Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences Ken Kraft passed away on Jan. 12 at his Chassell Township home.
Kraft’s research was in invertebrate ecology, particularly in aquatic environments, and some of his work was used by the Army Corps of Engineers and Cleveland-Cliffs (now Cliffs Resources) in their environmental studies.
“He was well respected in his fields of study—entomology and aquatic environmental studies,” said Professor Emeritus Bob Keen. “He was also a mentor to a number of graduate students, including some who went on to attain PhDs and did very well.”
Professor Emerita Janice Glime recalled him as a “rather gentle, quiet person. You could always count on him. He was in his office from 9 to 5, when he wasn’t in class. His lab and library were adjacent to his office, and he was always there.”
“He was a very soft spoken gentleman who had a great smile,” said long-time staff member Pat Asselin. “He was a pleasure to know and work with.”
Kraft’s career at Michigan Tech actually began in forestry, where he was taught zoology, and he joined the biological sciences department when it was formed in 1962. He eventually rejoined the forestry faculty before retiring.
“He was the nicest guy I knew,” said Professor Emeritus Jim Spain, also of biological sciences. “We did work together on Lake Superior. We once took a boat and a student to Rabbit Island to find a heron rookery. Well, we searched all over and couldn’t find it. We went back to the boat to discover that we had parked it right underneath the rookery!”
Kraft was instrumental in setting up Tech’s first research program on Lake Superior through his connections with faculty at Minnesota-Duluth.
Spain also credited Kraft with creating the “rock pasty”—pebbles surrounded by a cloth—that was lowered into the lake and became a home for invertebrates that they were studying. “We published that one,” Spain said.
Spain said Kraft also led a seminar where he had everyone, including the faculty, read “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. “We grew our enrollment exponentially at the time, because of the environmental movement,” Spain said.
Kraft was one of the founders of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Houghton, according to fellow church member Harriet King.
“He served as president, did our newsletters, and always brought fresh eggs from his farm,” King remembered. “He would have church and community members out to his farm to see the orchards, gardens, and chickens.”
Kraft received his PhD in Entomology and Botany from the University of Minnesota. He taught at Minnesota, Moorhead State and Bemidji State before coming to Tech. He retired in 1996 after 34 years of service.
Kraft was preceded in death by his wife, Susie, in 2009 and is survived by two daughters, Jennifer Turner and Karen Miller, and grandchildren, Jessica Turner and Alexander and Andrew Miller. The O’Neill-Dennis Funeral Home in Hancock is in charge of arrangements. A summer memorial service is planned.
Original article published in Tech Today