Tag: Peg Gale

“Best Forestry School in the Country”

A message to Dean Gale.
I thought your “Message from the Dean” in the current issue of the SFRES magazine was right on the money.

Speaking as an educator, you posed the question ”Are we providing students with the knowledge base they’ll need to address new issues that go beyond what they learned in their formal education?” My own career experience illustrates the importance of being able to do just that, and your recognition of the importance of this key issue speaks well for your program.

I had a 34 year career with the Bureau of Land Management primarily in western Oregon. Michigan Tech prepared me well for my early experiences, once I got used to the differences in scale. I still remember putting in a cluster of inventory plots in a 800-year old stand of Douglas-fir, and cruising a stand of timber on a beautiful riverside terrace that averaged 220,000 board feet per acre. But as my career evolved, I quickly got involved in issues that did indeed go far beyond my formal education.

For most of the latter half of my career, I was the BLM’s Chief of Forestry Planning with responsibilities covering 3,000,000 acres of forest land in Oregon and Washington. These responsibilities included forest inventory, the determination of the sustainable allowable harvest level and oversight of the program to bring that level of timber production to market, and the integration of the forestry program within the land-use planning process.

Early on, the process was relatively simple, and I was guided by the principles and philosophies I learned under Gene Hesterberg, Vern Johnson, and Eric Bourdo in old Hubbell School. Very quickly, however, it became necessary to “go beyond” as you suggest.

One of the first things I had to deal with in this context was the integration of management considerations related to anadromous fisheries. The spawning and rearing streams that salmon and steelhead depended upon were intimately associated with some of our finest timber producing lands. Some of the interactions between fish and timber production were quite subtle, in that relatively minute changes in water temperatures or quality, or the timing or magnitude of stream flows, could have drastic effects on fish production.

Furthermore, it quickly became apparent that the Douglas-fir old-growth seral stage itself was quickly becoming an endangered and scarce resource that needed special handling and management. Hundreds of wildlife species were uniquely dependent upon it, not to mention its importance in more esoteric areas like carbon sequestration and as refugia for mychorrizal fungi.

The point I’m trying to make is that my career quickly moved beyond the specifics I learned in my formal education, but I was able to traverse uncharted waters because of the sound knowledge base and the integrative attitude and adaptive capabilities I acquired at Michigan Tech.

That’s why it is so heartening to read your message. You’ve got the best forestry school in the country on the right trail, Peg. Keep on chuggin’.

Ron Sadler

Shekhar Joshi Wins 2011 Research Award

Chandrashekhar Joshi is 2011 Michigan Tech Research Award winner.

April, 2011—Chandrashekhar Joshi, a professor of plant molecular biology in Michigan Tech’s School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, has been named the winner of the University’s 2011 Research Award.

The annual Research Award recognizes a Michigan Tech faculty member for outstanding achievement in research. The award is based on the impact that the researcher has made toward advancing knowledge or the state of scholarship in his or her field, as evidenced by either a sustained productive scholarly endeavor or a single noteworthy breakthrough.

Joshi’s research focuses on understanding how trees make cellulose. “We have been unraveling the process of cellulose synthesis in trees for over a decade now,” he said. “We hope that one day sustainable, renewable and improved bioenergy and other useful products will result from our research.”

SFRES Dean Peg Gale called Joshi “an excellent scientist, mentor, teacher and scholar. His research is groundbreaking, and he passes his knowledge on to others so that they might someday be greater than him.  Shekhar has increased the reputation and visibility of Michigan Tech for quality research through his efforts. He certainly deserves this prestigious award.”

Among those recommending Joshi for the award was Stephen P. DiFazio, an associate professor of biology at West Virginia University. “His work is of fundamental importance in the burgeoning biofuels field, and his expertise is widely respected in the scientific community and beyond,” DiFazio said.

Joshi has contributed to three patents and received more than $6.5 million in research funding over the past three decades, said Professor Laigeng Li of the Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences.  “Just as noteworthy as his sustained productivity in the laboratory are his contributions to foster the advancement of knowledge among students from the undergraduate to postgraduate levels,” Li added.

