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 |




Two student physics organizations are offering bricks salvaged from Meyer Hall, the longtime home of the Physics Department, as a reward for helping members attend the largest gathering of undergraduate physics students in the world.

David Schmidt and Lindsey Hart holding Meyer Hall bricks

David Schmidt, president of Sigma Pi Sigma, and Lindsey Hart, president of the Society of Physics Students, hold bricks from Meyer Hall.

Sigma Pi Sigma, the physics honor society, and the Society of Physics Students hope to send 30 to 40 students to PhysCon, according to David Schmidt, president of Sigma Pi Sigma. “It will depend on how much of the trip we can cover for each student.”

Held every four years, this year’s PhysCon takes place Nov. 3 to 5 in Silicon Valley, CA, and has the theme of “Unifying Fields: Science Driving Innovation.” Attendees will explore graduate programs, summer research opportunities and job options, present their research, grow professionally through workshops, and become inspired by renowned physicists and lab tours. Between registration fees, travel and accommodations, sending one student costs around $700.

Built in 1963, Meyer Hall was torn down in March 2016 to make way for the CoorsTek Center for Applied Science and Engineering, a $50 million centralized teaching and research space.

Physics students rescued about 160 bricks from the building, as well as two larger “special” bricks from an interior wall in lecture hall Meyer 220, which will go to the two donors who give the most as of September 1. “I’d worked in the building for 21 years and didn’t know they existed until shortly before the building came down,” said Barbara Pratt-Johnson, program assistant for the Physics Department.

“Bricks from Meyer may contain actual blood, sweat, and tears from 50 years’ worth of physics majors,” Pratt-Johnson said.

While he’s excited about the new building, Physics Professor and Department Head Jeff Squier has many fond memories of Meyer Hall, first earning his BS and MS degrees from Mines, then occupying an office as a faculty member since 1980.

Squier said he’ll miss the mural in the department office—a photo of the lunar landscape. “I think it’s one of the best photos in the world.” Stopping the swinging of the Foucault pendulum “hit home for me,” Squier said.

“We’re in the age of interdisciplinary science—Paul Meyer, whom the building is named for—exemplified this as a doctor, mathematician and physicist,” Squier said. “This is an opportunity to have some unique memorabilia about a man and a building that was ahead of his time, and a tradition we now get to build on in a major way with the construction of the CoorsTek Center for Applied Science and Engineering,” he added.

Donations can be made at Click on “STUACT-STACT” and select “Donations for Society of Physics Students.” Rewards for various donation levels are as follows:


  • $15 to $24.99 – Leather bookmark engraved with the SPS logo
  • $25 to $99.99 – Bookmark and personalized sign
  • $100 to 119.99 – Commemorative brick, engraved with the text “Meyer Hall” 1963-2016” and the SPS logo
  • $120 and up – Brick, sign and bookmark

The bookmarks, signs and bricks were engraved using CNC laser machines, recently acquired by the Physics Department and used by students in summer field session. “Some students were experimenting with different materials in the laser machine and they figured out the best power and speed settings to engrave the bricks, said Lindsey Hart, president of the Society of Physics Students. “We then made a design and started engraving all our bricks.”

Mark Ramirez, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science & Engineering | 303-384-2622 |
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 |

In a state with an energy economy as purple as its politics, it can be hard to decide where to stand.

The Payne Institute for Earth Resources at Colorado School of Mines has teamed up with Inside Energy to host Spark! Unpacking the Politics of Energy in Colorado at 5 p.m. on Sept. 8 in the Ben H. Parker Student Center (1200 16th Street, Golden), Ballrooms A and B.

Join the Payne Institute and Inside Energy to explore everything Colorado’s energy portfolio stands to lose, gain or change in the 2016 election. Journalists from Inside Energy will press a panel of experts on critical energy issues to help the public make their own decisions in November.

The panel includes Ian Lange, PhD, Mineral and Energy Economics Program Director, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines; Tracee Bentley, Executive Director, Colorado Petroleum Council; Meghan Nutting, Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs, Sunnova; and Lee Boughey, Senior Manager, Communications and Public Affairs, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

“This panel covers the full spectrum of the Colorado energy landscape,” says Dr. Lange. “I’m excited to hear the views of my fellow panelists and share my thoughts on how Colorado could be impacted by the policies on the ballot this fall.”

