Oakland University alumnus Marty Reisig looks at a photo with his wife



icon of a calendarNovember 16, 2017

icon of a pencilBy Megan Krueger

Golden Days

Oakland University class of 1967 alums relish the growth of the University

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Adam Sparkes

In 1967, Oakland University students were proudly called The Pioneers, and it was fitting for a University just shy of 10 years old.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the class of 1967 — which will be celebrated as part of a larger celebration of OU’s 60th anniversary during Homecoming and Reunion Weekend, October 13-14.

In celebration of the class of 1967 anniversary, a few graduates dust off old memories and reflect on how the University has evolved, from humble beginnings to the beginnings of greatness.

Marty Reisig
Political Science and Philosophy, College of Arts and Sciences, 1967

Martin Reisig remembers when, in 1963, an advisor from his Oak Park High School told him how impressed he was with the relatively new Oakland University. Reisig decided to make a campus visit. He was quickly attracted to its small size and staff of young Ph.D.s “with a huge emphasis on teaching,” Reisig recalls.

While he could have gone to any number of the better-known Michigan universities, he chose OU — and it was one of the best decisions he ever made.

“For me, it turned out to be a real growth period of meeting some friends who have remained wonderful friends. I found a comfort level there and I found a very stimulating faculty. They were challenging, but in a good way.”

Marty Reisig

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Adam Sparkes

Reisig, who studied political science and philosophy, remembers an old advertising slogan for the school, calling it the “Harvard of the Midwest.”

“There was a lot of optimism and over-the-top bravado about who we were,” he says, adding it drew an intelligent faculty. He credits his former teachers with making his college experience exceptional.

Reisig also fondly remembers two of the bigger names on campus at the time: Woody Varner, the “involved” and “accessible” president of the school, and Matilda Dodge Wilson, the school’s co-founder. Once, he was among a select few students invited to Wilson’s mansion for dinner. “She was just normal,” he says. “Very normal, very pleasant, very easy to be with. We all were immediately relaxed.”

Now, that mansion is better known as Meadow Brook Hall. Reisig says today, OU has many more programs available to students than in the 1960s, including expanded foreign study opportunities and graduate programs. “The growth of new departments, including nursing, the tremendous growth in engineering,” he points out. “It’s a different animal in size and scope.”

Once Reisig graduated from OU, he studied law at Wayne

State University in Detroit, eventually becoming a lawyer with a longtime career working in government, teaching, private practice and mediating. “The impetus” to study law, he says, came from Oakland. He has received much recognition for his work in social justice and as a mediator.

“Something important happened to a lot of us during those Oakland years,” the Birmingham resident reflects, noting, “I am really proud of many of the people who I went to school with. They’re good people who have done good things.”

David Hart
Physics, College of Arts and Sciences, 1967

When David Hart visited Oakland University’s campus last year after more than a decade, he knew some things would have changed. But other things like his old dorm at Fitzgerald House are timeless: “That dorm is like frozen in time,” he jokes.

Among memories of dorm life and making new friends, Hart recalls how exciting it was visiting Meadow Brook Hall and taking in Detroit Symphony Orchestra concerts at the amphitheater, as well as being invited to Matilda Dodge Wilson’s big birthday bash.

“To a farm kid, this was like walking on the clouds,” says Hart from his home in Ann Arbor. “We were able to dress up and go to events in this elegant hall.”


The OU faculty, remembers Hart, approached education with elegance, too. They encouraged students to be independent and take initiative when it came to their grades. In one instance, after receiving bad marks on an English paper, Hart went to see his professor about it, and with patience, she went over his mistakes.

But, “there was no hard, ‘come and see me,’” he explains. “It was up to me to take the initiative to go and see her.”

Outside the classroom, Hart says the curriculum widened his worldview and encouraged him to take interest in other cultures.

“Oakland really helped create a travel bug,” he says, explaining, students were required to take courses about different countries. “It began to open my eyes to all these other cultures, and that was just a good learning point. It made me unafraid to go visit.”

But out of the many memories he cherishes, there’s one that certainly stands out among the rest: meeting his wife, Natalie. They met at a hootenanny for the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship group. He was a junior and Natalie was a freshman.

“Now we’ve been married 50 years,” Hart says, noting they celebrate their anniversary this year – the same month as the upcoming OU reunion.

Although he has had many experiences after college — including pursuing a master’s degree, teaching physics at the U. S. Naval Academy while serving in the United States Navy, working in the auto industry, retiring from Detroit Diesel and being a parent and grandparent — the lessons Hart learned more than 50 years ago have stuck with him. They still serve him in his varied hobbies and interests.

“Overall, the courses at OU taught me to think,” Hart says. “They taught me to think about what I believe, about the reasons behind what I believe and to think critically; to be curious about everything.”

David Hart reads from his old Oakland University Pioneer yearbook
Oakland University alumnus David Hart's hands hold his Pioneer yearbook
Oakland University alumnus David Hart looks at an old Oakland University yearbook with his wife
Old papers from Oakland Univeristy on a desk in Marty Reisig's office
Oakland University alumnus Marty Reisig looks over papers from his days as a student
Marty Reisig's hands hold an old Oakland University Pioneer yearbook
Oakland University alumna Kate Thoresen looks at an old yearbook in her home
Oakland University alums Kate and Tom Thoresen
Oakland University alumna Kate Thoresen holds a sculpture of Sisyphus
Kate Thoresen
Liberal Arts, College of Arts and Sciences, 1967 and Masters of Arts in English literature, 1971

Had Rev. Kate Thoresen, D.Min (Doctor of Ministry), attended any other college, she might have “become much more of a conformist,” she says. That’s because Oakland University fostered “critical thinkers but also possibility thinkers,” she explains.

“Matilda Wilson, Woody Varner, faculty and staff were all pioneers in living out their vision. They themselves were pushing the conventional boundaries and definitions of a quality college education,” says Thoresen.

After a visit from an OU recruiter at Mount Clemens High School, Thoresen (known as Katie Rest while at OU) was set on attending OU, and it was the only school she applied to.


“What stands out the most in my memory right now is the whole atmosphere of being in such an environment of creative and caring pioneers,” she recalls.

Thoresen, who studied liberal arts, has a litany of fond OU memories, including being on student government, Wilson’s 83rd birthday celebration and studying abroad in France. She even met her husband, Tom Thoresen, a 1966 graduate, at OU’s popular hangout “the grill.”

An additional highlight for Thoresen: being one of the first female counselors with Project Upward Bound, a college prep program for kids in the inner city who otherwise might not go to college.

Her time with the program in the summer of ’67 coincided with the 12th Street Riot, also known as the Detroit Riots.

“I remember watching the summer rebellion (which some call the 1967 riots) on TV with several of our Upward Bound students,” she says. “Some would recognize family members running along the streets. At that time I vividly remember how glad the students were to be on campus and get equipped to make college educations possible.”

Today, the Project Upward Bound program is OU’s “longest continual community outreach effort,” the school notes.

Since her time at the University, Thoresen says OU has “excelled far more than what I could (have) ever dreamed or imagined.”

After receiving her master’s degree from OU, she became a Presbyterian pastor and founded the Faith Communities Coalition on Foster Care to serve kids in the foster care system throughout Michigan.

This year — in addition to celebrating the 60th anniversary of her class — she celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary with her husband, Tom, also an OU grad.

“For me, Oakland has influenced every one of these 50 years since graduation,” Thoresen says. “Oakland continues to invite me to think creatively, look beyond the comfortable boundaries, dream big and get involved in the welfare of the larger community.”

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