Alumni

Mines students at commencement

This December, Colorado School of Mines will hold two mid-year degree commencement ceremonies:

·      The undergraduate Commencement Ceremony will take place on Dec. 16 at 9:30 a.m. in Lockridge Arena.

·      The graduate Commencement Ceremony (MS and PhD students) will take place on Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. also in Lockridge Arena.

If you are unable to make it to the ceremony, livestream viewings are available via the links below.

·      Dec. 16 undergraduate ceremony

·      Dec. 16 graduate ceremony

Share your commencement memories on social media using the hashtag: #MinesGrad2016

Parking permits and meter receipts are not required on the day of commencement. For the most current parking information, visit http://inside.mines.edu/Parking.

For more information, please visit inside.mines.edu/Commencement.

 

Contact:
Leah Pinkus, Communications Assistant, Colorado School of Mines 303-273-3088 lpinkus@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

Joe Geiger stands in front of the ROTC building on the Mines campus
After 11 years in uniform (four years in ROTC and seven years as a U.S. Army captain), Joe Geiger '09 visited the ROTC building on the Mines campus in late June 2016. Now, he's shifting gears toward a career in teaching and politics.
(Photograph by Kathleen Morton)

 

Joe Geiger ’09 is not shy to say that being in ROTC as a student at Mines changed his life. His wife, Mel, agreed, remembering back to their high school days when he was a scrawny boy who had an afro of red hair and wore Hawaiian shirts like they were going out of style.

“I was able to get an engineering degree in four years and have a job and stay on track and have good grades and do ROTC because of the structure and discipline that ROTC provided. It’s multilevel,” Geiger said.

He knew he wanted to be in the military from a young age. Five generations of his family served in the U.S. Army, and he felt the calling, the desire, the responsibility to serve. He was awarded a National ROTC scholarship at the same time he was accepted to Mines—the only college he applied for. During his four years at Mines, he created lasting friendships with fellow cadets and ran up Mt. Zion too many times to count. Geiger graduated from Mines with a mining degree and went straight into the Army. He spent seven years in active duty, three years overseas and one year in combat in Afghanistan. His last day in the Army happened to be the day before he was interviewed for this story; his new reality was just setting in.

“I haven’t processed [being out of the Army] yet. Even when I was on campus, we were doing physical training five days a week in the morning, and then we had classes and leadership lab, so I was in uniform almost every day. And then the last seven years as my full-time job,” Geiger said.

But Geiger is not finished with the military. He accepted a job as an assistant professor of military science at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The position seems made for Geiger; it was vacant for four years because the requirements (a post-command captain with combat experience and an engineering degree) were pretty limiting. His Mines education made him the perfect candidate.

“Now I can kind of mold the little cadets into my vision of what a good officer should be. And I’m not the best officer—far from it. But I want to be able to take my slice of wisdom and try to make them better than I was,” Geiger said.

As if his time in the Army and new teaching position do not show his commitment to service, Geiger also tossed his hat into the race for a seat in New York’s state legislature. Twenty-four candidates initially announced they wanted to run in the primary on the Republican ticket. Of those, 13 were invited to interview before party chairs in the district. Eleven candidates were then invited to participate in a caucus, and Geiger finished third.

“Third place as someone who had just moved home recently, had zero connections or background in politics and effectively hadn’t been able to campaign at all [while serving in the military],” Geiger said. “The two people who beat me had been involved in politics and government for 20 years plus and they were already elected officials as it was. It was kind of a shocker.”

Now that he has the freedom to campaign, Geiger thinks he has as good of a shot as anyone to make the ticket for the primary in September and believes that because of the conservative demographics of the district, whoever wins the Republican primary will go on to win the election in November. He will campaign on three specific platforms: rooting out government corruption, fixing a crumbling infrastructure and growing a friendly business climate. He was also recently accepted to the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School, where regardless of whether he wins the election, he will go on to get an MBA.

Geiger’s life has been full of learning opportunities that he hopes will help make a difference and contribute to bettering the world. And even though he says it’s cheesy, Mines was instrumental in his success.

“I would say joining the Army was the second best decision I’ve made. The best decision was marrying Mel, and I’m really excited that we have a baby on the way,” Geiger said. “Our journey started years ago with me joining ROTC.”