The event is now SOLD OUT, but you can catch all the action via Facebook Live. Tune in right here at 6 p.m. on Sept. 8.

Visit for more information.

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 Inside Energy
Inside Energy is a collaborative journalism initiative among public media with roots in Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota. It is funded by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Its mission, in collaboration with its partner stations, is to create a more informed public on energy issues. Inside Energy seeks to make energy issues a household topic and to inspire community conversations on the topic of energy. Learn more at

Kelly Beard, Communication Specialist, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3452 |
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 |

As she peered through windows into labs and classrooms during her prospective student tour of Mines, Denise Dihle ’93 had an overwhelming feeling of being “home.” While there are no specific words to describe this sentiment, she knew it was a combination of the friendly people on campus, the hospitality and helpfulness of faculty and the openness of the Golden community. Even though she had several other school options, Denise chose Mines and joined a close-knit family of friends during her college years, where she blossomed as a person.

“Yes, I learned a lot from a textbook, and application processes that allowed me to go out into the working world. But it was a growing process, the learning and maturity, the learning of taking control of your destiny and being accountable. And learning how to manage your time and prioritize,” she said.

Denise graduated with a mechanical engineering specialty and spent six years in the construction industry. She had the opportunity to start her own engineering firm after that, which she eventually moved to Golden.

Just this year, that firm, Three Sixty Engineering, Inc., was nominated and awarded the U.S. Department of Energy’s Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year for 2015. The work the firm has been doing for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) was highlighted by the U.S. Secretary of Energy at the award ceremony in Atlanta.

Denise is very proud of the firm’s work with NREL, the National Park Service and other organizations around the country and is especially humbled by this recognition. “[The award wasn’t] just women-owned engineering firms, it was women-owned businesses, period. Any women-owned business that provided services to the Department of Energy was eligible. So to be able to be highlighted as a women engineer was cool,” she said.

Denise’s determination at the beginning of her career set her up for this impressive accolade. “What I learned in this industry, early on, as a woman, is I had to do twice as much homework before a meeting. Because if they asked me a question, I had to have the answer on the spot. I really felt that pressure early on in my career. Whereas I watched some of my male colleagues not be prepared for the meeting and they would get a pass. If I was going to make my mark, I needed to be super prepared for meetings and conference calls. By doing that, I started to gain more and more respect in that industry,” she said.

This prestigious award affirms her hard work that has set her apart in the industry, as Denise has grown as a professional and expanded her business in Golden, returning to the community she instantly knew she wanted to be a part of when she first toured Mines.

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

The Colorado School of Mines Foundation Executive Committee has designated Pat James of Castle Rock as the new chairman of its Board of Governors. James will assume the position on October 6.

James, who graduated from Mines as an Engineer of Mines in 1968, has been a member of the Colorado School of Mines Foundation Board of Governors since 2009. He has served on all operating committees during his tenure. He also served on the Advisory Board to the Mines Board of Trustees, and on two fundraising campaign committees. James was a Mines Distinguished Achievement Medalist in 1995 and received the Daniel C. Jackling Award of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration in 1999.  He also earned a Masters of Management from the University of New Mexico and is a Registered Professional Engineer in Colorado.

“Pat is one of the most genuinely passionate Mines alumnus I know, with a deep commitment to helping spread the word that Mines is the best engineering and applied sciences school in the country,” said David Wagner, current Chairman of the foundation. “His dedication to Mines and executive experience in an industry where our graduates are top-rated will help him be an effective leader for the foundation.”

James has more than 45 years of experience in the mining industry. He retired as chairman, president, and CEO of the Santa Fe Pacific Gold Corporation when it was acquired by Newmont Mining in 1997 and served a year as a director of Newmont.  He served as president and CEO of Rio Algom Limited in Toronto from 1997 to 2001. Since then, James served as a director of six other publicly-listed international mining companies, including Dynatec, Inc., Stillwater Mining Company, Constellation Copper Corp., Centerra Gold Inc., General Moly Inc., and Rare Element Resources.

