|Photo by Tom Peters|
Today's Saturday Snapshot is from our old friend, Tom Peters, who took this at sunset on Lake Superior in Marquette, Michigan, about 100 miles east of my regular UP spot, Ontonagon. The home of Northern Michigan University, Marquette is an area rich in iron, and one iron ore mine still operates, the Tilden Mine, in a nearby town aptly named National Mine.
The area's mining legacy is also reflected in the name of its daily newspaper, The Mining Journal, a handsome publication whose managing editor is Bud Sargent. I phoned him up and we talked about Marquette.
"The greater Marquette area is known as a superior location," he said. "We've got the best beaches, the best hunting, the best fishing, the best waterfalls, the best downtown area, the best shopping district."
I considered asking whether "superior location" was a pun, a wink at the lake—I don't think it was—but thought better of it and didn't. Instead conversation shifted into winter. Sargent did concede that they "get more than our share of snow"—250 inches this past winter. Though that wasn't a record, and some places have it worse: 400 inches or more.
We talked about the possibility that the Empire Mine, shuttered two years ago, might reopen.
"That would be good news for the area—some several hundred jobs," he said. "Real jobs, not party store jobs."
Good jobs that pay well, jobs with benefits, I said, to make sure I understood the meaning of "party store jobs." That's what he meant.
Not that Marquette is pinning its hopes on mining. The university, started as a teachers' college, the Northern Michigan Normal School, has diversified, and in 2017 announced it would be offering a degree in medicinal plant chemistry.
"NMU’s program offers an entrepreneurial track with accounting, finance and marketing courses to prepare students for a business related to medicinal plants," the school explained, pointing out that everything they do would comply with all federal and state laws. "The alternative bio-analytical track provides advanced scientific understanding beyond the core courses in chemistry and plant biology. There is also a cohort component designed to strengthen connections among freshmen and facilitate mentoring by advanced students"
The program, considered the first in the country, has drawn 300 students from 48 staes, who endure jokes about getting a "degree in weed" for a chance to get in on the ground floor.
“We’re providing a fast track to get into the industry,” said Brandon Canfield, a chemistry professor who proposed the major after hearing experts talk about the need for analytical chemists at a conference.
That's enough for a Saturday. Thanks to Tom for inspiring our visit, and to Bud Sargent for talking to me about an area he loves.
"We think this is the absolute place to be," he said. "We can't imagine being anyplace else."