Buffalo Battalion cadets wait to board a Chinook Helicopter on top of South Table Mountain
Buffalo Battalion cadets prepare to board the Chinook Helicopter for a training exercise on the top of South Table Mountain.
(Photograph by Luke Brown)

100 years after the establishment of ROTC, Mines’ program remains a national stand-out.

Sixteen miles into the 2016 Bataan Memorial Death March, Army ROTC Cadet Parker Bolstad felt his quads seize up, and he collapsed to his knees. He was clad in a full military uniform and boots, a 40-pound pack on his back. The blazing sun beat down on him, and the hot desert sand of New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range made the 80-degree day feel like 100. He was dehydrated and exhausted. But when
a four-wheeler loaded
with National Guardsmen drove up to pull him off the course, Bolstad instead filled his water bottle and kept running.

Ten miles later, he crossed the finish line at a time of 8:22:09, flanked by a crowd of cheering fellow cadets who had road- tripped from Mines to run either the 13.1-mile or 26.2-mile race in commemoration of World War II service members or cheer on their comrades from the sidelines. Inspired by the experience, Bolstad, a sophomore environmental engineering student, is now training other cadets for next year’s march. In a way, he says, it illustrates what ROTC is all about.

“It’s about showing yourself what you can do when you put your mind to it, and then helping others do the same,” says Bolstad. “It’s an incredible confidence builder.”

Established by Congress on June 3, 1916, the Reserve Officer Training Corps has for a century helped students like Bolstad earn degrees at top-tier civilian colleges and universities, while gaining resilience, discipline and leadership skills members say are not often emphasized in the traditional classroom. Awarding more than $431 million annually, ROTC is among the nation’s largest grantors of scholarships. Students can earn a generous aid package in exchange for committing to military science classes and physical and combat training during school, as well as a four to eight year service commitment (either active duty or in the U.S. Army Reserve) post-graduation.

As one of the first four schools in the nation to establish an ROTC program, and, until the 1970s, one of the only to make ROTC mandatory for all students, Mines has been integral to the program since its inception, producing more Army officers (2,400 to date) and receiving more accolades than schools twice its size. As ROTC celebrates its centennial, alumni say the program is as relevant today as ever.

“If you look around at our major political parties, and Congress, and certain areas of industry, many would argue that there is a crisis of leadership in this country right now,” says ROTC alumnus Paul Dorr ’74. “There is no better place to learn how to be a leader than ROTC.”

“The West Point of the Rockies”

Three Mines ROTC cadets hold the American flag in 1925.
Mines ROTC members present the colors in 1925.
(Photograph courtesy of Prospector 1925)

ROTC was officially established at Mines in 1919, under an authorization from the U.S. War Department. But the school’s close relationship with the U.S. military dates back to Mines’ inception.

As far back as 1873, students of what was then known as the “University Schools at Golden” could be found performing military exercises on campus under the leadership of decorated Civil
War Captain George West. When Mines was officially founded one year later, the Military Department was among the first three departments established on campus.

“We have had Mines students in every war since 1874,” says ROTC University Liaison Fran Aguilar, as she tours a visitor through an office decorated with black and white photos and the retired, reddish battle ag of the 115th Engineers Regiment.

The precursor to Mines’ first ROTC Unit, the regiment was first established in 1909, making up one of the first engineering-focused infantries in the country. By August 1918, the regiment touched down in France amid the battles of World War I, where members put their combination of engineering skills and military savvy to work constructing and repairing roads, bridges and camps near the front lines.

The following year, with World War I drawing to a close, and the U.S. military eager to be prepared for future conflicts, it established an official ROTC unit at Mines, expressly to train graduates for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In the decades to come, aspiring students would refer to Mines as “The West Point of the Rockies” and generals would call the school “The backbone of the Corps of Engineers.”

“Very early on, the military recognized that the Mines graduate was a unique graduate. Our students come out of school prepared to go to work,” says Dorr, now an ROTC board member who also co-authored a comprehensive history of Mines ROTC.

A Hero Hall of Fame

Survey the roster of the Buffalo Battalion ROTC Alumni Hall of Fame (which recognizes distinguished graduates), and you find tale after tale of wartime heroics by Mines ROTC alumni:

Wendell Fertig ’24 famously refused to surrender to Japanese forces when they tried to occupy the island of Mindanao in the Philippines during World War II. Instead, he organized a successful U.S-Filipino guerilla force, installed a civilian government and built a communications network there. After the war, he came to Mines to head up the ROTC program.

