People love Rolla. At least most Miners do.
They were transformed during their time at the university, and they want to remember it, share it, bring others into the fold. These alumni have their own ways of continuing the Miner tradition — by spreading the word to schools, opening their homes to incoming freshmen, reconnecting on familiar turf close to their alma mater, or making new connections out West.
Nicole Talbot, ChE’77, wants to make sure high school students in Texas know about Missouri S&T.
“I consider myself really fortunate that I graduated from Missouri S&T,” she says. “Rolla has so much to offer. It opens so many doors to you.”
Talbot organizes a group of alumni volunteers that staff the Missouri S&T table at college recruitment fairs. Last season she herself visited a dozen schools.
“There are close to 40 schools on our list,” Talbot says.
A number of inner-city prep schools are included on Talbot’s list. These schools give students a solid foundation in math and science, she says. “Without these schools, there’s little chance of these kids going to college,” Talbot says. She says the students there are filled with questions about S&T, many worrying that Missouri is too far away from home. Her response? “If you don’t go to Rolla, please go someplace.”
Talbot gives full credit to former coordinator Curt Killinger, Math’73, MS EMgt’80, for getting her involved. In 2002, Killinger received the first Alumni Admissions Ambassador of the Year Award for his work in the Houston area.
“I was one of his minions.” She was scholarship chair prior to taking over the recruitment fairs and is still involved in scholarships for the Miner Music section.
Sometimes S&T is a pretty easy sell, Talbot says.
“Three girls came up to me at a recent fair, saying ‘we want to be engineers.’ One said ‘I’ll talk to anyone with an aerospace engineering program.’” Talbot chuckles at the memory. “We have three astronauts. How many schools can say that?”
“It kills my grass, but it’s worth it.”
That’s what Jim Foil, CE’74, MS CE’75, says about hosting student send-off picnics at his home in Lee’s Summit, Mo., a suburb of Kansas City. This summer’s event will mark the sixth time that Foil and his wife, Ann, have opened their home to incoming freshmen, returning students and their families. The picnics used to be held at an area park.
Traffic backs up as drivers slow to gawk at the crazy display on Foil’s front lawn — solar, Formula SAE and Baja cars, planes, rockets, robots and a concrete canoe. Typical S&T stuff. The event draws 100-120 people every July.
“It’s an opportunity for kids to meet other faces they’ll see on campus,” says Foil. “Someone to take turns with hauling their stuff home.”
It’s also a chance for new students and their parents to talk to S&T design team members one-on-one. “The design teams are definitely a draw for the freshmen,” he says. The event is scheduled around the teams’ availability.
Picnic preparations begin around 7 a.m. and it’s a group project.
“I provide the hamburgers, hotdogs, buns — other alums bring sides. My company (Foil is a senior vice president at Burns & McDonnell Inc.) lends us tables and chairs.”
Foil says that due to the picnic’s growth, he’s moved from one grill on the deck to several on the driveway. Alumni of all ages help out at the event, and new participants are always welcome. The picnic starts at 11 a.m. and everything is typically cleaned up by 4 p.m.
Alumni connect with students and their parents on a casual basis that allows parents to see what an S&T degree can do for their child. It calms fears and everyone seems to enjoy the picnics, Foil says. So what’s a little grass seed?
Kristopher Atkins, AE’06, remembers how the atmosphere on campus would amp up prior to the St. Pat’s holiday. “At first I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal.” Soon, however, he learned to appreciate the time spent with friends, with school stressors tempered by a little green beer.
Now, as president of the Southern California Section, Atkins helps schedule gatherings so all Miners in the area can reconnect with their Midwestern alma mater.
“At every event I meet someone new or am reunited with an old friend,” he says. “We never tire of discussing how different Rolla was when we were there.”
Mahmut Ekenel, PhD CE’04, says moving to Los Angeles from Rolla was a tremendous change, and he welcomes opportunities to reminisce about Rolla with other alumni. “It is fun to share memories with alumni of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as with fresh graduates.”
Atkins says the section plans to make the gatherings more frequent and diverse to better accommodate graduates living in other parts of Southern California.
It’s not exactly the same as the Rolla establishment, but very close. And if you come to Bruno’s American Grill and Pub in St. Louis on the third Thursday of the month, you’re going to run into some Miners. There could be 10, 20 or more than 100 of them. You’ll get the Rolla connection.
“I’m the instigator,” acknowledges Bob Buechel, CE’73. Buechel and other S&T alumni have been meeting at Bruno’s for a couple of years now. He faithfully sends a monthly email invitation to about 100 people, asking them to forward it on to other Miners who might be interested in the get-togethers. “I’m constantly updating the list.”
Bruno’s is owned and operated by Mark Bruno, NDD’70, Buechel’s longtime friend. He is the former owner of Bruno’s Pub and Grill in Rolla, which he sold when he moved to St. Louis.
“We all went to school together,” says Bruno. “This group has great camaraderie. It’s kind of special — and we’re nuts.”
Naturally, the conversation often turns to the group’s Rolla days. “We do tell stories from Rolla, about Alice, chugging contests and endurance contests,” says Buechel. “Many of us came from the old philosophy ‘work hard, play hard.’ But we also talk about the great friends we have made and maintained over the years, and how our degrees from Rolla have given us the opportunity to be successful in business.”
The group’s St. Pat’s Celebration is held on the Saturday following Rolla’s to accommodate those who attend both events.
Buechel says he and others travel quite a bit, so their attendance at the monthly gatherings is sporadic. “There’s no pressure to come; it’s very casual.” Of course, as owner, Bruno is always there.
Miners will recognize the Rolla connection before they ever open the door.
“Last year I mentioned it would be nice to have a cudgel to display for St. Pat’s,” says Bruno. “Jeremiah King, CE’06, said ‘Let me work on it.’” Thanks to King, a former St. Pat, and Sigma Tau Gamma, it now serves as a beacon outside of Bruno’s to all Miners to come in and have a cold one.