Gary Stark and Anne Stark

Recorded July 5, 2014 Archived July 5, 2014 37:54 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby012299


Gary Stark (48) and Anne Stark (48) tell how they came to live and work in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and why they love it.

Subject Log / Time Code

Gary Stark talks about living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a young child.
Anne Stark remembers a vacation she and GS took to the U.P. when they were newly married. "It was the most beautiful place I'd ever seen," says AS.
AS and GS talk about living in Duluth, MN.
GS explains how he and AS found jobs at Northern Michigan University and they were able to fulfill their dream of moving to the North Woods.
They talk about what they like about living in Marquette.
AS talks about Yooper friendliness and sisu. "You never know who's going to have to jump start your car at 3 am, so you're nice to everybody."
AS talks about being marketing director at NMU and the recent controversy at the university about a change in marketing strategy.


  • Gary Stark
  • Anne Stark

Recording Location

Peter White Public Library

Venue / Recording Kit


StoryCorps uses Google Cloud Speech-to-Text and Natural Language API to provide machine-generated transcripts. Transcripts have not been checked for accuracy and may contain errors. Learn more about our FAQs through our Help Center or do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.

00:03 My name is Ann Stark. I'm 48 years old today is July 5th, 2014 that and we're here in Marquette, Michigan. I'll be talking with my dear sweet husband Gary dark.

00:17 My name is Gary Stark. I'm also 48 years old. Today's date is July 5th, 2014. We're in Marquette Michigan and I will be interviewing my lovely wife and Stark now when we first came here or when we just decided that we are going to do storycorps you mentioned right before we came in that I was a little bit hesitant and then I started thinking about all the stories that we tell each other and we tell our friends and that kind of invited who we are and so many of those stories have to do with where we live here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and it's a really interesting place. It's not yet to be a little weird to want to live here cuz the winters are cold and long and the summers are brief and beautiful and it does look on a map like it's the end of the Earth and we absolutely loved it. So that's why I really wanted to come and talk to you about our how we

01:17 How are tight Upper Peninsula even though we're not natives we lived here for nine years. So can you tell me about the first time you were ever in the upper peninsula actually ended up here my family by my dad's accident when I was wondering rolled. He was teaching on an adjunct basis. He was teaching accounting at Kansas State and decided to you really want to do that for a living to be a professor and do that full-time. He is from Kansas. My mom is from Pontiac Michigan and it's spent a lot of time in the northern part of the lower Peninsula and there was a place they're sort of resort area called Houghton Lake. Well, he saw a job at Michigan Tech Michigan Tech is and Houghton is not in Houghton Lake and so he got all excited to see. Oh, there's a job in in the Houghton Lake not really thinking I was at

02:15 Not really knows what that was. I end up flying into the Upper. Peninsula Houghton is about 90 miles Northwest of Marquette. So even further north, so he got up there for the interview. I found out there wasn't holding make it was further north more remote mode cold there more snow but decide to take that job. Anyway, I dated lasted about three years. There was just too cold and too remote but ever since then my family has vacation there and we felt a connection to the place. So how old were you when you moved to the U P 1 year olds when we moved when we moved to the BP and then I guess I was probably three or four when we left that you pee and my dad went on to get his Ph.D.

03:10 And he went to

03:12 Missouri Missouri, okay. So are you move to Missouri and then you ended up back in Michigan tell me about what happened when you were living in Ypsilanti and you're a little bit older know you were in grade school right when you and I moved to Minnesota Minnesota. I picked up that accent very quickly within weeks and we figure it out later that I learn to talk in the u p and that accent is actually fairly similar to Minnesota. Now what that reminde then I got to thinking about it when we lived down state. My dad had a job at Eastern Michigan and Ypsilanti not far from Detroit. And while we were there I was in speech therapy and in speech therapy, they work done to sounds with me one was the r sound which is pretty common with kids. The other sound was the owl sound now assuming that the way they pronounce

04:12 And that you pee is a little strange. They were the person they would say more like hosts inside the house or we're going to vote instead of about.