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

Story by Anica Wong

Can you imagine sending for admissions info to a college and getting a personal letter from the university president, encouraging you to apply? That’s exactly what happened to George Sturgis in 1975.

He was nearing the end of his voluntary enlistment and decided he wanted to finish his education after he got out of the Army, so he sent for applications from Mines, Princeton, MIT and Rensselaer.

When a letter arrived at his post in Fort Hood from the Office of the President, Colorado School of Mines, he assumed it was a marketing piece. “I got ribbed and razzed mercilessly by my company, and my commanding officer told me to read the letter out loud,” said Sturgis. “As I read, they all stopped laughing and fell silent.”

The letter was from President Guy McBride, encouraging him to apply even before the applications arrived from the admissions offices. Knowing that McBride was passionate about the military, Mines’ admissions office told the president about Sturgis. McBride was moved to send the young man a personal letter, promoting the university and how it could help Sturgis on his life path. Sturgis applied to all four top engineering programs and was accepted at all of the schools.

He chose Mines for three reasons.

1.      The letter from McBride made him feel like someone truly had an interest in him attending and doing something valuable with his career.

2.      He was from Colorado and had an interest in returning.

3.      Mines had the reputation as a university you went to if you were very smart and knew how to work hard -- it was a challenge.

After Sturgis had been on campus about a year, on a lark, he stopped by McBride’s office to introduce himself and thank him. “I asked him why he sent the letter to me. He said he wanted a hard-working veteran on campus and wanted to encourage me,” said Sturgis. “He asked if I was happy I came to Mines. I replied, ‘Most of the time.’”

He confirms that Mines was a very demanding university. “I’d never given up on anything in my life, and I was not going to leave Mines as anything but a graduate.” said Sturgis. “The two events which most influenced my life as young adult were my military service and my education at Mines.”

A new recruitment tool for President Johnson?

Contacts:

Rachelle Trujillo, Foundation Senior Director, Marketing Communications | 303-273-3526 |  RTrujillo@mines.edu
Anica Wong, Foundation Communications Specialist | 303-273-3904 | acwong@mines.edu

A moment of silence for those who lost their lives in the White Ash Mine disaster.

On September 9, 1889, ten miners drowned in the White Ash Mine disaster, one of the most serious accidents in Golden’s history. In commemoration of the lives lost in the tragedy, the unveiling of the new memorial site located on the Colorado School of Mines campus across from Marv Kay Stadium took place on October 29, 2016. The dedication ceremony was led by Marv Kay, a Mines alumnus and former football coach and athletic director. Stan Dempsey, a geologist, historian, lawyer, author and a recent inductee into the National Mining Hall of Fame, provided the historical account of the tragedy.

“The White Ash Mine contained a bed of coal that had been upturned along the hogback,” Dempsey explained, recounting the geologic background of the area. Development began in 1877 and “by 1888 the shaft had been sunk down to a depth of 730 feet, which made it the deepest coal mine in the state,” said Dempsey.

The Loveland Mine, the northern neighbor of the White Ash Mine, was abandoned in 1881 due to a coal fire, and “its ten and a half miles of workings was left to fill with water from the workings underneath Clear Creek,” said Dempsey. Additionally, the coal fire in the Loveland Mine had burned downward, damaging the 90-foot pillar separating the two mines until on September 9, 1889, the pillar broke and water burst through to the 280-foot level, flowing down to the 440-foot level and eventually down the shaft to the very lowest level of the White Ash Mine, drowning the ten miners working in the lower depths.

Foreman Evan Jones, superintendent of the White Ash Mine on the day of the accident, made several attempts to evacuate the mine. The last attempt was made the next day at 7:30 a.m. as “Jones and the state mine inspector went down in a heavy iron bucket to conduct an inspection,” said Dempsey. After the inspection, it was decided that for the safety of the rescue team, no further rescues could be attempted.

A memorial for those killed in the White Ash Mine disaster was first proposed in 1909. However, it wasn’t until 1936 that there was “a community effort led by the Junior Chamber of Commerce to create a small memorial with a plaque on a stone that stood on the end of 12th Street,” said Kay. The memorial was dedicated on September 9, 1936, by Mayor Albert Edward Jones, son of Evan Jones.

A commemorative bronze statue of a coal miner to honor those killed in the
White Ash Mnine tragedy.