The outgoing chairman, David Wagner, has served Colorado School of Mines in many capacities over his 17-year tenure. The Colorado governor appointed him as a university trustee in 1999. He joined the Colorado School of Mines Foundation Board at that time, has been Chairman since 2002, and President and CEO from 2002 until 2015. Notably he guided a reorganization of the Foundation in 2008 and has led the university and foundation’s $350 million campaign, Transforming Lives: The Campaign for Colorado School of Mines, the most successful campaign for private support in the university’s history

“Without David, the university and foundation would not be as successful as they are today. His leadership, integrity and transparency are highly respected, and his dedication to Mines is unsurpassed,” said Brian Winkelbauer, President and CEO of the Foundation.


Rachelle Trujillo, Senior Director, Marketing Communications, CSM Foundation / 303-273-3526 /


When John Mathewson ‘53 retired from oil and gas exploration at the age of 60, he and his wife, Joan, moved to the western slope of Colorado, bought a winery and started a new phase in their lives.

After spending 26 years as expatriates in places such as Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Nigeria, Tanzania, Yemen and Syria (one of their favorites), John and Joan became vintners under the Terror Creek Winery label in 1992, named for the local creek that had notoriously been known to run its banks and cause big boulders to roll down the ditch. Their retirement plan had always included owning a winery, so when John worked in Saudi Arabia for Western Geophysical (which was later bought by Schlumberger), Joan took winemaking classes in Switzerland and interned at nearby vineyards. On a visit to Colorado, a friend alerted them to the vineyard in Paonia, which was owned by Chicago residents. After striking a deal, they moved stateside from Nigeria and started their new business.

“There were just eight rows (of grapes),” John remembered. “We started enlarging it. Must be about 150 rows or so now.”

With clean, crisp mountain water, warm days and cool nights, the Mathewsons worked the land and grew their vineyard, the first in the North Fork Valley at the time. Joan’s experiences at the vineyards outside of Geneva, some of which had terracing dating clear back to the Romans, prepared them as they started to pick which type of grapes to plant and what style of wine they wanted to produce. Because of her background, they went with Alsatian-style wines, including dry Reislings and Gewürztraminers that seldom have an oak barrel aroma and are crisp, fruity and sometimes spicy. Their Gewürztraminer is one of their best sellers.

The second act of their lives and the success of the winery was set up by years in the oil and gas industry around the world.

John, originally from Pasadena, transferred to Mines with several other students at Pasadena City College and got a professional degree in geological engineering. He spent two years in ROTC and after graduation, went on to serve in the Korean War. He and Joan got married as soon as he was out of the military, and he then went to work for Western Geophysical and was the manager for various foreign countries.

“We were in Egypt during the ‘76 war, watching the Israelis fly over and we were in Tunis during the ‘67 war,” said John. “We were down in Aden when the Brits were pulling out of their British colony, of south Yemen, and we saw a lot of terrorist stuff. They’d sit up on the side of the mountain and take potshots and shoot rocket launchers at night.”

The couple had two boys and raised them all over the world; they speak four languages. One son, John Matheson BS ’81, MS ‘08, followed in his father’s footsteps, graduating from Mines and then working for Schlumberger. Their other son worked with drones in the Air Force and now lives in Virginia and owns a craft brewery.

Now, 24 years into the winery business, John and Joan still do wine tastings during the summer in their small, humble tasting room, but the reality of working 260 acres at 86 years old is becoming acutely felt (although John still goes skiing and knows that it takes exactly one hour and 45 minutes to get to Aspen/Snowmass ski resort). Their third act, following a life of world travels and wine, is wide open.

Anica Wong, Communications Specialist, Colorado School of Mines Foundation | 303-273-3904 |
Rachelle Trujillo, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, Colorado School of Mines Foundation | 303-273-3526 |




The American Nuclear Society has selected a Colorado School of Mines graduate as its Glenn T. Seaborg Congressional Science and Engineering Fellow for 2017.
Levi PattersonLevi Patterson earned a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Nuclear Engineering from Mines. He will work in the office of a U.S. senator or representative, or a Senate or House committee, and provide Congress with expertise in nuclear science and technology. Fellows are expected to gain a better understanding of how the legislative process works.

