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

For more information, please visit


Leah Pinkus, Communications Assistant, Colorado School of Mines 303-273-3088
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 |

At the World University Sport Climbing Championship,
Kuhnel placed 12th out of 50 male climbers.

In October 2016, Martin Kuhnel, a sophomore majoring in engineering physics, flew to Shanghai, China to represent Colorado School of Mines in the World University Sport Climbing Championships.

The competition is basically “the capstone of university climbing,” said Kuhnel, and brings rock climbers from all over the world to one spot. Kuhnel applied and was accepted based on his collegiate national ranking: second overall in the nation. He was excited to compete internationally and represent Mines as “a part of the first university sport climbing championship to take place.”

Kuhnel started climbing and competing when he was nine years old. Nearly a decade later, he is still climbing competitively, training at Earth Treks to keep himself in shape. Of the three rock climbing disciplines—sport climbing, bouldering and speed climbing—Kuhnel mainly participates in sport climbing, providing him with longer and tougher routes. “I mainly do a lot of endurance training since it’s longer routes,” he said. “I try to climb for the majority of a training session.”

The climbers of the U.S. team representing America at the
World University Climbing Champtionships.

And his endurance training was put to the test. Of the 22 U.S. team members in the competition, Kuhnel was one of four participating in sport climbing, which relies on strength and stamina. “It’s a really difficult climb,” he explained. “Each hold is an extra point as you work your way up.”

Yet Kuhnel’s experience and dedication paid off as he placed 12th overall out of over 50 climbers.  When asked what’s next, Kuhnel said, “I want to keep competing and getting into the open circuit more. It’s nice to have a balance.”

Read more about Kuhnel’s journey to the World University Sport Climbing Championships here.


Leah Pinkus, Communications Assistant, Colorado School of Mines 303-273-3088
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 |

Members of Mines Maker Society working in the new Blaster Design Factory.

Imagine three students who meet in their first-year Design EPICS course. They have different majors but share the same passion for creating and entrepreneurship. Even with busy schedules, they are sure if they just had the space and access to equipment, they could make one of their ideas a reality. They could build it if they just had…a makerspace.

Mines College of Engineering and Computational Sciences Dean Kevin Moore has been a staunch advocate for more design and fabrication spaces for students. "Recently, colleges and universities have recognized the importance of hands-on, active learning experiences in the development of engineers and scientists,” said Moore. “Students gain some of those experiences in classes, but it is also valuable for them to have the opportunity to work on building prototypes of their ideas in an extracurricular setting."

Three new makerspaces opened this semester: Blaster Design Factory in Brown Hall, Digger Design Lab in the Engineering Annex, and the adjoining EPICS woodshop. It was a collaborative effort to establish and upgrade several makerspaces, with student help coming from the University Innovation Fellows, the Maker Society, the Entrepreneurship Club, The Blaster Hackers club, the Creative Arts club and faculty support via the Pathways to Innovation group, as well as donors and administration.

While Mines students have had access in the past to makerspaces such as the foundry in Hill Hall or the garage and machine shop in Brown Hall, the new spaces are unique in that they provide a place to explore design and plans.

“Blaster Design Factory is the ideal place to start your project,” according to Frank Musick, a graduate student in Engineering and Technology Management who started the Maker Society while earning his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at Mines. “It’s really the hub for all the other makerspaces, and it is the only one that is student-run and with 24/7 access.”

Located on the second floor of Brown, Blaster Design Factory has a vinyl cutter, a heat press and rapid prototyping supplies. A 3-D printer is on order. “We purposefully started small,” explained Musick. “The goal has never been to just set up a lot of stuff and call it done. We want to see the space grow based on student demand and use. The emphasis right now is on the design process. We have white boards and design software such as AutoCAD, SolidWorks and the full Adobe Suite. Just having full admin rights to be able to download open-source design software makes a big difference.”

The Digger Design Lab offers a different kind of space that is more focused on fabrication and assembly. The Maker Society held an early opening during Homecoming weekend to announce the spaces, and plan to provide more tours and training in January.