04:22 So that's the way I talk to my live downstate and realize later. Basically, they were trying to beat the goofy out of that. That was not the proper way to pronounce how so so being at you for as a speech impediment apparently and they wonder why we call them trolls living below the bridge, right? So now you have a story I think about the first time we were in the U P. If you don't mind that I might face on vacation right fer up. This is our first vacation in the summer after we got married. So he married a year. We were all of what 23 and 24 years old thinking we're all grown up jobs in the city and I'm since your family had vacationed in the U P often we decided rather than always going back home to Kansas on our vacation we go up for the Upper Peninsula. So we start driving up from Chicago and all

05:22 The way through Wisconsin it rained and we kept saying how I think it's clearing up ahead. Now. The first two times one of us said it I think we really meant it. But by the end of the trip up to Upper Peninsula, it was kind of rain and it was going to rain all night long, but we kept saying look up ahead is clearing and you know, what does this day? We still say that when you're on a road trip. So even if it's a dumb joke, we still say it. So we got into the UPI. We got up to McLain State Park, which is outside of Houghton and we got there and I think it was almost dark dark when we got there and it was raining is really started to rain by this point marina Campground surrounded by big campers people with their dogs and their satellite dishes and everything was set up our little pup tents.

06:12 And like it experience camper. I put the tarp on the lay the tarp out and then put our tent on top of it. Well, what happened was the rain collected in the tarp in about 3 in the morning. I was sleeping or trying to sleep in 2 inches of icy rain water. So I get up and I just think it was the most miserable thing possible here. I am in the middle of the dark in the middle of nowhere and I would like to start crying and I go in the car. I think the car just want to go stay in a hotel and you would let me stay in the hotel and the surviving barely a little surprised being married after that came up and it was glorious. It was so beautiful in the campground and we were able to move from our tents are like an RV spot into a rustic spot. So the tent look much more.

07:12 Natural and I had learned not to put the tarp on the bottom. So never had the ring problem again in the town of would you love a bridal dress up for the laundromat and we drove around and I remember very clearly thinking that this was as pretty as anything out of a Disney movie. I mean it was the most beautiful place. I think I had ever been at that point. I don't have seen mountains lives in the ocean. I said the prices but you'd come to driving through the trees and it be this beautiful Meadow when butterflies and you expect Bambi to come out. So we were super tourists that day. We were really tired with him back to the camp made our dinner got everything that you don't have to fire all things all cozied up in the bed cuz it gets cold in August. So we're laying there.

08:05 And I hear this Russell Russell Russell.

08:08 Wrestle wrestle and I roll over and I whisper.

08:16 And you stiffened got so scared that made me even more scared. We could not breathe air. I was convinced this, you know, Chicago resident. I was convinced there was an Axe Murderer out there. It was kind of ripped in her tent and kill us at any moment. Of course. I hadn't thought about anything like that. So he said I couldn't think of anything else. Of course. What else? Could it be smarter? I think I thought you wanted me to go outside and see they said no cuz they're not.

09:00 So yeah, so when people ask me, what's my most embarrassing moment, I think that's really what it is. It's mistaking. It was probably a raccoon, but I never I didn't have the guts to look at in the morning. There was trash and stuff all around. It was a real big mess, but no Axe Murderer.

09:20 And I think the accident in the car the whole time. So I do remember also thinking there and we were living in Chicago in the city and

09:33 You know, there was a change of pace for a 7 grown up in a college town but remember starving through the ups and thinking man. This is so cool with it. Be cool if some day like we both got jobs here now that would never happen. That's it's just it's there's not enough jobs up here. It's I remember asking you I'd love to live here. But what if they do for work and here we are living in the upper peninsula.

09:58 Working and having a family and we moved. Okay. So after I killed in Chicago we moved around the Midwest a bit we lived in Nebraska we lived in can is this and then you had a chance after you asked when you're finishing up your PhD at University of Nebraska. If you could apply to Minnesota Duluth, and I thought sure Minnesota University of Minnesota system. I moved up there with a big chip on my shoulder. I was thinking it's dark in the winter. It's cold the people talks money. They eat lutefisk, which is basically fish paper fish wallpaper paste. I mean, I was not going to give the place an inch.