“I was encouraged by the tremendous progress the sciences were making in solving real-world energy issues,” Patterson said of his time at Mines. “Once I started working in the energy industry, I was again encouraged by the technical capabilities our society has invested in and are ready to implement.”

However, he said, turning scientific innovations in the energy sector into reality requires significant policy efforts. “It is important that more scientists and engineers pursue policy-related positions, and that is exactly what interested me in this fellowship,” Patterson said.

Patterson said Mines prepared him well for the fellowship, as well as for his position at General Electric Hitachi Nuclear Energy, where he has worked since 2013. He also credited Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Associate Professor Jeffrey King, a member of the Nuclear Science and Engineering program faculty, who served as his advisor.

“Public policy is intricately tied into the field of nuclear energy,” King said. “Indeed, recent events in the nuclear industry have as much to do with public policy decisions as they do to engineering and science.”

Students in Mines’ NSE program have the opportunity to learn about the many ways in which public policy and economics impact nuclear energy, King said. “Several of our graduates have gone on to play important roles in nuclear policy. Levi is an outstanding example of this.”

Patterson will be one of nearly 30 scientists and engineers who will take part in the American Association for the Advancement of Science Congressional Science and Engineering Program. More than 2,000 have served as fellows since 1973; ANS started its program in 2000.

The program provides a $60,000 stipend for the year, and up to $5,000 in reimbursement for travel to the AAAS orientation and the two ANS national meetings during the fellowship year.

In addition to competence in nuclear science and technology, the fellowship is awarded based on a demonstrated ability to participate in public policy discussions, written and oral communications skills, and contributions to ANS.

Mark Ramirez, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science & Engineering | 303-384-2622 |
Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 |

Emerita Associate Professor Cathy Skokan has been named a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) at the society’s annual conference this week in New Orleans. 

Founded in 1893, ASEE is a nonprofit organization of individuals and institutions committed to furthering education in engineering and engineering technology. The organization promotes excellence in instruction, research and public service, and fosters technological education. The honor of fellow is bestowed by the ASEE Board of Directors upon members in recognition of outstanding contributions to engineering or engineering technology education.

The first female to earn a graduate degree at Mines

Skokan’s early interest in rocks led to a love of science, and a wise high school counselor suggested she combine her skills in math and science with her passion for the outdoors and study geophysics.

“I remember I applied to LeHigh University as C. King, my maiden name,” said Skokan, “because they weren’t accepting women at the time. But they eventually figured out I was a woman.”

Mines, on the other hand, offered Skokan a full scholarship. She received her bachelor’s degree in geophysical engineering in 1970, and went on to become the first woman to receive a graduate degree from Mines in any field, receiving her master’s degree in 1971, and PhD in 1974. Her goal remained conducting research for a government organization.


From government researcher to university professor

Skokan’s many contributions to engineering education and to Mines, in particular, almost never came to be. She originally saw herself solely as a researcher rather than a teacher. Thanks to a delay in her government paperwork, she returned to Mines to do postdoctoral research in electromagnetics while waiting to start her new job. Skokan shared how her plans changed: "Just before the beginning of the fall semester, George Keller, who was the head of the department and my thesis advisor, came in and said, ‘We need someone to teach linear systems analysis.’

“I said, ‘I don’t teach.’

"He said, ‘Classes meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday.’ He handed me the class notes, told me what time it started and walked out the door.

“Linear systems was not one of my favorite subjects, though it is now.”

Skokan credits Keller as a mentor throughout her early career. She went on to accept a tenured faculty position in Geophysics. In 1996, she moved to what was then the Engineering Division at Mines (now the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences), where she spent the next 20 years teaching linear systems, senior design and geophysical courses to electrical engineering students.

“Several of my research grants centered around electromagnetic methods of mapping earth structures,” Skokan explained, “so I got to combine electrical engineering and geology, which was the best of all worlds.”