The Woodshop and Digger Design Lab at the Engineering Annex.

“Shared spaces are built on trust,” said Musick. “We all have a vested interested in making things that do things. The space isn’t going to meet every need, but it is a huge step for innovation at Mines and part of an even grander vision.”

Moore sees the new makerspaces as a way to “stimulate innovation and support the efforts of budding student entrepreneurs. We are very excited to see this new resource used by our students."

On November 29, #GivingTuesday, Mines Foundation will aim to raise $3K for Mines Makerspaces in one day so students have the latest tools and technology to roll up their sleeves and make something amazing. Makerspaces provide an environment for students to collaboratively learn skills to construct and prototype their innovative ideas.
Your support will help expand and outfit these spaces allowing students to free-form creativity and learn skills like drilling, woodworking, welding and sewing. Learn more at Outfit Mines Makerspaces


Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 |
Anica Wong, Communications Specialist, CSM Foundation | 303-273-3904 |

A team of Colorado School of Mines students competed at the Rocky Mountain Regional Ethics Bowl, hosted by Mines on November 12, and will advance to the national competition. This is the second year in a row that Mines has earned a bid to the National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl.
The Mines team with advisors. Left to right: Dana Steiner, Ian Kramer, Kirsten Fong, Toni Lefton, Sandy Woodson, Hannah Grover, Azriel Wolffe, Parker Bolstad.
The Mines team with faculty advisors. Left to right: Dana Steiner, Ian Kramer, Kirsten Fong, Toni Lefton, Sandy Woodson, Hannah Grover, Azriel Wolffe, Parker Bolstad.
Ethics Bowl is a program sponsored by the Association for Practical and Applied Ethics (APPE) at Indiana University, and is also a function of the Ethics Across Campus Program at Mines. For the competition, universities field teams that debate the ethical aspects of current issues and cases, promoting civil discourse and logical argumentation.
Teams from 10 schools across the Rocky Mountain region competed in the 2016 regional competition, each defending their moral assessments of some of today’s most complex ethical issues.
Liberal Arts and International Studies professors Toni Lefton and Sandy Woodson coached the Mines team, which included students Dana Steiner, Ian Kramer, Kirsten Fong, Hannah Grover, Azriel Wolffe and Parker Bolstad.
“All the participating teams were very strong, and Mines is fortunate to have had these dedicated and talented students representing us,” said Woodson. “They represent the best of what a Mines education means: hard work, critical thinking, and the ability to address complicated problems.”
The team spent over nine weeks preparing for the regional competition, holding evening practices and weekend spars to deliberate the cases they would be defending.
The team forms an argument during an evening practice leading up to the regional competition.
The team forms a case argument during an evening practice leading up to the regional competition.
Lefton said that she is proud of the voices each of the Mines team members brought to the table, “and the concrete ways in which our team humanized and contextualized each issue as they reasoned through the moral complexities.”
It was engineering physics senior Hannah Grover’s second year participating in the Ethics Bowl—she values the skills that she has gained by participating. 
“We aren't just looking for some solution, because these ethical dilemmas don't have straightforward answers,” explained Grover. “What we are really learning how to do it approach controversial and uncertain situations with an open mind and be able to listen to and process a variety of opinions. Even though these discussions are in the context of a competition, the skills I've learned apply to all aspects of my life. I have become a better listener and a better thinker, and hopefully I can try and share these skills with everyone around me.” 
Both the Mines team and a team from Arizona State University will be advancing to the 21st National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl, to be held in Dallas, Texas in February.
“Now that we're going to Nationals, it really just means that we have to hit the ground running when the cases drop in January,” said chemical and biological engineering senior Dana Steiner. “Up until then we can take a break for a bit, but we have half the time to prepare for Nationals, so it will be a busy seven weeks. I love spending time with this team though—we really build off of each other and have fun conversations.”
Grover said that she also loves spending time with the team, and that she is most excited about “getting to work on new cases and have important ethical conversations with other students from all across the country.”
Woodson noted, “I'm very proud of them, and think our chances at Nationals are good.”

Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 |

Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assitant, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 |


Colorado School of Mines has officially partnered with It’s On Us, a national campaign to change the culture surrounding campus sexual assault.

As a Campus Innovation Partner School, Mines is committed to upholding and implementing the three pillars of the It’s On Us campaign: support for survivors of sexual violence, bystander intervention and consent education.

“A positive, safe and inclusive campus community is critical to the success of our students, faculty and staff,” said Karin Ranta-Curran, Title IX coordinator and executive director of institutional compliance and equity at Mines. “We believe this partnership will help Mines foster such an environment for years to come.”

Mines has been focusing on educating the campus community with increased training for faculty, staff and student leaders on how to best support survivors of sexual violence. There has also been increased training for incoming students on bystander intervention and consent.

“We’re excited to launch our partnership with our It’s On Us Campus Innovation Partner Schools and collaborate more directly with campus administrators, said Rebecca Kaplan, director of It’s On Us. “This program will spark innovation and highlight institutions that are taking creative approaches to prevention education.”

Over the next year, It’s On Us will continue to build infrastructure across the movement to ensure that students feel safe and supported across campuses. The campaign will also expand the organization’s work beyond campuses and into the national conversation around ending rape culture.

Launched in September 2014, It’s On Us works to educate, engage and empower students and communities across the country to do something—big or small—to end sexual assault. More than 380,000 people have taken the It’s On Us pledge online, and students have hosted more than 1,700 events on 534 campuses nationwide.

Katie Schmalzel, Prevention Programs Manager, Colorado School of Mines |
Mark Ramirez, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science and Engineering | 303-384-2622 |

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

The Colorado School of Mines Robotics Club is working on a variety of projects, ranging from autonomous vehicle competitions to robotics competitions for NASA.

Natalie Kalin is the vice president of Robotics Club and is currently working on the NASA Space Grant Consortium Robotics Challenge.

Natalie Kalin, the vice president of the Robotics Club, is currently working on the NASA Space Grant Consortium Robotics Challenge. Her team aims to construct a robot that can navigate the sand dunes in Colorado, which is considered the closest Mars-like environment on Earth. As one of the team leaders, Kalin explained that the challenge is “more of a team collaborative effort. It’s not a first, second, third place competitive event. Ultimately, the goal is to build the best robot we can build and have something that can navigate on Mars.”

As treasurer of the Robotics Club, Sevy Swift is currently working on the Power Wheels Race for Sparkfun, a company in Boulder, Colorado that hosts a variety of competitions every year. The Power Wheels competition has participants “take an old battery-powered power wheels and make it the best go-kart you could make it,” said Swift. “You get $500 to spend, and then you drive it against other [go-karts].”

Nhan Tran is president of the Robotics Club and a computer science major, putting his technical skills to the test.

While not a mechanical engineering major like Kalin and Swift, Nhan Tran, president of the Robotics Club, is a still an integral part of the team, using his technical capabilities as a computer science major to support robotics projects. “Blasterbotica is the senior mechanical design team,” Kalin explains. Due to Tran’s background in software, he has the skills necessary to “help with the computer part of Blasterbotica,” she said. Tran proves that you don’t have to be a mechanical engineer to be involved in robotics at Mines.

When asked what the team’s ultimate goal is for the Robotics Club, the three Mines students looked at each other and smiled. “I would love for us to get on the BattleBots show,” Kalin said. “BattleBots,” a reality-television program on ABC, features well-designed, homemade robots that battle each other to destruction in a tournament-style format until one champion remains.

“Another goal is to allow Mines students to participate in these projects and learn robotics,” said Swift. The 40 members of the Robotics Club are currently working on six different projects and welcoming any new students that want to learn more about robotics. “We want students to become more hands on, more engaged and have this school well-known for robotics,” Kalin added.