Joshi said: “I am truly humbled and touched by my selection for one of the most prestigious awards at Michigan Tech,” Joshi said. “Michigan Tech is the place where dreams of building a better future really come true.  I am grateful to Dean Peg Gale, my students, associates and colleagues at Michigan Tech, and friends and family around the world for inspiration, trust and support over the years.”

Former Forestry Head Gene Hesterberg Dies

by Marcia Goodrich, senior writer

“Gentleman” Gene Hesterberg, 92, who booted more than one errant forestry student back onto the road to graduation and found jobs for countless others, died Sunday, Sept. 26, at the Delaware House of PortagePointe, where he had lived for the past two years.

Hesterberg, of Hancock, came to Michigan Tech’s forestry department in 1948 and rose through the ranks of the faculty. He was named department head in 1962 and held that position until his retirement in 1981.

Gene at a School BBQ for the students with (l to r) Jim Schimierer, Glenn Mroz and David Flaspohler
Gene Hesterberg at a School BBQ in 2003 for the students with (l to r) Jim Schimierer, Glenn Mroz and David Flaspohler.

“He really was inspirational to a lot of students,” said Dean Peg Gale (SFRES). “When I talk with alumni, they tell me about Gene and the influence he had on them, not only while they were at Tech but also in their careers.”

Karin Van Dyke ’78 was among them. “Gene was a big help to me and hundreds of other forestry students. He was responsible for my first job,” she said. “And he was very approachable. He had an open-door policy before open-door policies were invented. Plus, how could you not like a guy who called you ‘Pard’?”

It’s even conceivable that Michigan Tech might have a different president had it not been for Hesterberg’s well-timed intervention in the career of a certain forestry undergraduate.

“Gene had a gift for remembering names, and that worked really well until the student population in forestry got up to about 700,” said President Glenn Mroz. “Then it became an impossible task for even the most gifted mind. So everybody became Pard. I was, everybody was.”

Hesterberg went hunting and fishing with students, as well as teaching and advising them. “As a result, he had a familiarity with students that was almost unheard of,” Mroz said. “Gene never hesitated to give anybody the Dutch uncle talk when they really needed it. As you might have suspected, I was one of those people. I had dropped out of school at one point, and Gene readmitted me. It was a couple years later that he urged me to go for a doctorate.”

Hesterberg also played a key role in building the foundation of the School’s research program, Mroz said. “He was involved in research himself, and he knew that graduate studies would play a big role. So, he hired people like Marty Jurgensen and Norm Sloan to position the School for the future.”

Hesterberg received the Clair Donovan Award in 1975 for his efforts on behalf of a student football player who had been injured and needed to use a wheelchair. “He put together a curriculum for him so he could finish school,” Mroz said.

Among his other honors, Hesterberg received Tech’s Distinguished Teacher Award in 1980, was named a fellow in the Society of American Foresters, and was inducted into the Michigan Forestry Hall of Fame. In 1962, the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters awarded him its Academy Citation for outstanding contributions in conservation, research and teaching.

He established the Gene and Margaret Hesterberg Scholarship in 1979, named for himself and his late wife, and provided a generous donation to the School to support the expansion of the U. J. Noblet Forestry Building. Hesterberg Hall is named in his honor.

He was born Aug. 30, 1918, in Cincinnati and served in the army during World War II. He earned a BS from Purdue University and MS and PhD degrees from the University of Michigan, all in forestry, and was a biologist with the Michigan Department of Conservation before coming to Michigan Tech. Hesterberg was active in the community, serving on the Lake Linden Board of Education and on the Keweenaw Memorial Hospital Board. He owned a sawmill and Silver Forests, a timberland operation of several thousand acres.

“He hired me in 1975, and I’ve been here ever since,” said Mary Jurgensen, the School’s scheduling counselor. “Gene was like a father to all of us. He treated us all like family, and he was so great with students, a one-man career center. He found jobs for everybody.”

“People used to call him ‘Gentleman Gene,'” she said. “And he was a true gentleman. He was always thinking about the School, the students and the faculty, working hard for them. He was a great guy.”

Van Dyke agreed. “He was an awesome guy,” she said. “The world has lost a great forester and a great friend.”

Hesterberg is survived by his wife, Judith, of Hancock; sons William (Sharon) of Rosendale, Wis., and John (Debby) of Port Huron; and grandchildren Brian, Christopher and Katie. Services were held Tuesday at the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church in Hancock. Burial was in the Oskar Cemetery. Memorials may be given to the Alzheimer’s Association or to the Activities Fund at PortagePointe.

