Campus Closeup: Gisele Duehring
Gisele Duehring (Facilities) holds the distinction of being the first closeup subject who had to interrupt her interview to attend to a work-related matter that couldn’t wait.
She traveled to the Gries Hall parking lot, donned a hard hat and harness, then descended into the dark depths of a steam vault (glorified manhole, to non-engineering types). Duehring was called to inspect a new ladder that offers more toe room for enhanced safety and to check repairs to a rusted-out pipe support before the crew reinstalled the cover and closed it up again.
“When you see steam coming out of a vault, it’s not good,” she said. “We knew there was a harsh environment with the temperature and moisture, so we replaced the cover with a slotted version a few months ago for better ventilation to dry out the vault. The next step was to repair a pipe support that had rusted through. The final step is to repair a flange gasket leak during the scheduled university steam outage May 10-12, when we’ll be able to make repairs and to replace insulation in a cooler environment.”
As associate director of facilities, Duehring, along with Plant Operations, is responsible for the steam and condensate lines that share tunnels branching from the Ripley Heating Plant across campus.
“After the steam has given up heat, it is condensed and captured in tanks and pumped back to the plant. If we could tag a drop of water, it would recirculate from the plant to campus and back to the plant 50 times. It used to be about five times before improved water chemistry. I can’t take credit for that. Large power companies have their own lab and chemists. Since we do not need a full-time chemist, we hire a chemical company to provide expertise. I refer to that company representative as our water doctor. Currently he is helping us prepare for tighter water quality constraints for our new turbine. We have to adapt to changing requirements from the DEQ and EPA, but that’s less of a problem with the fuels we use than it would be with coal.”
Duehring was raised in De Soto, Iowa, and earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Iowa State University, where “there were more people in my dorm than in my hometown.” She worked for a private firm in Amarillo, Texas, that designed and retrofitted power plants. She and her husband, Jim, moved to Marquette five years ago when he accepted a call as pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Harvey. Gisele was hired by NMU less than two years ago.
In her free time, Duehring is leading an effort to transform the idle Lower Harbor ore dock into a botanical and ecological center. She envisions a “destination” that features year-round gardens (the closest are in Milwaukee), facilitates research and educational opportunities and serves as a prime location for conferences, wedding receptions, ethnic celebrations, concerts, art exhibits and other community events.
“It’s a bottomlands agreement site, so whatever’s done with it has to be accessible to the community. The city will do a structural analysis early this summer. If it’s sound, this project could demonstrate that development doesn’t have to involve tearing down the old—you can upcycle what’s already there. This ore dock is so important to the history of Marquette. We don’t want it to be torn down like Ashland’s is right now. A renewed purpose would allow us to preserve that history and bridge the gap between the two areas of newer development along the lakeshore—Lower Harbor and Founder’s Landing. This isn’t my project; I’m not the developer. I’m just trying to turn it into a community movement because a lot of entities could collaborate on this.”
Duehring paid former NMU student Luke Oberdorfer to complete a computer rendering of proposed designs. The one pictured above includes an atrium along the top of the ore dock, which spans a length of three football fields (plus an extra 23 yards). Another student is working on logos. The next steps are drafting bylaws and applying for non-profit status to be eligible for grants. For more information on the effort, visit the Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org. A website is under construction.
Not surprisingly, Duehring likes to garden at her home outside the city. She joked, “I wanted to live where I couldn’t smell my neighbor’s dryer sheets out of their vents. That was my gauge.” She also walks/hikes and plays flute in church. The Duehrings have two children in their 20s who have followed in Gisele’s footsteps. Their son is a structural engineer in Corpus Christi and their daughter owns a garden business in Amarillo.