73 years later in 2009, John Ackle and his mother, Dorothy Ackle, decided to create a new memorial for the miners by starting the White Ash Mine Memorial Committee. They solicited proposals from 62 artists to create a bronze sculpture of a coal miner to stand alongside the plaque. The committee selected a design by well-known sculptor Cloyd Barnes. “The earliest and largest donors to the bronze were the Odd Fellows,” said Kay. Many of the miners were members of the Odd Fellows, a fraternal order that participates in community and charity services. The Odd Fellows, alongside the Golden Civic Foundation and many Golden citizens aided in raising $60,000 to complete the statue. The bronze miner was completed in 2011 and kept in the Mines Geology Museum until its unveiling at the dedication ceremony on October 29.

“The Colorado School of Mines provided the land, design and funding for this beautiful final resting place for the miners,” said Kay. “As part of the Clear Creek Athletic project, [Mines] felt the need and desire to see if a permanent memorial could be established.” As a result, the Golden Civic Foundation agreed to relinquish control of the piece so that Mines could provide a permanent site for the “internal remembrance of the tragic disaster and a final resting place for those ten White Ash miners,” said Kay.

“We’re sitting here today just imagining what 12th Street was like those couple of days with the wagons, other miners and grieving widows,” said Kay. “History talks about how the city was full of all the people that were willing to help.”  

Contact:
Leah Pinkus, Communications Assistant, Colorado School of Mines 303-273-3088 lpinkus@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

Chris Fehn BASE jumps above a river in West Virginia
Chris Fehn '12 BASE jumps into the New River Gorge in Fayetteville, West Virginia.
(Photo courtesy of Chris Fehn)

Mines engineers are making a name for themselves in the growing world of extreme sports.

For Mickey Wilson ’11, MS ’12, it’s just another day at the office.

Sporting baggy jeans, a black ball cap and an intensely focused look, the physics and metallurgical engineering graduate steps onto a 2-inch wide strap of webbing suspended a dizzying 460 feet above the blinking Las Vegas Strip. Guests at the nearby Mandalay Bay casino look up nervously as he moves toward the center, riding the line surfer-style and wildly rocking it back and forth. He brie y hops on one foot, then gracefully (and purposely) slips off, tumbling ground-ward. The audience gasps. His safety rope catches him. He climbs back up, grin spreading across his face. And he begins again, joining three other professional slackliners hired to put on tonight’s hair-raising show.

What does any of this have to do with engineering? Let Wilson count the ways.

“Just setting up a slackline safely is an engineering problem,” says Wilson, whose job has required him to tiptoe over an active volcano in Italy, traverse a cavernous limestone valley in Spain and perform high- flying acrobatics for the Prince of Dubai. “And what you do with your body up on that line—it’s all physics.”

Surprisingly, Wilson’s career choice isn’t as rare as you’d think. From Alan Stevens ’12, an environmental engineering graduate turned professional musher; to Maureen Sweet ’15, a chemical engineering graduate turned professional half-pipe snowboarder; to

Derek Parks ’05, MS ’10, a computer scientist who moonlights as a wingsuit skydiving instructor, stories abound of Mines alumni using their engineering backgrounds to excel (even make a living) at extreme sports.

Some of these athletes say their appetite for adrenaline, and the epic kayaking, climbing and mountaineering around Golden, were some of the things that lured them to Mines.

Others say they gravitated toward their grueling, exceedingly risky pastimes as a mind-clearing distraction from the school’s academic rigors. And many say the scientist’s mindset is a perfect t for sports in which calm, analytical problem-solving in tense times can mean the difference between life and death.

“Risk management was a big part of our curriculum at Mines,” says Stevens. “Maybe it wasn’t about jumping out of airplanes or trying to not freeze to death when you’re out on the frozen ocean, but it translates well anyway.”

From Summer Adventure to Life’s Work

Alan Stevens rides on a sled pulled by dogs.
Alan Stevens '12 approaches the finish line in Nome, Alaska, as he completes the 2015 Iditarod trail sled dog race.
(Photo by Hideo Sata)

Alan Stevens knew little about Alaska and less about sled dogs when, after graduating, he spotted a job advertisement for “a poop scooper for 300 dogs.” He worked at a tourist dog- sledding camp, accessible only by helicopter, on Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier. He assumed that by fall, he’d come home and get a “real” job.