10:47 And we ended up falling in love with it. It was yeah, it was really cold in the winter. But some of the most beautiful days in the winners win that's hovering around zero and there's a high pressure system and it's like a big crystal ball. So that was one of things I liked about it, but where it where is Duluth Duluth is well, and I hadn't had a chance to tell me some of the things that you liked about living in Duluth.

11:17 Well that the coolest thing they're so that's also on Lake Superior. So about 5 hours East of Marquette. So we knew okay. Well we're heading another Northwoods where we're on Lake Superior great for me because I'd take a smoother you pee and I thought I'd get this can't be much difference and it wasn't him. One of the coolest think I'm at a great University. The department I worked for was wonderful. But one of the coolest things there was a couple days after we moved in your parents have been helping us move and what we were putting stuff together on the house. They took the kids. They were a little at the time they took the kids out out hiking and they came back all excited because they have found a waterfall. That's cool. I know there's waterfalls in the city, but where was that she must have walked a long way and they said now it's like three blocks away and I can't write.

12:17 Oxymizer and they were serious so we went out the next day it looked in there three blocks away was the start. I forgot the name of the waterfall and that that went all the way from our house all the way down to Lake Superior. So we hiked it liked it. Most of the way down and was just absolutely gorgeous three blocks away from our house. So I remember walking or running into our realtor Frank and it's three blocks away. I would think that's a big selling point because it's Duluth to 620 Rivers running through town. Everybody lives been three blocks of a waterfall. No big deal. So and these about right so that was beautiful place to live. That was one of the most favorite Parts Butler Kedzie our daughter had a birthday party.

13:17 On the trail there. We like our party favors were hiking sticks and I made bugs out of candy and hit them in the woods and that was a hide and seek and everything. So her family used and enjoyed that that trail system partition Creek. I mean once or twice a week the whole time. I think we live there. It was really amazing.

13:41 So we got to Duluth and it was a three-year term job, right? And then what'd we do after that?

13:48 That was a three-year term job. I had an opportunity to take a tenure-track job there. It seems like at the time so I didn't take that job. I took a job in Topeka Kansas, which was fine. Are you end up getting a job working at Kansas State, but we knew as soon as we move back to Kansas that we really miss the North Woods, and I remember talking most people talk about retiring and moving to the South. We seriously talked about retiring and moving up to the North Woods and living on Lake Superior. So,

14:30 At one point, so we live there for a while in Kansas and

14:37 I think we both decided from various reasons. Maybe it's time to move on from our jobs and let's just start taking a look. Let's let's see what's out there and it's kind of odds. It's a series of Miracles for lack of a word lack of a better word. I don't believe in miracles. So I've heard you say often that you're agnostic but this tests your face. So we decided we were going to take a look and see just what else is out there until about two or three weeks after that decision. I see a job in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which is where most academic positions are advertised. I see a job at Northern Michigan University and we joked before felt well okay with joke about retire.

15:37 It wasn't a joke about serious about retiring up there up to up to Lake Superior by with that. Well, if you need if I found a job there at some point in my life, but how many jobs are in Lake Superior? How many universities are there on Lake Superior 6 or 7 maybe while we're quite a while. We were living in Kansas. I see you this job at Northern Michigan University. It's like so that's sort of Miracle. I'm doing are quotes here Miracle. Number one. Is that job on Lake Superior? The second thing was that so I teach management classes typically organizational behavior at work psychology, and that's what they needed in this position, but they also needed somebody who could teach operations management and that's a really odd.

16:37 Combination of Specialties I wouldn't call operation smash my special day, but I taught at several times in graduate school. So and I was pretty good at teaching that and it's just such an odd. Of I classes to teach so that was sort of Miracle are quote number to here's a job at Northern Michigan University on Lake Superior cues.

17:01 A job written for me. I mean how many people teach those two classes actually want to live in Michigan where you get 180 in of snow all year and it's very cold and remote and all that. Yeah, and then so that their words quote Miracle. Is that okay? So at the time you were the marketing director for continuing education at Kansas State marketing director with that. Okay, you know what this position is to perfect my position so I can freeze first job got the job obviously and I'm here now and he said, you know what we're going to take this job will worry about a man's job later. This is just too perfect. So we get that all taken care of.

