Revisiting the Remmers legacy

For nearly four decades, the Remmers Special Artist/Lecturer Series has brought the world to Rolla: the world of politics and diplomacy through the eyes of prime ministers and presidents; the world of current events through the insights of journalists and pundits; and the world of music through the talent of virtuosos and prodigies.

From Margaret Thatcher to F.W. de Klerk, Charles Kuralt to Cokie Roberts, Itzhak Perlman to Wynton Marsalis, a remarkable roster of eminent speakers and performers has provided Missouri S&T students with a front-row seat on history, headlines and creative genius.

This was the vision that alumnus Walter Remmers, MetE’23, MS MetE’24, and his wife, Miriam, set in motion nearly 40 years ago when they decided to enrich the Rolla educational experience for generations to come.

Walter began his career working for the U.S. Bureau of Mines Rolla Research Center while completing his master’s degree. After teaching at Washington University in St. Louis, he joined Western Electric Co. in 1929 as a metallurgist in research and development, where his work contributed to patents for two groundbreaking innovations: the loading coils that enabled transcontinental telephone service and the magnetic parts that made it possible to place sound tracks on movie film.

In the late 1930s, Walter became a sales representative for Union Carbide Corp.’s mining and metallurgy division, rising through the ranks to become president of two company subsidiaries. He was named vice president of Union Carbide in 1948, the same year he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Missouri.

After retiring from Union Carbide, he remained active as a cattle rancher and business consultant. And he and Miriam, who studied music at Mount Holyoke and Wellesley colleges in Massachusetts, began talking about giving back to Missouri S&T in a major way.

As an alumni magazine article published in a 1993 reported, the couple was driving from their home in Tucson to Rolla (in the late 1970s) when the idea for a lecture series blossomed. “I was telling Miriam about the need for some kind of humanistic programs to supplement students’ rigorous technical studies,” said Walter.

For many years, Walter and Miriam participated in selecting speakers and performers. Following Walter’s death in 1996, Miriam remained involved with the series until her death in 2006. Today the Remmers Committee, chaired by Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader, continues to oversee the selection process, and Walter and Miriam’s grandson, John Remmers, MetE’84, and his wife, Cathy McCain, EE’85, serve on the committee.

Since the first Remmers Lecture in 1979 brought former U.S. President Gerald Ford to campus, more than 30 distinguished guest lecturers and artists have contributed to this vibrant tradition, including  former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who spoke in 2015, and world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, our 2017 guest artist.