Keith Comstock ’50 had already served on the India-Burma border during World War II and earned two bronze stars during the Korean War when he was commissioned to spearhead a top-secret CIA mission, Operation Gold, to build a quarter-mile tunnel on the border of East Berlin. According to press reports, the tunnel helped British intelligence officers tap into 1,200 phone lines, accessing 40,000 hours of conversations between the Soviet Union and East Germany during the early Cold War. Comstock wasn’t permitted to discuss his work with anyone, including his wife and children, until it was declassified in 2007, 52 years after it was completed.

Hugh Evans ’49 is one of the last surviving members of the
U.S. Army’s famous 10th Mountain Division which trained in the Colorado Rocky Mountains to fight on the snow-packed terrain of Eastern Europe. He was a platoon sergeant in Italy during World War II, returned to Mines to get a master’s degree and join ROTC, then served again in the Korean War. At 92 years old, he still participates in a commemorative backcountry ski trip to his wartime training ground each year. When Mines was chosen to host a 100th anniversary celebration for ROTC in April 2016, he proudly cut the cake. “You can have a narrow life, or a deep and broad life,” says Evans. “ROTC gave me depth.”

The Vietnam Era

Mines graduates’ unique engineering skills continued to play a key role in the military theater during the Vietnam years. “You go into a triple-canopy jungle and there is no infrastructure. It has got to be built. Guess who built it. Our engineers,” says Paul Dorr.

But as the war dragged on and anti-war sentiment peaked, ROTC began to fall on hard times.

Amid a wave of student and faculty protests over the U.S. military’s involvement in the Vietnam War, Harvard University expelled ROTC from campus in 1968, prompting a
host of other prestigious universities to follow suit. (Only recently has Harvard invited ROTC back to campus). At Mines, anti-war protests were less common, but a group of students did petition the state legislature to ask Mines to do away with its compulsory ROTC service. As a result, it was dropped in the early 1970s. After that, enrollment declined sharply from 768 members in 1968 to 387 members in 1974, before picking back up again slightly during the 1980s.

At one point, in 1991, the Army embarked on a plan to reduce the number of ROTC programs nationwide and pegged the Mines program for elimination, due to the school’s small size and a perceived lack of demand. But Bruce Goetz, then professor of military science, personally fought to keep the program on campus. He succeeded.

“The tradition of the citizen soldier has always been revered at Mines,” wrote Goetz, in
the biography he presented for his recent induction into the Buffalo Battalion Hall of Fame. “There rests a quiet pride in the continuation of the tradition of military science here.”

Today, Mines is part of a 13-member Buffalo Battalion, which includes University of Colorado Boulder, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and other Front Range schools. In both 2013 and 2015, the battalion earned the U.S. Army Cadet Command’s MacArthur Award, recognizing it as one of the top eight programs in the nation.

Building Leaders, From Battlefield to Board Room

A group of Air Force ROTC cadets stand in formation during the Veteran's Day ceremony in November 2015
Air Force ROTC cadets stand in formation on the Veteran's Day Ceremony in November 2015. Front row: Andrew Blaney '16, Brandon Hall, John Boswell, Adam Nelson, Mary Bell. Row 2: Timothy Kelvin, Gary North, Timothy Cranor, Kristina Gately, Scott Kumjian. Row 3: Matthew Jaszai, Steven Mohan, Heidi Logsdon, Malek Awad. Row 4: Jason Loving, Chris Campbell, Luke Laroque, Justin Dollar.
(Photograph courtesy of Mines ROTC)

Those who joined ROTC in more peaceful times also say their experience shaped their lives in invaluable ways.

Paul Dorr, a Steamboat, Colorado, native whose parents collectively made less than $10,000 annually at the time, said ROTC’s financial generosity made it possible for him to attend college. After graduating in 1974, he spent four years on active duty in Hanau, Germany, aiding in the construction of bridges, and then another 16 years in the Army Reserve. Meanwhile, he built an illustrious career as a strategic planner and entrepreneur in the mining industry.

He credits his private sector success largely to the lessons 
he learned in the military. He learned how to communicate concisely, not only with subordinates, but also with superiors and “those on your left and right.” He also learned how important
it is to take care of your employees. “I learned that you have to give people responsibility and training. But you also have to give them the authority to execute that responsibility. And then you have to hold them accountable for it,” says Dorr. “That’s true leadership, and too often it is not taught in business school.”

Janet Patev ’86 says she was attracted to ROTC because, unlike West Point and other U.S. military academies, it allowed her to get a taste of the military culture without being fully immersed in it or having to pledge right away to a post-graduation commitment. (ROTC members aren’t required to commit until their junior year).

“You could go to a [civilian] college and a few times a week put the uniform on. Most of the time, you felt like a regular student,” says Patev, who spent four years active duty post-graduation. She now works in a civilian position for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Herein lies another perk she got from ROTC.

“If you want to be hired for a federal position, being a veteran is a huge benefit,” she says. “It helped me get my job.”