Humanitarian Engineering Program

Skokan was also one of the initiators of the Humanitarian Engineering program at Mines, the first in the nation. Initial funding from the Hewlett foundation aimed to take student engineers to communities that needed their skills most. As a result, Skokan took student groups to Senegal, Honduras and Ghana to work on solving real problems with engineering solutions.

Skokan recalls a particular Humanitarian Engineering trip to Alaska:

"An Alaskan tribal community had invited us to help with projects to prepare them for a community center. Over multiple years, we designed a road and septic system, among other things. One year, we were driving out there from the airport, and a student asked, “Do they live in igloos?” I told him, no, and that he would see what they lived in soon. The Bureau of Indian Affairs had built a series of prefab houses intended for Hawaii, and when they weren’t needed in Hawaii, they were sent there. Some members of the community lived in old school buses, and it reached -40 Fahrenheit during the winters. We left with a real sense of doing work that was needed. It was an eye-opening experience for all of us.”


Humanitarian Engineering students traveled to the University of Ghana with Associate Professor Skokan in 2007 as part of their senior design project.

Music at Mines

Skokan still believes that international experiences are essential for every engineer’s education, and often travels with Mines music students. She currently plays violin with the Mines Orchestra, bassoon with the Mines Band and erhu with the Mines Chinese Band.

"I’ve played in the band since I was a student here in the 60s,” said Skokan. “Believe it or not, I was the first director of the orchestra here, until they finally hired a real musician rather than an engineer to conduct the orchestra.”


                                                   Catherine Skokan and the Mines Marching Band in Dublin's 2015 St. Patrick's Day Parade.

In 2016, Skokan led 150 Mines music students and alumni on a spring trip to march in Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “We always combine an engineering and musical component on these trips,” explained Skokan. “In Ireland, we visited Dublin Institute of Technology, with whom we are now working on a collaborative effort. I also took a group of students into the Tara Mines, a lead and zinc mine near County Meath. Because we are engineers, not just tourists, they took us underground and the students had a blast exploring the machinery. It included electrical, mechanical, civil, mining, geology— talk about interdisciplinary!”


                                                   Students prepare for an underground tour of the lead and zinc Tara Mine in Co. Meath, Ireland.

In 2015, Skokan accompanied Mines music students and alumni to Jamaica. In addition to meeting with engineering students at the University of the West Indies, the Mines group participated in a recording session with Winston “Sparrow” Martin, Bob Marley's percussionist, at the studio that Bob Marley founded.

In 2017, Skokan will be taking Mines music students to Florence. “We’ll be visiting Santa Croce,” said Skokan, “where Galileo, Michelangelo and Rossini are buried. It’s also right on the Arno River, which flooded in 1966, killing more than 100 people and destroying millions of masterpieces. So we’re going to talk to a professor from the University of Florence about flood mitigation and art restoration."

Innovation in engineering education

Skokan became involved in ASEE around the time that she joined the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. She spent a sabbatical writing a pre-engineering curriculum for Adams School District, which is still in use.

“Every project had a computer, math, writing and engineering component,” said Skokan.

“I joined the multidisciplinary division of ASEE,” continued Skokan, “because electrical, mechanical and civil were all under the Engineering Division in those days. I went from Secretary, to Treasurer, then Program Chair and finally Chair.” Skokan is currently the ASEE Vice President for External Relations, which includes chairing ASEE’s international advisory committee and external projects.

"The best thing ASEE offers,” according to Skokan, “is workshops and venues to look at innovative teaching methodsthose that worked and those that didn’t. I believe looking at the failure papers can be even more educational than the success papers." 

Despite retiring in 2015, Skokan remains as busy as ever. She will be giving a talk in Japan at the annual Japanese Society for Engineering Education meeting, and another in Korea in November at an engineering education conference. 

Skokan is the third Mines faculty member to be named an ASEE Fellow in addition to Theodore A. Bickart in 2000 and Joan Gosink in 2010.


All photos from the personal archives of Emerita Associate Professor Catherine Skokan.


Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 |
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 |

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Army ROTC programs in the nation. Colorado School of Mines was designated the ROTC Company for the Battalion (13 Metro Area Schools) to host the celebration, which occurred in conjunction with E-Days festivities on April 1.


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