“I thought of it as a big summer adventure,” he
says. But during his time on the glacier, he became enamored with the athleticism of the huskies and the ancient form of transportation they provided to some of the world’s wildest places. By summer’s end, he set his sights on the frigid 1,000-mile Iditarod sled- dog race from Anchorage to Nome. He reached out to four-time champion Martin Buser for mentorship, began to amass a team of huskies and spent three cold and dark years training.

He used his engineering skills every step of the way, he says, from building himself a 31-pound carbon fiber sled to designing tiny strain gauges (wired into each dog’s harness) to measure in real-time how much weight each was pulling. When it came time
to packing and arranging for the drop-shipping of 2,700 pounds of supplies (mostly dog food) along the Iditarod Trail in March 2015, his eye for efficiency came in handy. His time management skills also helped, as he cared for 16 dogs, stopping for six-hour breaks to methodically examine each of their 64 feet, rub every shoulder, check every harness, melt snow and prep a warm stew for them and try to find time to feed and dry himself before packing up to go again.

At one point, he got lost and had to hunker down in -68 degree temperatures, blanketed in falling snow. At another, the team took 15 hours to scratch its way across the frozen ice of Norton Bay—visibility near zero. (It typically takes six hours.)

“When I was facing extreme diversity, I’d just stop, take a few minutes to think about what resources I had available to me and problem solve. I learned that at Mines,” says Stevens.

After 12 days, 8 hours, 43 minutes and 2 seconds, Stevens crossed the finish line, becoming only the 745th person ever to do so. By comparison, roughly 4,000 have summited Mount Everest. Now he’s back in money-making mode, offering tourist dog-sledding excursions to save up for his next race.

“There are always some eyes rolling during the tour when I tell people I am a trained engineer, and I admit my parents were extremely skeptical about the lifestyle I chose,” he says. “But when they saw me at the finish of the Iditarod, the scope of what we were trying to accomplish came into perspective. We are doing something big here. And it is a lifestyle that makes me happy.”

The Zen of Freefalling

Derek Parks skydives in a wingsuit over Chicago.
With a 300-jump-per-year habit, Derek Parks '05, MS '10, had no problem donning his nylon wingsuit for a jump over Skydive Chicago this past August.
(Photo by Matt Lesziak)

To computer science grad Derek Parks, who writes seismic data processing software for Landmark Graphics, the answer seemed obvious. In order to indulge his newfound and expensive hobby of skydiving, he’d have to get a second job.
“I figured I’d pay for skydiving with skydiving,” says Parks, who moonlights as an instructor with Longmont-based Mile High Sky Diving. That decision years ago led to a 300-jump-per-year habit, which in 2010 evolved into a new, even more esoteric hobby: competitive wingsuit flying.

“My first instructor told me: ‘Being strong has worked for you in everything in your life, but you cannot be strong in the sky. You can’t push against it,’” recalls Parks, a big, slick bald guy who played rugby in college. “You have to relax and learn how to control your body in a different environment.”

Once he jumps out of a plane, his nylon superhero-esque wingsuit essentially turns his body into a plane, which he accelerates
or brakes with carefully orchestrated movements. The rush is exhilarating, but the risk is real. “You are zipped into a suit, like a straitjacket, and you have to be able to unzip in time before you can reach back and control your parachute.”

He also has, as he puts it, “geeked out” using his engineering skills to excel at his sport (which was only recently recognized by skydiving governing bodies as a legitimate discipline). He uses a GPS logger on his helmet to assess his precise location and glide ratio as he travels at 100-plus miles per hour. Then he plots that data on a graph, assessing it to improve his precision on future flights.

His most proud moment came in 2015, when he and 60 other wingsuit flyers set a world record for the largest formation made in the sky. The job of each flyer: to leap from one of five planes at

a precise time, then beeline toward their pre-destined position to join a giant human diamond. For less than a minute they stayed in place, two feet from each other, falling downward in synchronicity. Then, they peeled off and pulled their chutes. “You are working to get that one perfect frame—a perfect grid that everyone fits in,” he says, proudly pointing to a photo of his blue suit at the center of the diamond. “It’s almost a Zen experience.”