ROTC Today

CPT Ryan Gibbons and Hugh Evans cut the ROTC's 100th birthday cake.
CPT Ryan Gibbons '09 and Hugh Evans '49, one of the last surviving members of the 10th Mountain Division, cut the ROTC's 100th birthday cake.
(Photograph by Kathleen Morton)

When it comes to physical training, today’s Mines ROTC company is recognized as among the most physically fit in the nation. Members rise at 5 a.m. Four to five days a week for a rigorous workout (a perfect score on the physical training tests involves: 71 pushups in two minutes, 78 sit-ups in two minutes and a two mile run in 13 minutes or less.) Many climb, ski or run on the weekends, or—as Parker Bolstad did—crank their training up a notch by heading to competitions like the annual Bataan Memorial Death March.

Unlike cadets who came before them, ROTC members today aren’t certain who the enemy is or where they will face them.

“Because the world is so chaotic, we tell the cadets they will deploy somewhere in the world, but we have no idea where,” says Aaron Roof, the current professor of military science. “There is an emphasis on not what to think, but how to think—how to handle whatever complex task they are asked to deal with.”

And those tasks aren’t necessarily on the battlefield. In recent years, ROTC alumni have touched down in West Africa to help with the deadly Ebola outbreak, South Sudan to provide food to starving children and Haiti to aid earthquake survivors.

To John Kater, a mechanical engineering senior, ROTC has been a pleasant surprise.

In high school, he envisioned himself as a theologian and saw the army and the ministry as diametrically opposed. “I envisioned myself cleaning toilets with a toothbrush like they did in the old war movies,” says Kater, who changed his mind after attending an American Legion meeting. “I didn’t realize ROTC could help me become a more competent leader and more impactful in my community.”

Since arriving at Mines, Kater has gone to air-assault school in Georgia (where he learned how to rappel out of a helicopter), own to Moldova (between Russia and Ukraine) for a language and cultural understanding program, and completed a grueling 16- day combat training camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Now as a senior, he looks forward to leading new cadets to the program. Looking back, the former “wild child” as he describes himself, says it helped him become more disciplined and responsible and changed his image of the military.

“I went from thinking of it as a band of fighters to thinking of it as a band of peacekeepers,” he says. “On occasion you have to fight to keep the peace.”

Reprinted from the fall 2016 issue of Mines Magazine, the Colorado School of Mines Alumni Magazine

Story by Lisa Marshall


W. Lloyd Wright, longtime school physician for Colorado School of Mines and the namesake of the university’s Student Wellness Center died Sept. 16 in Paonia, Colo. He was 99 years old.

Dr. W. Lloyd WrightBorn June 15, 1917, in Sargent, Colo., Wright graduated from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in 1942 and went on to serve in World War II.

In 1946, Wright and his wife, Lily Jane, settled in Golden. He served part-time as Mines’ school physician until 1968 and also established his own medical practice, which he closed in 1980. He went on to work as medical director at Coors Brewery, then Rocky Flats, until 1988. Lily Jane died in 1988; Wright married Jo Ann Wilhelm in 1989 and they retired to Paonia a couple of years later.

Wright was awarded the Mines Medal in 1986 for his personal and professional contributions to the campus community.

In September 2012, Mines celebrated the opening of the $3.2 million, 10,000-square-foot W. Lloyd Wright Student Wellness Center. Construction was largely funded by the Galena Foundation, established by Wright’s nephew, F. Steven Mooney—a member of the Mines Foundation Board of Governors and a 1956 Mines graduate—and Mooney’s wife, Gayle.

“We thought this would be a good way to memorialize his association with and contributions to the school,” Steven Mooney said. “I think he was very pleased about the new facility and how nice it was, and he was excited to have his name on it.”

The Student Wellness Center is a far cry from the rudimentary facilities Wright had during his tenure at Mines. Wright treated his Mines patients in a house where the Geology Museum now stands, said Mooney, who had a broken wrist sustained in a game of touch football repaired there. “It was just a small house that had been made into a clinic, with a couple of treatment rooms and a couple of beds,” he said. “There was a nurse—that was it.”

Wright had his private practice in the armory building just down the hill from campus before building a clinic at 19th and Ford streets, Mooney said. “I think there’s a whole generation of children born in Golden who were assisted into the world by Lloyd Wright,” he said. One estimate has him delivering more than 2,000 babies—particularly the children of veterans returning from the Korean War—many of whom would end up attending Mines, Mooney said.

Wright was an avid supporter of Mines football team and was at virtually every game. “If he ever missed one, I don’t remember it,” Mooney said. Wright even returned to Mines last year for the grand opening of the new Marv Kay Stadium.

