It was a long journey from Istanbul. Our plane refueled somewhere near Ireland and then in a small airport in eastern Canada before landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. At JFK we learned that we must go to La Guardia Airport for the flight to St. Louis. There was another person, a middle-aged Greek lady who was also going to St. Louis. We all got into a cab and barely made it on time to our flight. From St. Louis, we had to take a Greyhound bus to Rolla. We arrived sometime after midnight, very early on a Sunday morning in August 1972.
We were married only two days before and were very, very tired. I had met my wife, Bahar, during our sophomore year in Robert College, Istanbul. We were engaged after the junior year and married right after graduation. I was going to attend grad school in civil engineering. Dr. Le Roy Thompson was already assigned as my advisor and he was kind enough to arrange a furnished apartment in the old house next to the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity — 501 W. 9th St. It was an old house with two apartments on ground floor and another two upstairs. We were on the upper floor. Our next-door neighbors were Barbara and Mike Hurst and their baby. Years later Mike Hurst, CE’74, would be the president of McCarthy Group. Downstairs there was another newlywed couple (Larry Blankenship, GeoE’71, CE’74, and his wife) and a Vietnam vet who returned to school on the GI Bill and his RN wife. I can’t remember their names. That building has been torn down and replaced by the new post office.
I met Joe Senne, MS CE’51, the department head who had arranged a research assistantship for me. I was going to help in evaluation of ERTS (Earth Resources Technology Satellite) photos for a remote sensing project: Flood Patterns of the Missouri Basin.
The following week we met Lou Moss, who was in charge of international student office. There was a picnic for international students near Frisco Pond, where we met Mr. Gibbons (the chief of the university police) and his wife, who were kind enough to invite us to their home. Next there was the party at the chancellor’s residence where we were hosted by the late Merl Baker, Hon’63, and his wife.
We lived in Rolla until the end of 1973. Dr. Thompson and his wife were very helpful in our orientation. Oktay Ural from civil engineering and his family led our small Turkish community of about 25 people. Diehl Montgomery Ford, where we bought our first car, Frank B. Powell Lumber Co., the Ritz Theater, the Emporium and J.C. Penney’s on Pine Street, Zeno’s Steak House, Carps, Kroger’s, and Hillcrest are some of the names I still remember.
Later on we moved to the Murray Apartments at 1309 Elm St., which was closer to the Civil Engineering Building. A few days after we moved, someone knocked on our door. There was a lady with a bright smile and a fruit basket. She said “hos geldiniz” (“welcome” in Turkish). Margaret was in the Peace Corps in Turkey and Scott Patterson was in the military. They have met in Turkey and married. They were our close friends and neighbors. Mr. Murray, the owner of the apartments was a farmer, a very friendly and kind person.
My classmates included Roger La Boube, CE’70, MS CE’73, PhD CE’77, Bill Lowe, Ed Dolata, CE’70, MS CE’73, and Ken Oster, MS EMch’72, PhD CE’76. The teachers I remember were Franklin Cheng, Curators’ Professor emeritus of civil engineering, Wei-Wen Yu, Curators’ Professor emeritus of civil engineering, the late Bill Andrews, professor emeritus, Col. Vernon T. Loesing, MinE’42, former professor of civil engineering, and Karl Heinz Muhlbauer CE’56, MS CE’58, former professor of engineering mechanics. They all helped me shape my professional life.
I earned my master’s degree in December 1973 and we moved on to Montréal, Canada, for my doctorate. Now, 40 years after we left Rolla, I am writing from my hometown of Mersin, Turkey. My wife is a professor in Mersin University. I am director of a manufacturing company and our clientele includes Nooter/Eriksen Inc. It is always nice to find out that some of the people at Nooter were students at Rolla, at the same time with me.
Looking back I can say that we have spent some of our most pleasant days in Rolla and we remember them fondly. Thank you, Rolla. It has been a privilege and honor to be among your students and alumni.
(Mehmet) Nihat Taner, MS CE’73