Couple’s 50th Anniversary Gift is Scholarship at Their Alma Mater

Dec 01, 2009 08:00 AM

They could have taken a first-class cruise to exotic ports of call to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Instead, Bob and Karen Luetje decided to celebrate their golden anniversary by establishing an endowed scholarship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Bob, who earned a bachelor’s degree in metallurgy in 1959, and Karen, who received a bachelor’s degree in leisure studies in 1958, met at the Urbana-Champaign campus at a sorority exchange (Sigma Pi and Alpha Chi Omega). Karen was from Hoopeston, Ill., and Bob was from Hamilton, Ohio. Karen was on the homecoming court in 1957 and a varsity cheerleader (basketball and football) for two years. “Karen and I view the Illinois experience as the foundation for the balance of our adult lives,” Bob said, “and we were thankful that we were so well prepared—more so than we realized!”

After graduation, the couple moved to Middletown, Ohio, where Bob worked for Armco Steel Corp. and Karen taught and coached at Carlisle High School for a few years. Bob worked 27 years at Armco (now AK Steel) in research and technical marketing. He also became a registered patent agent. Then the Luetjes moved to Northville, Mich., where he worked 15 years as vice president of technology for Kolene Corp., a developer and supplier of molten salts for descaling stainless steel after annealing.

He has been active in ASM International, serving on numerous committees as well as the Dayton chapter chairman, ASM national board of trustees, and president of the Heat Treating Society. He has also served on the board of the Engineering Society of Detroit. He is a Fellow of ASM and the Engineering Society of Detroit.

Bob and Karen have two daughters, Robin Adams, an engineer, and Rhonda Luetje, a computer technologist, and two young grandchildren. In retirement, they enjoy spending time with their grandchildren and staying active in their Methodist church. Bob is an avid golfer and fisherman, especially fly fishing in northern Michigan. They also enjoy spending time in Florida in the winter months.

The first Robert E. and Karen Martin Luetje Scholarship recipient is John Sadlik, a junior from Naperville, Ill. Sadlik chose the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Illinois not only for its reputation as one of the top undergraduate materials programs in the nation but also for the personal attention the students receive in the department. He plans to concentrate in ceramics and is especially interested in their electronic properties.

“Although it may not seem like much, $1,000 really goes a long way with helping to pay for school,” Sadlik said. “It frees up money for things like books or a computer. It’s nice to know that those things are paid for and that I don't have to worry too much about expenses like that. Scholarships are also a great motivator. I feel like I have to work that extra bit harder in order to get the most out of this great opportunity I've been presented with.”

The Luetjes are proud to be able to give back to their alma mater. “In these difficult economic times, there are more talented students than ever who may not be able to afford to get the education they need and deserve,” Bob said. “Scholarships might make a difference in some student’s career and that is exciting to consider.”