“He was such a great guy that I forget to tell people that he’s my uncle by marriage,” said Mooney. “We have a large and very close family, and he was a part of that—we were frequently at his home, the cousins did a lot of things together. He was always a mentor and a guide on how a man ought to live his life.”

Wright is survived by his wife, Jo Ann; a son, Herb Wright of Lafayette, Colorado; two stepsons, Chandler Wilhelm of Houston, Texas, and Quinn Wilhelm of Lakewood, Colorado; two daughters, Natalie Smith of Scottsdale, Arizona, and Candace Olsen of Golden; 27 grandchildren; and 27 great-grandchildren.

“He was a great man,” Mooney said. “He did a lot for a lot of people, and he lived his life in exemplary fashion.”

Mark Ramirez, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science & Engineering | 303-384-2622 |
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 |

Six Mines alumni collage

Colorado School of Mines has created a photo-storytelling project on Facebook, inspired by Brandon Stanton's Humans of New York. Humans of Mines features a different student, faculty, staff or alumnus and a little bit of their personal story every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at With more than 2,500 followers in our first year, the project has become a source of pride in our community, as we share what we love most about Mines and our individual experience.

In honor of our recent homecoming, today we highlight a few of the many alumni who have been featured on Humans of Mines.

Bill Zisch

Major: Mining Engineering

Class of: 1979

Current Job: President and CEO of Midway Gold

In what ways do you think Mines has changed the most since 1979?

"My fondest memory of my time at Mines is the close group we had in the Mining Department. My grandfather also went to Mines, and my son graduated from here just a few years ago. So I've seen the changes up close. The biggest change has been in the infrastructure, the investment and commitment to full student life. It's drastically different. My son's student life compared to mine was quite different."


Aprill Nelson

Major: Petroleum Engineering

Class of: 2008

Current Job: Reservoir Engineering for Scotia Waterous

What stands out most in your memory of Mines?

“The common theme of my time here was the sense of community and family. I’m from Houston, and it was nice to come here and basically have a second family to look out for me. It’s nice to come back on campus and catch up with everyone. It’s like a family reunion every time I come back or meet another alum.”

Joe Geiger

Major: Mining Engineering

Class of: 2009

Current Job: Army Recruiter in New York

What stands out most in your memory of Mines?

“I wouldn’t be who I am today without Colorado School of Mines Army ROTC. I truly believe that.”

Norma Mozeé

Major: Mineral Engineering and Mathematics

Class of: 1983

Current Job: Principal and Founder of Afinidad Americas LLC

In what ways do you think Mines has changed the most since 1983?

"I graduated in ’83 and you didn’t have these amazing buildings, so you can visually see and feel the difference in terms of updates. You can tangibly see the giving back of the alumni in terms of their ability and willingness to make donations, to help update Mines. Apart from that, the more human aspect, what I thought was interesting is that I sat early for a meeting, waited for about 10 minutes at Brown Hall, and I noticed that there were young women. I was fascinated with that. In my graduating class there were only 13 women and I think I counted something like 15 women in 10 minutes that were just passing through the hallway. It really hit me that there is a visible difference. The diversity and the mixture of the student population, it’s exciting to see that it’s becoming more reflective of our society."


Carmella Caltagirone, with fellow alumnus Peter Hansen

Major: Environmental Engineering

Class of: 2015

Current Job: Environmental Engineering at Burns & McDonnell

What is your fondest college memory?

"Peter and I originally met on campus at a meeting for a student organization, Flatirons Mines. Since he was a Mechanical and I was an Environmental, we didn’t have any classes together at the time. I convinced him to take some electives with me, so we signed up for a lab called "Projects For People" together as well as an LAIS class, "Engineering and Social Justice." They were both really challenging and we got to learn a lot about each other and how we see the world around us. We ended up getting married in August!"


Mitch Kruse

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Class of: 1985

Current Job: Software Project Manager, Zetec

Tell us about someone who had a great impact on you during your time at Mines.

"I played baseball here for Coach Darden, for whom the field is now named. He was real laid back, kinda in the golden stage of his career. But he had this perspective on life and what matters and what doesn't. We were all worried about being the best baseball players, and he told us, 'Focus on your studies, and just be a good person.'

"After I graduated we stayed in touch. And his number one thing was asking, 'Have you started your 401K yet?' Can you imagine? 'Hi, how are you, and have you started a 401k?' I thought it funny at the time, but now I realize how awesome a question that was. He became a mentor, a long-term vision mentor."


Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 |
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 |


2016 AGI Critical Issues Forum

The Payne Institute for Earth Resources at Colorado School of Mines has teamed up with the American Geosciences Institute to host a series of events on the Mines campus that focus on the High Plains Aquifer. A free film screening of “Written on Water” takes place Oct. 26, followed by the AGI Critical Issues Forum, Oct. 27-28.

