Messages in a Bottle

The following is an email from Mr. Dennis Dodge ’76, an LSSC alumnus, to Alumni Director Susan Fitzpatrick:

Hi Susan,

Well I hear you folks were getting another dumping of several inches of snow.  So sorry.  But then I remember when we would come back to school after spring break around March 21st we always had one more snowfall after that.  I don’t think you are out of the woods yet!

I have been spending time in my library room in the basement trying to get things more organized.   One of the biggest items was my couple of boxes of memory items that I wanted to keep.  The usual cards, invitations, post cards and airline tickets but also old Woods Runners, issues of the Compass, old college lab reports and homework assignments and college catalogs.  I only had enough ‘stuff’ to fill 1 1/2 totes but it has taken me all weekend to go thru every last page and re-read it all.

So many memories and feelings come rushing back as though it all happened yesterday.  As I looked thru the college catalogs and looked at the pictures of the professors I didn’t need to look at the names on very many.  I already knew who they were and what they taught.  And then there was the picture of that crazy fellow.  He talked of growth and vision.  He showed a model of the campus of the future that had an engineering building, a fine arts center and a new athletic complex.  At the time we thought he was just an old guy that liked to dream a lot, and looking at the empty field where a fine arts center would go and the woods where the athletic complex would go just didn’t make sense to us at the time.  Thank God for the vision of Dr. Shouldice, who I had the honor of working for during the 1977-78 school year.  Whenever I visit the campus now I make certain I visit the library that honors his name and marvel at what dreams look like when they come true.

Going thru the Woods Runner and Compass and seeing my friends – and even those who were not friends, but I still knew who they were … reading the stories.  Pictures of the campus back then.  What a profound impact our little college had on me, not only as a student who was learning subject matter, but also as a person learning life.  Whenever I would come to the Sault in the years after to visit the Locks and take my pictures I would always allow time to visit the campus and walk around.  Maybe I could re-live some of the times that impacted me so much.  To come outside and smell Algoma Steel in the bright blue sky of winter sun or just the peace and quiet that was only broken by the seagull’s scream was almost spiritual.

I was up that way a couple years ago working on a project for our company at Bay Mills Community College.  It was dealing with some equipment that I had never dealt with before, so after my normal working hours I would go to the college library and do my research.  Maybe Ruth [Nevue] would be working the desk and I would get to say hello to her and talk about the old days. One of the evenings I was hungry and not wanting to go all the way downtown, so I thought I would go eat at the Quarterdeck.  I came out of the library and a very slight breeze was coming from the west.  The smell!!!  It was UP pine and moss along with the freshness of Lake Superior. I breathed it so long and so deep that I got light-headed.  I walked by the flagpole that was put up the winter of 1973-74 and past the place where the tennis courts were in front of the Admin building over to Cisler.

Although I ate by myself, I sat where I could look outside.  There were huge snowflakes falling almost straight down and the students were going back and forth, not realizing the beauty of this place.  Just for a little while I got to escape my complicated world and just sat there in my natural high.  But it was also at that time that I realized that my time there was years ago.  I had made my memories with my friends that were no longer there.  The students that are there….it is their time and the chance for them to make their own memories.  I remember Prof Castor would come over to Canusa to eat all the time.  We would always talk amongst ourselves, why an old fart like that would come and eat in OUR Canusa? Well now that I am an old fart, I know why.

Well I guess I better get back to my cleaning.  Maybe I will find something that will bring world peace or end world hunger.  Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve….  I hope I have made a difference somewhere but if there is one thing I am good at it is doubting myself.  We will try and make it to a Great Lake State Weekend again soon ….  I see the hockey team won their two games and will be advancing (thanks to Prof Charlie Meiser).

Stay warm and have faith that spring will return soon.  I think fondly of my little college often and maybe you will find me sitting in the sunshine on the bench in front of the Ad building this summer!!


We received a follow-up message shortly after:

Feeling what I did as I went thru my ‘collection’ I had to write something to someone or turn into a babbling idiot … You came to mind as the target of my memories because you are so fortunate to be there, work there and make our beautiful school even better.  You could relate to what I was feeling and saying because you see it all the time and I hope you never take it for granted…

Living on the border with a Canadian roommate for a while gave me a whole new perspective on our neighbors to the north.  Something that students in the majority of other US colleges would never get.  Being able to pay a dollar and ride the bridge bus over to Canada for exploring another land and people was a special time.  In fact my current manager is a Lake State grad (Mark Stumpo ’09) and his boss is his brother also a Lake State grad (Mike Stumpo ‘08).  My business unit manager is Ben Garvelink ’00 who attended Lake State and I am about to start a new project where my mechanical engineer who is another Lake State grad, Greg Balcom ‘14.

We are planning on visiting the UP this summer and will probably come to campus for a bit.   Who knows, I may have to bring the Frisbee and do some throwing!  Take care and we will be hoping spring comes soon to the North Country.   I still love watching the boats but am getting old enough that putting my chair in a snowbank isn’t as exciting as it used to be!  If I get ambitious I will dig thru my slides I took while I was up there.  I would fly up and down the river and take pictures of the boats and maybe I have one of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  I know I have one of the Roger Blough I took from the very top of the railroad bridge at sunset (I knew the fellow that put the bridge up and down).

Dennis Dodge
Class of 1976
Fennville, Michigan

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