18:01 Find the papers for my. OK it's time to start looking for a job for a man who was marketing director for continuing education at Kansas State. We look for a job around town and the Northern Michigan University just where I teach is looking for a marketing tractor and serve you apply for the job you get an interview you get the job. So it's now if Barry is Miracles Destiny, whatever I suppose it was shoving us towards his place because it's quite a set of circumstances how we ended up here more than just work. There was a kid's school. Okay, you remember the kids school? Yeah. Yeah just as well. It was in instrument which is kind of a drive it wouldn't you could commute but it would be real pain. But the year that we moved here nine years ago that over the summer they moved from Ishpeming.

19:01 To Marquette and chance for being an alternative high school to being a regular charter school with a middle school the same time that are wonderful Corky, very intelligent oldest son would be going into Middle School. He has some struggles with bullying and things like that in the traditional school. So we were looking at a charter school smaller organization little bit looser adherence to rules or not. Not as strict and when we talked to the people who are running the Middle School part of North Star Academy, we were very comfortable for us. So so we have this place where we're hoping that Calvin could Thrive better than he had been doing before and after school neighborhood school. So to me that's another miracle.

19:51 So I come up for your interview just to check out the town because I didn't know I was going to commit cuz I had said okay to living in Duluth and it took me awhile, but I did fall in love with it, but I wanted to make sure that I could live here so I came for you with you for your job interview. And then when I came up from my job interview, we are you know, we were moving here. So I was looking for housing and I was doing some other stuff I drove by a girl who was I found it. I found a house to rent and the the agent I haven't signed anything yet. But the agent said, oh, yeah, there's a park just down the street for your kids. So I drove around the neighborhood and two houses down from the park. There is a house with a for sale by owner sign and a girl moan the law. So I stopped the rental car and I hop out and I say, can I talk to your parents? I bought that house.

20:47 Which it wasn't without me saying and there was the universe had a whole stack of dominoes just a lined up and was just knock them over to smack that on the back of the head. If we don't move here, we'll just be insane. So we moved here nine years ago and it's been I think it's one of the best movie I've ever made before we moved around and it's been interesting now to look back and see if what are our three children now are there in college or middle school and they're itching to get out of the small town? And I think it's good. They need to spread their wings. I was so I was the same way and I'm more power to him. I think that's great. They do need to get out but I really feel comfortable having race them here. It's

21:43 It's kind of Mayberry here and work at its small town. Which Cuts both ways. I mean everybody knows everybody's business and the Rumor Mill is just extreme and you know people and the grocery store and just because you heard of somebody showing up every time you go to the grocery store or restaurant. Well in my case, it's one of my students whose name. I can't remember if they'll say I've dr. Stark and I'll say hi. Like I know how you doing everybody's business. So you'd never really want to be misbehaving in Marquette because it would know about it. So I feel completely confident that you're never going to have an affair, but you wouldn't dare do it and bark at people figure these things out even if you leave that but the good thing about it is I always figured since it's not that you would have an affair anyway, but

22:43 Teenage kids in this town as I really got the feeling that if they were up to some really nasty Shenanigans something really serious. We probably get a phone call about it before they even got home.

22:56 And they never did our kids never got up to anything or at least didn't get caught which I think we're both fine, but they a sense of security that I think so tell me what are some of the things that you like about living in in the upper peninsula or purchase order more cat.

23:13 I guess I mean the number one thing would be the natural beauty. But when we first decided to move here nine years ago or even now if people ask me why I moved here kind of surprised him with the answer and I say it's because of the weather and since I was a little kid, I've always loved snow. I hate hot weather. So grown-up and Kansas and the main campus was was pretty rough. So I like cold weather. I like snowing and we're pretty good for that. Yeah. I don't even want when we moved her. I wasn't even a scare. I just loves not no sense down since we live.