Mines to host film screening and forum on High Plains Aquifer

Groundwater is often a "transboundary" resource, shared by many groups of people across town, county, state and international boundaries. Changes in groundwater resources can create unique challenges requiring high levels of cooperation and innovation amongst stakeholder groups, from individuals to representatives at the state and federal government levels.

The Payne Institute for Earth Resources at Colorado School of Mines will host two events centered around the High Plains Aquifer Oct. 26-28.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “The High Plains Aquifer, which spans eight states from South Dakota to Texas, is overlain by about 20 percent of the nation’s irrigated agricultural land, and provides about 30 percent of the groundwater used for irrigation in the country.”

Free film screening of “Written on Water”
The series kicks off with a free film screening of “Written on Water” at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at Mines’ Ben H. Parker Student Center, Ballrooms B+C. The screening will include an introduction by the film's director and producer, Merri Lisa Trigilio, followed by a question and answer session after the movie. Refreshments will be served. 

“Written On Water” focuses on the Ogallala Aquifer and examines the conflicts, politics, economics and groundwater depletion in the High Plains region. Farmers and communities survive on the precious waters of the Aquifer, yet it is being depleted at alarming rates. Learn more and reserve your seat by Oct. 18 by visiting

American Geosciences Institute Critical Issues Forum
Work by the Kansas Geological Survey indicates that some parts of the High Plains Aquifer are already effectively exhausted for agricultural purposes; some parts are estimated to have a lifespan of less than 25 years; and other areas remain generally unaffected (Buchanan et al., 2015).

The AGI Critical Issues Forum, “Addressing Changes in Regional Groundwater Resources: Lessons from the High Plains Aquifer,” Oct. 27-28, is a one-and-a-half-day meeting that will cover multiple aspects of groundwater depletion in the High Plains and will include abundant time for participant discussion. Break-out sessions will identify lessons learned and best practices from the High Plains Aquifer experience that might apply to other regions facing changes in the Earth system. Keynote speakers include:

  • Sharon B. Megdal, University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center
  • Jason Gurdak, San Francisco State University
  • Merri Lisa Trigilio, Director/Producer, “Written on Water”

Forum registration is $250; $35 for students; and $10 for Mines faculty and students with promo code: CSMWATER. Learn more, or register for the Critical Issues Forum.

About the Payne Institute at Colorado School of Mines
The mission of the Payne Institute for Earth Resources at Colorado School of Mines is to inform and shape sound public policy related to earth resources, energy and the environment. Its goal is to educate current and future leaders on the market, policy and technological challenges presented by energy, environmental and resource management issues, and provide a forum for national and global policy debate. For more information, visit

About the American Geosciences Institute
AGI was founded in 1948, under a directive of the National Academy of Sciences, as a network of associations representing geoscientists with a diverse array of skills and knowledge of our planet. AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in our profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society’s use of resources, resilience to natural hazards and the health of the environment. Learn more at

Kelly Beard, Communication Specialist, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3452 |
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences and Engineering | 303-384-2657 |

Some traditions never change. Former and current students participate in the annual M Climb, which includes getting covered with whitewash.

The Famous ‘M’ Brings Mines Students Together 

Ed May ’65 had some unfinished business at Colorado School of Mines. It was a half century since he graduated, and something still nagged at him all these years later: not making the traditional climb to the M on Mt. Zion.

Just before his freshman class’ M Climb back in 1961, May sprained an ankle while rock climbing in Clear Creek Canyon and couldn’t make it up the mountain. So last fall, May made amends.

“I was writing up my life story for my family, and I realized I had a few loose ends,” May says. “One of the loose ends was that there was no Ed May rock on the M. It makes sense that a 77-year-old alumnus wouldn’t want such a blaring omission in his life—the M and the climb to it are entrenched in a rich history.

The M by the dates: 1908 - The M is created on the side of Mt. Zion | 1920s - The M is highlighted with railroad flares for homecoming | 1931- Students light the M with electric bulbs | 1932 - The M is permanently lit with electricity 1935 - The M is turned red for the Christmas holidays, a tradition that continues today | 1948 - The M’s lights are automated to turn off and on independently | 1951 - The tradition of freshmen carrying rocks to add to the M begins | 1989 - The M is modernized with new conduits, enclosed wiring and special multi-bulb terminals for easy color change | 1998 - The M’s circuit box is rewired to allow the three circuits of the M to be turned on in any arrangement and make changing color and designs easier | 2003 - The M is computerized and a wireless controller is added allowing the lights to run coordinated lighting sequences | 2008 - The M turns 100 and 11-watt incandescent bulbs are replaced with 2-watt LED bulbs for more brightness and energy efficiency. | SOURCE: Mines’ Blue Key Honor SocietyIt’s believed the M was born in 1908. The Golden Globe, the city’s newspaper at the time, reported that about 20 faculty members and 250 seniors from the class of 1908 — inspired by the U at the University of Utah and driven by a fellow student Herbert Everest’s descriptive geometry problem of designing the M for his senior thesis—placed the 104 feet by 107 feet M on Mt. Zion on May 15, 1908, resting on a 23-degree slope.

