Kero
Pete Kero

Pete Kero is one of the first handful of Michigan Tech graduates in environmental engineering, earning his degree in 1994. He has spent 29 years doing environmental engineering consulting in the Upper Peninsula and northern Minnesota. Kero was the visionary behind the award-winning Redhead Mountain Bike Park in Minnesota which repurposed iron mining landscapes into recreational acreage. 

Recently, he wrote his first book titled Minescapes: Reclaiming Minnesota’s Mined Lands, which was released by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in May 2023.

Following is a Q&A with Kero on his ties to Michigan Tech and book.

Where are you from and how did you decide to come to Tech?
I grew up in Negaunee, and the short road to Michigan Tech was a well-beaten path for my family. My dad was a mechanical engineering graduate. My brother-in-law earned a civil engineering degree. My sister is a chemical engineering grad. I also have uncles who went to Tech.

What did you study?
I was part of Tech’s second-ever environmental engineering class in 1994. We were housed largely in civil engineering (now known as the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering). The department has grown and grown since I was there. It was a great choice for me.

Were there any memorable professors or academic stories?
Alex Mayer was the advisor for my environmental engineering design team. He was so patient with us as a rag-tag group of students. He took us to Las Cruces, New Mexico for a competition. I remember dodging tornadoes on the drive down. It was a really memorable capstone experience, and I appreciated that opportunity.

Talk about activities outside class while you were at Michigan Tech.
I loved skiing on the Nordic trails and mountain biking, even though there were no formal trails at the time. We’d bike the back roads and skid roads of the Keweenaw. One great memory is that my roommate and I had a competition to see how many Mondays in a row we could keep swimming in Lake Superior once the school year started. We made it to the middle of November. The last week we did it, there were people wearing snowmobile suits fishing on the shore.

How has your career progressed?
I’ve spent 29 years in environmental consulting, working for public projects, mining, and manufacturing. I got my start working in the U.P. at Sundberg Carlson and Associates. I moved to Minnesota and worked for various companies before joining Barr Engineering. What I like about consulting is there’s a different challenge every day. I see unique problems that don’t already have a stock solution.

How did Michigan Tech prepare you for your career?
Tech was a great school to prepare you for the real world—both the ups and downs. Tech was pretty hard, but work can be pretty hard. Tech taught me how to push through challenges and how to work with people and systems.

Have you been involved with Tech as an alumnus?
I make it back to campus from time to time and stay in touch with several professors, some of whom are former colleagues at Barr. I always follow with interest what’s going on at Tech. As I was writing this book one of the post-doctoral students from Tech contributed to my understanding of early tailings management on the Mesabi Range.

What advice would you give to current Tech students?
Slow down and enjoy your time. I blasted through college in four years, but a little breathing room gives you some time to sink your teeth into more things. It helps you be able to approach and understand the materials much better.

What spurred you to write the book?
I was personally involved as a volunteer and professional in this vast mine-disturbed territory in northeast Minnesota. It’s around 140,000 acres that have been flipped like a pancake to provide the iron ore that has built this country. Our goal was to see if there was anything we could do to attract people to this area. I volunteered to help create the Redhead Mountain Bike Park. We had to overcome so many roadblocks, including changing state law and changing perceptions about why people would be attracted to these old mined landscapes. So from my time volunteering working on the project, I had lots of notes. I wanted to set the story straight on how the bike park came to be. In order to properly tell the story, you have to go back in time. It’s really a history book. It tells the story of not only the bike park, but five generations of mine reclamation and repurposing in the area, told in a nonfiction narrative. 

What was the timeline and process for completing the book?
The book took four years. It started with a phone call to the Minnesota Historical Society Press. I expected to have them tell me no, but they encouraged me to propose the book and were fantastic to work with. Shannon Pennefeather helped me shape it, and many other people reviewed and edited the book. It was a journey that wasn’t easy, but it was gratifying.

What do you hope people take away from reading the book?
I hope they take away that there can be a full circular life to mine lands. The land can go through the creation of mine, active mining, and reclamation. It can be made valuable again through techniques that we used. Mining is a divisive topic, but just about everybody is in favor of mineland reclamation. It can be unifying and shine a spotlight on environmental operators and pioneers for this work.