Chris Fehn ’12 can relate. He found his way to skydiving, wingsuit flying and now BASE jumping after a 2010 motorcycle accident on his way to class landed him in the hospital for 45 days and required 13 surgeries to x his leg. “I have had the urge to do risky things my whole life, but after the accident, I figured I am only going to do things that are really worth the risk,” he says. “Motorcycling wasn’t. BASE jumping is.”

The mostly underground sport stands for Building, Antenna, Span and Earth—the four objects from which participants jump. Like skydiving, it requires a literal leap of faith, followed by a strategically timed parachute pull. But because Fehn jumps from 250 to 2,000 feet—rather than 13,500—there’s far less room for error.

“It is an extremely dangerous sport no matter how you do it, and you have to respect that,” says Fehn, who BASE jumps purely for a hobby. But the feeling of falling through the air with style, “It’s just indescribable.”

A Gap Year—Or Two… Or Three…

Mickey Wilson jumps on a slackline
Mickey Wilson '11, MS '12 performs at a Gibbon Slacklines event in Richmond, Virginia. Wilson is known to be one of the best in the world for highline tricklining.

For recent graduates Maureen Sweet and Mickey Wilson, the thrill of extreme competition has been reward enough to forgo a lucrative job in their respective fields, at least for a few years.

Sweet came to Mines from Baltimore, in part to pursue a life as a competitive snowboarder—a goal that required her to drive to Summit County, Colorado five days a week before or after classes to train with her team. “You have to find some kind of extracurricular passion that you love or this school can eat you up,” she says. “The more stress school put on me, the more stress I relieved with snowboarding and the better I did at both.”

Now a professional halfpipe competitor, she says her mathematical mind is hard at work as she enters the pipe, plotting the angle she’ll have to move her body and the level of pressure she’ll have to put on the board to catch air. But as she soars above the 22-foot walls, doing tricks, her mind goes blank.

“I’m not focused on anything up there. It’s complete silence.” She’s now living in Aspen, Colorado, training to ride professionally with the 2017 U.S. Revolution Tour. Ultimately, she plans to go back to school for a nursing degree.

And for Wilson? The future is wonderfully uncertain.

Sitting in his kitchen in Golden, Colorado, surrounded by trophies from the Red Bull slacklining competitions he has won, he marvels at the fact that he’s able to make a living (albeit modest) doing the very thing his classmates gave him grief for back in school.

They always marveled at how the guy who was always hanging out, tan and shirtless, doing tricks on a slackline in the commons, managed to maintain a 4.0 grade point average. “I’d tell them, ‘for every hour of slacklining you do you get four hours of increased productivity,’” he says. “It clears your head.”

Now he’s a sponsored athlete, flying around Europe, the United Arab Emirates and South America to compete and put on shows for event companies.

“I spent a lot of my youth working really hard on academics,” he says, remembering the day post-graduation when he decided to stop looking for a “real job.” “I still wanted to save the world with solar energy, but I figured my 20s should be for athletics and my 30s could be more for serious stuff,” says Wilson.

“Right now, my life is more about experience than making money.”


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

Story by Lisa Marshall

Colorado School of Mines raised nearly half a billion dollars to complete the most successful fundraising campaign in the history of the university, Transforming Lives: The Campaign for Colorado School of Mines.

During the six-year campaign, donors invested $456 million in Mines, far exceeding the total campaign goal of $350 million: $330 million from individuals, corporations and foundations and $126 million in non-governmental research funding. These investments show up in new buildings and programs, state-of-the-art lab space, enhanced student experiences and new faculty positions.

“This is an unheard of fundraising feat for a small public school like ours. We punch far above our weight, and that is a testament to the pride and the dedication of our alumni, faculty, and industry supporters,” said Colorado School of Mines Foundation President and CEO Brian Winkelbauer. “We are grateful to our donors for helping us to develop the problem solvers of the future who will spur global change.”

Campaign highlights from 2010 to 2016 include:

·         Out of 8,857 donors, more than half, 5,403, were alumni.

·         Mines had 3,566 donors who gave to the school for the first time.

·         More than 570 corporate and foundation gifts put $122 million into the campus. 

·         Mines received 50 gifts of $1 million or more.

·         Mines’ endowment sits at $248 million, a growth of nearly 50 percent since the start of the campaign.

