Lawrence Zynda '56

Oct. 28, 2014

GOLD Club honorees look back 50 years after graduation

UPDATED to correct degree information on Lawrence Zynda ’56, electrical engineering degree, and new title for Dean Leo Kempel.

When engineering students graduated 50 years ago, cornfields and dairy barns stood where the Wharton Center and the veterinary medicine buildings are now. As freshmen, they had classes in Olds Hall before moving to the “new” engineering building on Shaw Lane.

These were a few of the many remembrances highlighted at the College of Engineering’s 16th annual GOLD Club (Graduates of Lasting Distinction) breakfast reunion on April 25 at MSU’s Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center.

Celebrating the induction of new GOLD Club members were Lawrence Zynda, ’56, James Schneider, ’64, Dean Leo Kempel, Fred Leitert, ’64, Joe Gentile, ’64, Stan Espenship, ’64, and Martin Hawley, BS ’61, PhD ’64.The reunion honored four alumni who graduated 50 years ago from the college. Members of the class of 1964 received 50-year pins in honor of their membership in the GOLD Club.

Martin Hawley, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, was the master of ceremonies. A GOLD Club member himself, Hawley earned his BS degree in 1961 and his PhD in 1964, both from MSU.

This year’s GOLD Club honorees are:

  • Stan Espenship, civil engineering;
  • Joseph Gentile, chemical engineering;
  • Fred Leitert, chemical engineering; and
  • James Schneider, electrical engineering.

Leo Kempel, dean of the College of Engineering, made brief remarks telling the audience about the 4,400 undergraduates and 900 graduate students in the college. At the spring/summer graduation ceremonies, 402 undergraduates and 130 graduate/doctoral students received their degrees. Kempel also pointed out that students obtaining a four-year engineering degree got more than an 11 percent return-on-investment with an engineering degree.

And sometimes it’s not all about earning potential. Espenship said he values the education he received at MSU. “My degree in civil engineering set me up for a career that I loved. I retired just a few years ago.”

Leitert originally came to MSU to study agriculture, but took a chemistry class taught by Professor Harry Eick, which convinced him to major in chemical engineering.

Gentile said he wanted to go to MSU to play in the marching band, but, like Leitert, Eick, along with James Dye, also a chemistry professor, were influential in the choice of chemical engineering for his degree. He later became Hawley’s first graduate student.

Schneider worked at the Olds plant in Lansing after serving in the military. Several mentors encouraged him to go to college, so he arrived on campus in 1960 with two suitcases, which was everything he owned. He used his electrical engineering degree to get a job with Consumers Energy and worked for that company his entire career.

Most of the ’64 grads met their wives while at MSU, and several are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversaries this year.

All of the GOLD club members remembered Agnes McCann (affectionately called Miss McCann by students), the assistant to the dean, who in those days handled scheduling of classes and many other duties that led some to believe she was the head of the college.

Other GOLD Club members at the reunion were: Mel Dean, ‘43, civil engineering; Dale Burgess, ‘49, chemical engineering; Stephan Patoprsty, ‘49, civil engineering; Elvin Tuttle, ‘53, mechanical engineering; John McLaughlin, BS ‘54 and MS ‘79, civil engineering; and Lawrence Zynda, ‘56, electrical engineering, who also received his GOLD pin because he was unable to attend past reunions.