Now, Mines’ Blue Key Honor Society is charged with care for the M and the traditions surrounding it. Michelle Kozel, the program assistant for environmental health and safety and the society’s faculty advisor, says most of the changes to the M over the decades have been related to making it more visible.

“Blue Key members did a lot of research for the M’s 100th anniversary in 2008 and learned that students have been whitewashing the rocks of the M from the beginning,” Kozel says.

But Mines wanted to do more than fill the M with white rocks. In the 1920s, students used railroad flares to highlight the M during homecoming. Then for homecoming in 1931, Blue Key members used a tractor to haul a generator, some poles, wire and bulbs up Mt. Zion to light the M. That went over so well, Blue Key started a fundraising campaign, hitting up alumni and Golden businesses for cash to light it permanently. In one year, they raised enough money to cover the cost, and in March 1932, the M began glowing at night with 25-watt bulbs.

In 1989, Blue Key modernized the lighting with upgraded wire and replaced the light sockets with weatherproof 11-watt bulbs. About nine years later, the M’s circuit box was rewired so lights could be lit in varying arrangements, designs and colors.

The first renovations in the 21st century included computerized lighting with a wireless controller in 2003 that allowed for remote operation from the Mines campus. And in 2008, for the M’s 100th anniversary, Blue Key replaced the incandescent lights with energy-efficient, two-watt LED bulbs.

Throwback photo of annual M ClimbDespite the technological additions to make the M more visible, carrying a rock up the mountain is still an important tradition at Mines. Kozel says freshmen began carrying rocks to add to the M in 1951. “That’s when it was made part of freshman orientation as a way of unifying the freshman class and instilling them with school spirit,” she says.

In a phrase, the tradition became the climb that binds all Mines students and alumni. That was one of the first lessons Mines President Paul C. Johnson learned when he arrived in 2015.

“I’d never seen anything quite like it,” Johnson says, and has vowed to make the climb every fall. “It’s their first big event as a community—a symbol of the start of their journey, and they know others have made the same journey. It’s a neat and memorable tradition, and students can always share that experience with others who went to Mines. They all did the same climb and carried their rocks.”

Fifty years after he was supposed to participate in the tradition, May admits he had some reservations about being able to make the climb, but says a few steps into the ascent, he knew he’d make it to the famed M. “I was literally swept up the hill by the enthusiasm of young, eager freshmen,” May says. “The best part of it all was meeting the students. I was proud to be included in such a dynamic crowd of future engineers and business leaders.”

May then adds this about the climb: “No matter what the obstacle, if you have the motivation, all things are possible. So my story of the climb is that once motivated, you can accomplish much in life—whether you’re a young student embarking on life or an old curmudgeon lugging a rock up a mountain.”

Reprinted from the fall 2016 issue of Mines Magazine, the Colorado School of Mines Alumni Magazine

Story by Doug McPherson

Alumni and other donors celebrated the successful completion of the Transforming Lives Campaign on October 7 with students, faculty and staff at an event in Lockridge Arena and with the launch of an impact website at The website highlights the overall success of the campaign and tells stories of transformational impact on the people of Mines.

President Paul Johnson hosted the appreciation event for more than 350 loyal donors. After six years, Mines has met and exceeded the Transforming Lives Campaign goals. Nearly half a billion dollars has been raised to support students, faculty, and programs and to propel Mines to the forefront of STEM-focused institutions. This is an unheard of fundraising feat for a small public school like Mines and a testament to the pride and dedication of our alumni, faculty, and industry supporters.

During dinner, Mines students and faculty traveled from table to table, serving up interactive presentations and stories about the doors of opportunity that were opened for their research, academics and lives thanks to donor support during the campaign.  

Guests enjoyed an inspirational video that explored the impact of generosity on the advancements that have happened on campus over the last six year as well as the investment in enhancing the student experience. The video can be seen on the website.

The four most recent Mines presidents and their wives attended the event to thank donors – Paul and Elyse Johnson, Bill and Karen Scoggins, John and Sharon Trefny and Ted and Frani Bickart. The volunteer leaders who spearheaded this campaign as co-chairs, Chuck Shultz and Tim Haddon, and Foundation Chairman David Wagner ended the evening with a champagne toast to the transformation at Mines.