To support the Robotics Club in all of their current and future endeavors, visit

Leah Pinkus, Communications Assistant, Colorado School of Mines 303-273-3088
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 |

On Oct. 22, 45 Boy Scouts from various troops in the Denver Area Council came to Mines to learn about economic minerals, mine safety, environmental stewardship and the mining industry in Colorado. 

Boy Scouts working to earn their Mining in Society merit badges with SME at Mines.

The event was led by the Mines student chapter of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME), in conjunction with local members of the Minerals Education Coalition.
“The Boy Scouts and Mines have been doing this for several years,” said Evan McCombs, campus relations chair for Mines' SME chapter. “This was the largest class of scouts taking the Mining in Society merit badge class from an SME student chapter ever in the U.S.” 
Nearly a dozen SME members volunteered to teach scouts about the history of mining and why it remains important today, as well as the future of the industry. The day included a trip to Mines’ Geology Museum, where the scouts saw minerals from many of the mining districts in Colorado, as well as gems from around the world.
To give the scouts an even more hands-on experience, SME brought them to the Edgar Experimental Mine in Idaho Springs the following weekend. The boys were given the opportunity to see all the elements of a working mine and discover how mining has developed from the 1860s to today. 
After two exciting weekends of immersive learning, the merit badges awarded to the scouts were certainly well deserved. 
SME expects to see the number of scouts double at next year’s event, and is also considering offering another merit badge class in the spring, depending on the demand. 
“Colorado’s rich mining history is simply fascinating to these youngsters,” said McCombs, “just as it is to the students of SME.” 
Story and photos courtesy of Evan McCombs, Mining Engineering Class of 2018; edited by Agata Bogucka and Mark Ramirez.

Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 |

Mark Ramirez, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science & Engineering | 303-384-2622 |


[Updated Nov. 2, 2016]

Mineral and Energy Economics MS students Bansidhar Bandi, James Crompton, Martin Kohn, Ashwin Ravichandran and David Rodziewicz finished in the top four at the “Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition,” Nov. 1 at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business as part of the university’s “Energy Week.”

They beat several Ivy League schools to make it to the final round where they competed against Johns Hopkins (first place), Washington University at St. Louis (second place), and Carnegie Mellon (third place).

The goal of the one-day competition is to connect students, academia and industry stakeholders and come up with creative solutions to address real energy challenges affecting the developing world. By encouraging this spirit of innovation, the competition identifies emerging future leaders of the energy industry. The 2016 challenge examined the changes taking place in Cuba’s energy landscape. Teams presented their solutions to a panel of industry leaders and competed for $10,000 in prizes.

Approximately 30 submissions from schools worldwide were received. Of these 30 institutions, 12 were selected for the final round. The Mines MEE students were among an elite group – other schools competing in the finals included Columbia, Duke, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Cornell, UNC Chapel Hill - Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of Maryland, University of Pittsburgh - Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, and Yale.

The students weren't the only ones representing Colorado School of Mines at Duke Energy Week. Mines alum Mauricio Gutierrez, '99 MS Mineral Economics and Chief Executive Officer at NRG in Princeton, NJ was one of the keynote speakers at the Duke University Energy Conference. 

Learn more about the competition and participants by visiting

About Mineral and Energy Economics at Mines
Founded in 1969, this world-renowned program in the Division of Economics Business leads to MS and PhD degrees in Mineral and Energy Economics. This program attracts students from all over the world, and Mines MEE alumni are known globally for their career achievements and qualifications. Students gain the skills necessary for understanding the complex interactions of markets and policy that influence the energy, mineral and environmental industries. The program focuses on applied quantitative tools and models that form a foundation for sound business and public policy. Learn more about Mines’ Mineral and Energy Economics MS and PhD programs.

Photo: Mineral and Energy Economics MS students James Crompton, Ashwin Ravichandran, Bansidhar Bandi, David Rodziewicz and Martin Kohn finished in the top four at the “Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition,” Nov. 1 at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business as part of the university’s “Energy Week.”

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 |

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



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