Long-time Futures & MSU photographer Kurt Stepnitz retires

After 29 consecutive years of snapping photos for Futures magazine, long-time Michigan State University photographer Kurt Stepnitz retired in early May 2018.

Kurt Stepnitz

After 29 consecutive years of snapping photos for Futures magazine, long-time Michigan State University (MSU) photographer Kurt Stepnitz retired in early May 2018.

Stepnitz began his MSU career in 1981 working for the MSU-U.S. Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory. Having learned a great deal about plants and agriculture during his first few years on the job, he became a natural fit for Futures when then-editor Christine Erb approached him to shoot the spring/summer 1989 issue.

When asked about his favorite memory of working on the magazine, Stepnitz said there were far too many to single out just one, though a few seconds later, he had a couple to share.

Once when Robin Usborne was editor, Stepnitz remembered, “We went up to the Northwest Horticultural Research Station in Traverse City to cover a field day, along with videographer Scott Allman. Afterwards, we were invited to Bel Lago Winery for a tour with MSU researchers Ron Perry and Stan Howell. We had quite a bit of wine in the cellar that evening. It was so much fun, just hilarious. That’s when Robin decided to go into the viticulture business and changed up her career.”

On another adventurous shoot, Stepnitz asked then-editor Jamie DePolo to pose for the cover.

“She stood on a stepladder in the middle of a south campus corn field to pose for a double exposure with the rising moon behind her,” he said. “She was a champ!”

In 2003, Stepnitz went to work for University Relations (now MSU Communications and Brand Strategy), all the time continuing to work on Futures, as well as covering all sorts of MSU assignments – from commencement events on campus to research around the globe.

A few days after his retirement party at The Hop Cat in East Lansing, Stepnitz and his wife Kharla moved to Minnesota to be near their daughter, son-in-law and adored first grandbaby, Collette Louise (called “Lettie Lou” for short).

He looks forward to spending time with family, restarting his own photography business and enjoying a more urban experience in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. The couple plan to get their gardening fix at their daughter’s home, where a couple of raised vegetable beds await their attention.

Stepnitz said he appreciates all of the wonderful memories and friendships he’s developed over the years along the banks of the Red Cedar River, and looks forward to settling in his new home near the Mighty Mississippi.

This article was published in Futures, a magazine produced twice per year by Michigan State University AgBioResearch. To view past issues of Futures, visit www.futuresmagazine.msu.edu. For more information, email Holly Whetstone, editor, at whetst11@msu.edu or call 517-355-0123.


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