23:54 Oh for 5 minutes, depending on the weather from the ski hill I have taken up skiing downhill skiing and cross-country skiing we've gotten Snowshoe Louis. I weigh about a nice to baagan. We've got a few sleds so I've been more active and in the snow sports, but yeah, I would have to say the weather and the natural beauty and you know growing up in a college town. There's just something sort of special about them and marquette's the college. I'm here at the town of 20,000. But I remember when we first moved when we first interview is here. I took it with me. It's kind of looking around at all the Galleries and then live music scene and all that Leon Redbone was playing at The Kaufman Auditorium when we came up and we walked there beautiful snow storm.

24:54 I kind of phrase and you need to use it more now. It doesn't have the culture of Milwaukee or Detroit there a place like that but per capita 20,000. This probably has more this has more culture per capita than just about any place I've saying that's really plays Visual Arts. It's not just music performance. There's there's a ton of stuff High culture and low culture. Like we've got three brew pubs in the fourth one is opening a good restaurants. I mean, you have to leave town to find an Indian restaurant.

25:42 Disappointed but still pretty good restaurants for a town that size. So I really like that the whole culture per capita. You can still be a weigh-in in the woods. That's pretty much where we live is back on the woods, but still have two cents cultural scene.

26:02 Now this kind of surprised me when we first moved here cuz I grew up. I was born in Iowa and I grew up in Kansas and I had always thought of myself as you know, something from the planes and I love the quiet beauty of the Flint Hills in North Central Kansas and big big skies and open spaces. And one of the things that really did kind of great Army when we lived in Duluth was I couldn't see the Horizon there were too many trees and the sky seems lower. And now that we've lived here in Marquette. We are on a boat. We don't you know, we're not out on Lake Superior, but if I don't see you like Superior every two or three days, I can't really homesick for it. I mean really homesick for this big body of water. I mean, it doesn't really impact my life in any other way. I mean, we don't live on the lake or anything like that, but just knowing that 10% of the world's freshwater.

27:01 Is Right a walk from our house? I can walk there in 15 minutes. If it's there, I know that it's too cold to swim in but even so I've jumped off the black rocks into the lake and you didn't often than me cuz I don't like a nice cold like water Reggie the most when I go someplace where there isn't one of the Great Lakes and I never would have ever expected that as being something of the environment but I think there's also something here about the people and it was true of the people in Duluth to there's something called Minnesota nice and I think it's different than say Southern Hospitality cuz I have two sisters and love are wonderful people in a very friendly but you get the feeling that they're friendly to your face and then go look in your medicine cabinet that kind of friend little sisters.

28:01 Southern Hospitality worker but will Minnesota nice and you prefer loneliness it's for absolutely for real and my take on it is a little jaded but he's never know who's going to have to jump start the car at 3 in the morning. So you're just nice to everybody as part of it. But there's also they also have a word for it here that they didn't have in Minnesota if they have the same kind of thing, but here it's called sissoo sis you it's a Finnish word that doesn't really have an English translation. That means

28:36 Hotspot intestinal fortitude stoicism do it yourself and I think you might move here and you have whatever color you came from whether it's Midwestern or the Deep South Coastal or whatever, but you get here, it doesn't take that long. That's three years. Maybe you get Sissy and I think that's one of the things that I really liked about Northern Michigan University as we get students from downstate out of state from all over and they come here and somehow the Upper Peninsula Works its way into them and they leave and their YouTubers who have sister and bring her or lesser degree.

29:20 They know what it's like to go out and cuz classes are canceled because of a cold and we handle time the snow. So you deal with the Winter's that last 8 months and you deal with long distance is to drive, you know, the closest metropolitan area to go shopping or anything is Green Bay's three and a half hours drive if that's no big deal people that and it has a round trip. No big deal, but in general it's a zoo in the people here. That's one of the best things about living here. Kind of Wonder. I obviously so different to me cuz of obvious difference between

30:08 I'm a freshman and seniors in palliative care at least here. And I've always thought that had something to do with maturity as you have you forgot what college is all about you figure out who you are as a person. And now what you got me thinking is part of that be on the college's experiences just living up here and that sort of stuff into up and materials. You have to be having suffered classes. It's going to matter you and make you more well-rounded and hopefully more intellectually curious, but that's I think you can so many other experiences from living here to really thought they were going to do so they have to be independent and they have to rely on each other and themselves.