Rachelle Trujillo, Foundation Marketing Communications Director
Anica Wong, Foundation Communications Specialist | 303-273-3904 |

Over two decades after his show aired on PBS and took the ‘90s by storm, “Bill Nye the Science Guy” is still a hit among science enthusiasts, especially with the millennials who grew up watching him. On Oct. 5, Nye visited the Colorado School of Mines to speak to a sold-out crowd of students, alumni, faculty, and staff in Lockridge Arena. 
Bill Nye speaks to sold out crowd at Mines' 2016 President's Distinguished Lecture.
Bill Nye speaks to sold out crowd at Mines' 2016 President's Distinguished Lecture. Photo Credit: Agata Bogucka
“It was a childhood dream come true,” said sophomore Victoria Martinez-Vivot. Martinez-Vivot got the opportunity to meet Bill Nye prior to the talk, due to her role as MAC Co-Publicity Chair. 
Mines' President Paul Johnson, Bill Nye and Blaster the Burro in their matching bow-ties, all part of the Bill Nye official bow-tie collection.
Mines' President Paul Johnson, Bill Nye and Blaster the Burro in their matching bow-ties, all part of the Bill Nye official bow-tie collection. Photo Credit: Thomas Cooper

Nye’s talk— part of the President’s Distinguished Lecture series and kickoff to the 2016 Homecoming festivities— focused on the biggest problems facing our planet and what society, especially young people, can do to make the world a better place.

His catch phrase for the night was: “I want you guys to — dare I say it — change the world.”

Climate change sparked the conversation, but was only one element of Nye’s advocacy for “renewable and reliable energy for all”. In addition to encouraging the crowd to recognize renewable resources as the future of energy, he also dared Mines students to design the better battery and invent hydro-fusion engines for airplanes.

Fueled by his views on climate and the need to recognize the reality of our rapidly changing planet, Nye challenged the crowd of young engineers to solve the world's top three engineering grand challenges: providing clean water, renewable reliable energy and Internet access for all. He also expressed his support for space exploration.
“Space exploration brings out the best in us," said Nye. "There are two questions we all ask: Where did we come from? And are we alone in the universe?” Nye asserted that our desire to explore space illustrates the innate yearning within humankind to understand our origins, despite problems planet Earth may be faced with.
After a humorous introduction highlighting his father’s fascination with sundials and Nye’s own “MarsDials”, Nye quipped about how times have changed and reflected on his own scientific youth, including the moment he learned that there are in fact, “100 times more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on the Earth.” One of the most memorable moments of the night was Nye’s birthday call to Neil deGrasse Tyson — last year’s Distinguished Lecturer — where he invited the audience to join him in wishing Tyson a “happy orbit around the sun.” The Mines crowd could not have roared any louder.
One Mines student gave a heartfelt thank you to Bill Nye during the Q&A at the end of the lecture — “I just want to say that your plate tectonics episode is probably the reason I’m here studying geology right now, so thank you.” 
Nye is currently the CEO of The Planetary Society, continuing his legacy of teaching people of all ages the joys and wonders of science. He spent Earth Day 2015 speaking with President Barack Obama about climate change and science education. He also had a short debut on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” but had to drop out after sustaining an injury.
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 |
Leah Pinkus, Communications Assistant, Colorado School of Mines 303-273-3088

Homecoming is an annual event that Mines students and alumni look forward to each year. This year’s festivities will be held on Oct. 5–8 and will feature new and traditional events for Orediggers to come together and show off their Mines pride. “Our theme is ‘Ignite the Night,’” said Mines Activities Council Homecoming and Outreach Chair, Cassidy Steen. “I like the idea of our alumni coming back and igniting their memories and having students come out and ignite their passions.”

One of the 2015 Homecoming Beast nominees posing with Marvin the Miner
Photo credit: The Oredigger

The festivities kick off Wednesday evening with the President’s Distinguished Lecture from none other than Bill Nye the Science Guy. “Everyone is getting so excited,” Steen said. “Bill Nye is the person they grew up with who got them excited about science.” Those who were lucky enough to win a ticket will fill Lockridge Arena located in the Student Rec Center at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 5.

Those who won’t get the chance to attend the Bill Nye’s lecture still have plenty activities to attend, including the ever-popular Oredigger Challenge on Thursday afternoon. Students can get a team together, sign up on the MAC website and compete in field day games for the chance to win the coveted trophy. The Oredigger Challenge will be held from 4–6 p.m. on the North Intramural Fields, located across the street from the Outdoor Recreational Center.

