117th Year: MSU Landscape Architecture All Class Reunion

In an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for Class Reunions, Prof. Emeritus Jo Westphal invited all of the classes from the LA Program at MSU to gather at Old Mission Peninsula for three days last spring.

Old Mission Point Lighthouse on Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, Michigan.
Old Mission Point Lighthouse on Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, Michigan.

May 15-17, 2015: Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, Michigan.

In an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for Class Reunions, Professor Emeritus Dr. Jo Westphal invited all of the Classes from the Landscape Architecture Program at Michigan State University to gather at Old Mission Peninsula for three days last spring. Since we are the oldest undergraduate program in the country, we thought we were a shoo-in for the record.

Over 110 graduates, faculty, and friends attended the event. And even though we did not set a record for attendance, it appears that everyone had a great time telling stories and exaggerating past exploits on (and off) the MSU campus. For those of you who missed the event, the itinerary is listed below.

May 15, 2015

The event kicked off with six sessions of interviews in the nationally acclaimed StoryCorps format. Alumni were encouraged to find a fellow MSU Landscape Architecture classmate, professor, friend, or associate and engage them in a 40-minute taping session on the life and/or times of being a Spartan.

StoryCorps is a professional, nonprofit organization affiliated with National Public Radio that travels across the U.S. to record the lives of ordinary Americans; these oral history sessions are then edited and stored in the National Archives in Washington DC. Three Landscape Architecture firms, the MSU Alumni Association, and the Joanne Westphal Endowment sponsored the event, which involved 17 interviews over the three-day weekend.

Friday evening found alumni, faculty, friends, and associates sharing substance (i.e., food) and stories with one another about the MSU Landscape Architecture experience. In essence, the alumni became “the Old Timers” as they relived their years at MSU…needless to say, everyone brought stories and/or exaggerated tales. Professors Duane Mezga and Vanessa Warren (’01) hosted the event as each class by year was “mustered” in with a microphone after a photograph of the class was taken.

Members of the Class of 2018 videotaped the whole event, and edited CDs of this event and the retirement banquet can be obtained from Dr. Jo for a small fee. Copies of the CD will be placed in the MSU Archive on-campus, under the title of Landscape Architecture Program.

May 16, 2015

A Design Charrette was held at St Joseph’s Church Hall on the Old Mission Peninsula to help the parish create an appropriately picturesque setting for a beautiful, newly remodeled old church. Lori Mullins (‘97) and Professor Paul Nieratko led the event.

Other alumni opted for time in the Great Outdoor/Indoors. This venue was designed to allow guests to create their own “Up-North” experience with classmates or friends. Activity locations included Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the TART bicycle trail, kayaking or canoeing any of the many lakes or rivers in the area, golfing, and wine touring.

A Spartan Sagas session and lectures on the architecture of the Old Mission Peninsula (Professor Jo Westphal, LA) and the geology of the Grand Traverse Region (Professor Dave Lusch, Geography) were attended by about 19 alumni and friends interested in creating their own “do-it-yourself” field tours of the region.

A Green Roof Workshop was conducted by LA alumni Erik Cronk (’08), Jeremy Monsma (’09) , and Kevin Krogulecki (’09) as they roofed a small structure at Dr. Jo’s LA Alumni Farm, 3688 Bluewater Road, Traverse City, MI.

In the evening, over 90 individuals attended the Retirement Party & Roast for Dr. Jo at the Hagerty Center in Traverse City, MI. Masters of Ceremony (or mischief!) were Professors Tony Bauer, Duane Mezga, and Paul Nieratko, who invited members of the audience to come forward and tell tales about Dr. Jo.

Former students, fellow faculty, and family members shared their experiences with Dr. Jo, revealing her many facets, talents, passions, and eccentricities. The evening closed with Dr. Jo giving her impressions of university teaching using Larsen cartoons and a created storyline. This PowerPoint is available by contacting Dr. Jo.

Six StoryCorps sessions were recorded on Saturday.

May 17, 2015

The last five StoryCorps sessions were held at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 12675 Center Road (M-37), Traverse City, MI. These sessions, along with the twelve earlier sessions, were edited and cataloged in the Library of Congress as a part of the American Folklife Program. Most alumni gathered their belongings (almost 50 people camped at the LA Alumni Farm) by late afternoon and began their journeys home with smiles on their face and
a renewed commitment to their alma mater.

In that respect, this was an important weekend for recognizing the legacy of the MSU Landscape Architecture Program. Dr. Jo has always believed that oral history is an important way to acknowledge the many people who were a part of the LA undergraduate experience at MSU; for this reason, she was glad to organize this amazingly rich and enjoyable event. It’s hoped that others will organize similar events in the future–who knows, maybe a
Guinness World Record is in the offing! As always, go GREEN!

Passing of Dr. Clare A. Gunn (2015)

One of MSU’s oldest alumni Dr. Clare A. Gunn passed away on November 19, 2015. Dr. Gunn’s career began at Michigan State University with a BS in Landscape Architecture in 1940, MS degree at MSU in Land and Water Conservation in 1952, followed by a Ph.D. in Landscape Architecture at the University of Michigan in 1965: the first in the nation. His 21 years of extension work at MSU introduced him to the field of tourism, providing the focus of his work in research, teaching, writing, and consulting for seven decades. He received the Outstanding Alumni award in 1999.

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