Memorial Chapel Funeral Home in Hancock assisted with arrangements. To view the obituary or send condolences, visit the Memorial Chapel website.

Professor Blair Orr Receives the Distinguished Teaching Award

by Alanna Knapp, student editor

Professor Blair Orr (SFRES) has received the 2010 Distinguished Teaching Award in the associate professor/professor category. He is singled out especially for directing Tech’s Peace Corps Master’s International Program, which allows students to combine two years of Peace Corps service with a graduate degree program. Involving eight disciplines, Michigan Tech has the largest number of Master’s International programs nationwide at one university.

Orr earned a PhD in Forestry Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and came to Michigan Tech in 1992. From the start, he taught economics and began the University’s first Master’s International program, forestry, in 1995. He became the director all eight programs in 2006.

Professor Blair Orr
Professor Blair Orr

“Blair brings to the University his creativity, his time, a passion for international programs, and, most importantly, a commitment to students’ success,” said Dean Margaret Gale.

Students returning from the field tell Gale that they are well-prepared for their service. “They are confident,” she said, “and, with Blair’s guidance and influence, prepared for service abroad.”

Less than three percent of Michigan Tech students leave the program, compared to one-third nationally. Gale attributes that commitment to Orr’s dedication.

Students say that success in the field begins in Orr’s classroom. “He prepares students to deal with the challenges of life in a developing country,” one student said. “He exposes them to the main issues they will encounter–teaching them to critically examine issues, and helping them develop the ability to find more information about these issues when the need arises overseas.”

Another student surmises that Orr is “possibly the best Peace Corps Master’s International director in the country.”

Other students describe him as “an excellent teacher who is both knowledgeable and able to effectively transfer this knowledge to his students. He uses homework methods that make students connect their lives to what is being learned in class.”

For his part, Orr says that the course material for these master’s students is more than just interesting information. “The success in the class and abroad,” he says, “depends upon students’ ability to understand and assimilate these lectures and readings in the field.”

Therefore, he emphasizes, in part, class participation in discussions and writing. “I require students to keep a journal. When they write about the course topics–dealing with politics, corruption, community involvement–it helps to assess their comprehension.”

Directing such an endeavor engages him. “I am involved from the moment they apply to the program until graduation,” he says.

Sometimes their lives are arduous. He has one student who has to travel 20 miles to access the Internet.

What he enjoys most is interacting with these students in the field. “Some days they are excited and enjoying the work,” he said, “and the next day they are depressed and need encouragement.”

This understanding coach and mentor concludes, “Because I served as a Peace Corp volunteer, I am able to identify with their experiences.”

Former Professor Robert L. Sajdak passes away.

Bob Sajdak, 79, a former faculty member of the school, passed away June 10, 2010. Bob was a 1959 alumnus of Michigan Tech’s forestry program.

Dean Peg Gale said, “For those of us who had Bob as a teacher, he was an amazing person. He taught dendrology, genetics and tree improvement courses, and because of his high expectarobert_sajdaktions of students (especially in dendrology), he was fondly nicknamed ‘Black Bob.’ He often had a sly smile on his face when students were trying to negotiate grades or just joking with him on field trips. He was one of the first faculty to receive outside funds for his work in herbicides and tree production.”

Bob was born in Bayfield County, Wis. on July 20, 1930, the youngest of nine children.

On November 4, 1950, he married Betty Boness of Milwaukee. They moved to Alaska where he served in the Army for several years.

In 1956, Bob returned to attend the College of Mining and Technology (Michigan Tech), the first from his family to go to college. He graduated in 1959 and worked as a U.S. Forest Service Ranger in Minnesota and as a forester for the State of Wisconsin. In 1962, Bob was hired as an instructor at Michigan Tech and in 1986, he retired as an Associate Professor of Forestry.

Bob enjoyed being a woodlot owner and working on numerous projects associated with the land.

He leaves behind his wife, Betty, and two sons, Pete and Paul. The 1973 Forester yearbook was dedicated toBob. See the pictures and story on pages 7-8 at forest.mtu.edu/yearbook/1973.pdf