“Everyone loves E-Days so much, and we are really focusing on making Homecoming as big of an event that gets everyone as excited,” said MAC Royalty Chair Meagan Lundgren. “I think that the bonfire is going to be a big part of that.”  When asked what she is most looking forward to this year, Steen said, “I am definitely most looking forward to the bonfire, because I think it is going to be a really unique event, and we’ve never really had anything like it here at Mines before.” On Friday evening, students, alumni, faculty and staff will get the chance to enjoy s’mores, play glow-in-the-dark corn hole, meet the 2016 nominees for Homecoming Queen and Beast and, of course, watch the “M” light up in the glow of the first-ever homecoming bonfire, which will be held in parking lot Q beginning at 8 p.m.

To ensure the bonfire is a celebratory event and to add to the excitement of the evening, Orediggers can show their support for Mines athletics and cheer on the women’s soccer and volleyball teams at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. respectively, followed by a pep rally.

Mines students riding in a float for Homecoming 2015
Photo credit: The Oredigger 

On Saturday, rounding out Homecoming weekend is the much-anticipated parade, tailgate and football game where Mines will take on Azusa Pacific University. Students can build a float and walk in the parade or simply enjoy the show. The parade kicks off at 9 a.m. at the corner of 19th and Cheyenne. View the parade route here. The ever-popular tailgate will follow the parade in parking lot Q, located up the street from the traditional halls, where students can vote for this year’s Homecoming Queen and Beast. Football lovers can then follow the crowd down to Marv Kay Stadium at noon to watch the football game and halftime show, where this year’s Homecoming Queen and Beast will be announced.

As Homecoming weekend draws near, the focus is on bringing students and alumni together to celebrate what it means to be an Oredigger and all that is Colorado School of Mines.

Students can register for all Homecoming events on the MAC website. Alumni registration is now closed, but a full schedule events is available for attendees on the Alumni Association’s website. All attendees can also download a Guidebook app, which contains the 2016 schedule, day-of updates, giveaways and more.

Leah Pinkus, Communications Assistant, Colorado School of Mines 303-273-3088
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 |
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 |


A gem of Golden tourism, the Mines Geology Museum displays will shine even brighter thanks to a most generous and mysterious donation. Through a gift from her estate, Hilja Herfurth donated $1.75 million worth of minerals, gems, and meteorites to the Geology Museum. In addition, she left cash donations of $200,000 to the Geology Museum and $200,000 to the Mines general scholarship fund.

“This is the kind of donation every museum dreams of, and I am so grateful to the Herfurths for their generosity,” said museum director Dr. Bruce Geller. “We never could have acquired so many of these pieces at one time. This gift is one of the pinnacles of my career here.”

Hilja passed in June, 2016, preceded by her husband Gerry in 1999. Gerry was an avid collector of rare minerals and meteorites. The couple lived in Denver and did not have a connection to Mines or to the museum, other than an admiration for the reputation of the museum’s exhibits and educational outreach. Geller says he was shocked by the incredible quality and size of this gift. It took two large vans to transport 150 boxes containing roughly 800 pieces from all over the world to the Mines Geology Museum. 

Geller had never met the Herfurths, so he was surprised and thrilled to receive the gift. Hilja had previously given smaller gifts of specimens to the museum valued at nearly $400,000. Gerry was a meticulous collector, with labels on every piece detailing what they were, when they were acquired and where they came from. The bequest also included a number of rare archaeological artifacts that Geller donated to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Hilja was Swiss by birth and came to the United States and married Gerry in the 60’s. Her passion was opera. Gerry was also a collector of sports memorabilia.

Visitors can see a sampling of the Herfurth specimens on display at the museum now, with more to be displayed in the future. 

Rachelle Trujillo, Senior Director, Marketing Communications, CSM Foundation / 303-273-3526 /
Anica Wong, Communications Specialist, CSM Foundation | 303-273-3904 |

Mines female student talks to a recruiter at the Fall 2016 Career Day.With 232 companies and over 800 recruiters visiting the Mines campus on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, Mines’ bi-annual Career Day remains an important resource for students, graduates, alumni, faculty and staff.

Attendees met with industry representatives from fields such as civil and structural engineering, energy, environmental, manufacturing, mining, high tech, biomedical and aerospace. Many companies have been long-standing attendees at Mines career day events, but this fall also brought many new employers to Mines.  

Prior to Career Day, students were offered the opportunity to meet with employers for workshops and information sessions on resume writing, interview techniques and networking. These sessions are offered through the Career Center for the remainder of the week and throughout the academic year – students interested in attending a session can find them posted on DiggerNet (login required).

In 2014-2015, Mines undergraduates earned an average starting salary of $66,394, MS graduates $76,253 and PhD graduates $86,120. Program guides are available in the Career Center or online via DiggerNet.

View the list of participating organizations at this fall’s event.


Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 |
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 |





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