·         The university received $67 million dollars during the campaign from planned gifts, and 90 donors left a bequest to Mines.

In the last six years, donors have contributed $63 million dollars for financial aid, creating 168 new scholarships and fellowships. Another critical piece of the institution’s core strength is attracting and retaining renowned faculty members who are the leading experts in their fields. During the campaign, donors have endowed ten new named chairs and professorships.

New or enhanced facilities built during the Transforming Lives campaign:

·         Marquez Hall, home to the petroleum engineering department

·         The Wright Student Wellness Center

·         The Clear Creek Athletic Complex, including a new football stadium, soccer, track and football facilities

·         A renovated Student Center

·         The Starzer Welcome Center

·         The CoorsTek Center for Applied Science and Engineering (currently under construction)

New or enhanced programs during the campaign:

·         Humanitarian Engineering

·         The Harvey Scholars Program

·         The Payne Institute for Earth Resources

·         Nuclear Science

·         Center for Underground Construction and Tunneling

·         ConocoPhillips Center for a Sustainable WE²ST

New faculty positions endowed during the campaign:

·         Stephen Liu - ABS Endowed Chair in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering

·         Open - Fred Banfield Distinguished Endowed Chair in Mining Engineering

·         Paul Constantine - Ben L. Fryrear Assistant Professor of Applied Math and Statistics

·         Dehui Yang - Ben L. Fryrear Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

·         Tzahi Cath & Michael Wakin - Ben L. Fryrear Endowed Professorship Fund for the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences (two positions)

·         Mark Jensen - Jerry and Tina Grandey University Chair in Nuclear Science and Engineering

·         Mike Mooney - Bruce E. Grewcock University Chair in Underground Construction and Tunneling

·         Jamal Rostami - Timothy J. Haddon/Alacer Gold Endowed Chair in Mining Engineering

·         Erdal Ozkan - F.H. “Mick” Merelli/Cimarex Energy Distinguished Department Head Chair in Petroleum Engineering

·         Lesli Wood - Robert J. Weimer Distinguished Endowed Chair in Sedimentary and Petroleum Geology

 

In this era of decreased state funding for higher education, private contributions are more critical than ever. Mines now receives the same amount of funding from private supporters as it does from the state of Colorado.

The volunteer leaders who spearheaded Transforming Lives include Colorado School of Mines Foundation Chairman David Wagner and campaign co-chairs, Chuck Shultz ’61 and Tim Haddon ’70. President Emeritus Bill Scoggins also played a major role in the success of the campaign during his tenure at Mines. 

“I want to thank the campaign leadership and our passionate and generous donors who made this historic campaign so successful” said Mines President Paul Johnson. “It will be remembered for transforming the Mines campus, expansion of our world-class faculty and programs and for making a Mines education more accessible to our students. These new facilities, people, programs and scholarships further solidify Mines position as one of the most distinctive and respected universities in the world. I’m looking forward to seeing the maturation of the new programs, the innovations from our expanded research programs and the impact our graduates make in the world.”

To learn more about the campaign and read stories of impact, visit the new microsite at campaign.mines.edu

Contacts:

Rachelle Trujillo, Foundation Senior Director, Marketing Communications | 303-273-3526 |  RTrujillo@mines.edu
Anica Wong, Foundation Communications Specialist | 303-273-3904 | acwong@mines.edu

 

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.”

Contact:
Mark Ramirez, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science & Engineering | 303-384-2622 | ramirez@mines.edu
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu

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 facebook.com/HumansofMines. 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."
 

CONTACT:

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

 

[Updated Oct. 31]

2016 AGI Critical Issues Forum

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

Mines hosts 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 hosted 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 kicked off with a free film screening of “Written on Water” on Oct. 26 at Mines’ Ben H. Parker Student Center. The screening included an introduction by the film's director and producer, Merri Lisa Trigilio, followed by a question and answer session after the movie. 

“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.

View photos from the film screening.

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," took place Oct. 27-28. The meeting covered multiple aspects of groundwater depletion in the High Plains. Break-out sessions identified 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 included:

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

View photos from the 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 EarthPolicy.Mines.edu.

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 AmericanGeoSciences.org.

CONTACT:
Kelly Beard, Communication Specialist, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3452 | kbeard@mines.edu
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences and Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu

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