31:04 You were until about a month or so the marketing director here. So how did you use that thing of that sister idea and the natural beauty? How did you use that in some of the marketing and promotional material words more about academics, but all of the pictures and 1/3 of the words in the advertisements in anything that we talked about whether it was the web or whether it was a print ad it was the natural environment and selling this wonderful University in this spectacular environment. So it was kind of being a Convention & Visitors Bureau on behalf of the university to get parents and their to get the kids to be interested in Miss the parents that it was. Yes, it was farther away than maybe Central Michigan or western or Grand Valley or whatever but

32:04 That they would come here to Northern and the community we take care of them because we do have to kind of build a support system real people and I think that's how they learn. You know, they come in as brand new baby freshmen and by the time they're seniors they're turning around and they're the ones who are bestowing that system on younger kids and they have we have the nerd has some fantastic leadership programs that are really easy to sell so

32:32 I know there was a bit of a controversy last year our interim president who's now gone. He had this Grand idea that he was going to totally change the marketing scam and I maybe you could you were more insight on this. I don't know how much you can say without angering the powers-that-be blah blah blah.

32:57 Don't get me started let's but there was a little controversy there and I think it had something to do with that for 18 years. Naturally like Northern. Naturally. And it was really great because we could do an amazing amount of stuff felt. That's a natural fit is the natural environment is a natural way to learn lots of different things and some people kind of last on to that. And now if you're 17 years old new picking University based on the University's tagline. I think that's maybe one in a million kids do that. That's that just doesn't happen. But what does happen is when the students get here and when the faculty get here, they hear the tagline over and over and over again and they internalized it and they believed in Northern actually. So when the university leadership came out with their own new tagline Without Really any context for it at all.

33:57 It bombs and it becomes big and from what I know at this point the new president of the University one of his first tasks is to decide if they take the last 2 and 1/2 years worth of work and just trash it and start over or is it even worth trying to get their new tagline which is fearless Minds to fly. And I don't know I think with as much animosity is the faculty, especially the fact that they've had over it. You are people complaining about it. But I mean, it's such a perfect representation the university but I also understand from the administration's point of view why they're doing it because as demographics change, the university has to change and become more aggressive in our strategy and their strategy to get more students. So I understand why they were contemplating a change the way it was handled.

34:57 Not very smooth to say the least and I remember the so-called focus group sessions switch won't focus group sessions at all. If they were mostly not asking us questions, but telling us why they were doing it was a pity they were doing for those mines. One thing. I thought was really odd. I feel is mine's fine. That's actually kind of cool. There's some cool things about that tagline, but they started showing pictures of the The View books which are the last two prospective students and Anna music has always been this nice pictures of the North Woods in the snow and look and then I'll send their she want to stay is possible there a few books and they were all pictures of

35:52 Here's a faculty member or into slab for Hearth of faculty member in her office. And here's a close-up of somebody else's face. And here's a close-up of somebody else's face and looking at the Glen. So am I looking at Northern Michigan University? Am I looking at Saginaw Valley State? Am I looking at Kansas State University what university of my looking who are away so I can understand that but I didn't understand the changing the pictures and the few books and and all that. Well since I was reorganized out of a job, I don't have any particular inside anymore. Although I I'm hoping that when I have a conversation with the University president who met at orientation, then I'll have a chance at least it telling him my story. So thank you for doing this with me.

36:52 What you're welcome in a really cool experience. Well. Thank you for deciding to do it with me after I like I said that since a little bit of reluctance when I when I signed you up for I signed us up at what is a person to so many stories and they're so moving and yellow these sweeping huge thing. But then I realize how many of these stories that we tell so often than how we both of us not just me as a market Recker but you as a faculty member have gotten people to move here based on some of the Beast why are men so many of them become sort of our family inside jokes and what they say. It's clearing up ahead or just randomly saying,

37:40 Where's the guy acts?

37:42 It's nobody else cats and we laugh uproariously well, thank you for being my Uber.

37:49 Thank you.