Lecture series remembers Sonderegger

Rachel Jenks

This year marked the 15th year of the Sonderegger Symposium held at NMU, on Friday Sept. 11.

The symposium is a series of lectures and talks that highlights the diverse and unique history, traditions and culture of the Upper Peninsula. This year Dr. Gabe Logan, head of the Center for U.P. Studies, organized the symposium.re-Jonah_Sep16(3)

Attendees filed into the Mead Auditorium in West Science to hear the variety of talks. The symposium began with opening remarks by Kerri Schuiling, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.

She emphasized the distinctive qualities of the U.P., and spoke about how it gives a sense of home and belonging for many.

The Sonderegger Symposium is named in honor of Richard Sonderegger, former head of NMU’s history department. Following Sonderegger’s death in 1996, his family began the symposium in 2000 to honor his memory.

“The idea was to promote  peer-reviewed scholarly writings, and I think that’s what we have here today, and for 15 years now,” John Sonderegger, son of Richard Sonderegger, said.

“This is really the family deciding what he would have liked to see, and he absolutely would have liked to see a diverse field of studies.”

The symposium does indeed celebrate the U.P. in a variety of ways, including not only history, but also the traditions, physical land, environment and people.

“What we’re looking to do is enhance an interdisciplinary understanding of the Upper Peninsula,” Logan said.

Following this interdisciplinary tract, the talks this year included everything from literature readings to beer brewing. MFA student Andrea Elaine Wuorenmaa read from her memoirs that mixed the history of Ishpeming and her own experiences of growing up there. She wrote about the founding of Ishpeming and how it developed into the city it is today. One short story told of when her father took her to the annual ski jumping tournament at Suicide Hill.

Paul Sturgul gave an amusing talk on the bawdy history of his hometown, Hurley, Wis., during its frontier years. Back then it was a hotspot for gambling, booze and prostitution, even during prohibition.

On a more grim note Ryan Dubay, a senior history major, spoke about the Newberry State Regional Mental Hospital.

He discussed the disturbing history of mental institutions in the area, but also spoke about the economic stability that it brought to Newberry prior to its closing in 1993.

The keynote speaker this year was former NMU history professor Russell Magnaghi, who has a long history of involvement with the Sonderegger Symposium.