Montana Tech Announces Distinguished Alumni Awardees

Montana Tech Announces Distinguished Alumni Awardees


Montana Tech will honor three alumni with the Distinguished Alumni Award at the university’s 115th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 16, 2015. This year’s awardees are: Larry Hoffman, B.S. Mining Engineering, 1969; Mike Johnson, B.S. Business Administration, 1990, Montana Tech, and Hugo Pulju, B.S. Geological Engineering, 1958, M.S. Geological Engineering, 1964.

The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented to alumni of Montana Tech, who established a professional career of at least 20 years, of which five years have been in a responsible capacity, and who has either contributed in an outstanding manner to the furtherance of his or her profession and/or has been an outstanding contributor to Montana Tech.


Larry Hoffman receives Distinguished Alumni Award. Larry Hoffman
B.S. Mining Engineering, 1969

Born in Lewistown and raised in central Montana, Larry came down with hay fever when he was five years old. Just before his 8th birthday he had the opportunity to visit a family friend’s small mine and found there was no pollen underground. It was a match made in heaven.

Larry fell madly in love with mining. The dark, the machinery, high explosives, the risks and the treasure hunt, where the next blast could reveal high-grade ore. Or not. All of it meshed with his young abilities and interests.

Most of all he fell in love with the people. Hard-working, fiercely independent, intelligent and experienced from decades of mining going back to the end of the 19th century, they took the spoiled only child of a single mom and quite literally whipped him into usefulness.

Every possible moment was spent prowling old mines, talking to old miners, or reading anything available on the subject. He started Blue Range Mining Company when he was 14, to drive a tunnel for a miner too old to do it himself.

He came to Montana School of Mines in 1964 and managed to do enough school work to graduate as a mining engineer in 1969, then went back to work for himself. He contracted underground projects and operated small mines for several years. He became a Registered Professional Engineer in 1974.

With the certification, he added consulting work to the contracting, using a lot of the broad base knowledge passed onto him by his old mentors, as well as his degree from Montana Tech. He worked on a wide variety of projects, building mines and dismantling them, from south of the equator to the farthest north underground mine in the U.S., 80 miles above the Arctic Circle.

Larry is passionate about transferring his experience and love of mining to Montana Tech students. In 2004 Larry was instrumental in convincing Montana Tech’s Miner Training Program (a US Department of Labor program) to reopen the Orphan Girl Mine at the World Museum of Mining and use it as the training facility as well as a tourist mine.  This initial suggestion became a ten year long project which has culminated in the development of the Underground Mining Education Center (UMEC) on Montana Tech’s campus at the Orphan Boy Mine, the only on-campus experimental mine in the world.  Without Larry’s experience, personal time and substantial financial contributions both personally and through Blue Range, the UMEC would not exist.

Larry shares his knowledge of underground mining as an instructor at Montana Tech teaching a course in practical underground mining in over half a mile of tunnels provided by the UMEC.

He and his wife Nancy live in Butte where both are involved in exploring and sharing the rich history with others.

Mike Johnson receives Distinguished Alumni Award.Mike Johnson
B.S. Business Administration, 1990, Montana Tech
MBA, 1997, University of Montana
Doctorate in Educational Leadership, 2012, University of Montana

Mike Johnson’s professional life has been diverse and inspiring. He has served as a leader in multiple business sectors including an electric and gas utility, underground utility locating services, higher education, non-profit foundations, and most recently, the hospitality industry. Mike is currently the President of Management Consultants, Inc., a hospitality management company responsible for the operations of 15 unique businesses in Montana and one in Washington.     

Mike proved that his Bachelor’s Degree earned at Montana Tech (1990) was a strong foundation for further education and development. From here Mike earned an MBA (1997) and a Doctor of Educational Leadership (2012) from the University of Montana.  
Montana Tech’s business education provided many dimensions from which Mike grew his career. Having a background in technology, communications, problem solving, accounting, and management proved to be a catalyst that modeled his personal and professional journey.

As a faculty member at Montana Tech, Mike helped students on their path to obtain their education. Through his mentorship, many students continued on to successful careers.

Mike was appointed the Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement and Development and President of the Montana Tech Foundation in June 2008. Through his leadership, student functions were added to his oversight and he became Vice Chancellor for Development and Student Services. Under his guidance, Montana Tech embarked on its first major capital campaign. He worked diligently to raise funds to build the Natural Resources Building and the Frank and Ann Gilmore University Relations Center.

“I was honored to serve the Montana Tech campus as a faculty member and an administrator. My time on Montana Tech’s campus will forever serve as a highlight of my life. This campus creates graduates that are capable of taking on the world’s challenges. I am very proud of Montana Tech’s Business Program and truly believe that many great things can begin here.”

Mike is happily married to the love of his life, Kami.  Together they have two boys, Cameron (15) and Cole (13). The Johnson family lives in Butte and Kami is the General Manager of the BEST WESTERN PLUS Butte Plaza Inn.

Hugo Pulju received Distinguished Alumni Award.Hugo Pulju
B.S. Geological Engineering, 1958, Montana Tech
M.S. Geological Engineering, 1964, Montana Tech

Hugo Pulju graduated from Menahga High School in Menahga, MN in 1948. After graduation, he went to Great Falls, MT and worked for the Anaconda Co. Smelter until fall when he enrolled at the Montana School of Mines.  A year and a half later, after running out of funds, he dropped out of school and spent 1 and 1/2 years working until he was able to gain enough funds to continue his education.  

In the fall of 1951, he was drafted into the Army and served 2 years in Munich, Germany working at a petroleum depot testing petroleum products for use in the armed forces. After his discharge in 1955, Hugo re-entered the School of Mines and completed his studies in geological engineering and graduated with the class of 1958. While in school, he lettered in baseball for 4 years and spent 2 years as student manager for athletics.

Hugo began his career in geophysics with Carter Oil Company in Casper, WY in 1957. After 2 years with Carter Oil, he resigned and returned to Minnesota where he earned his degree in mathematics at Bemidji State College. He worked as a teacher of math and science at Menahga High School until 1962 when he returned to Butte to work at the School of Mines as a graduate assistant while earning his master’s degree in geological engineering.

After graduation, Hugo received a position with Geophysical Services Inc. and started work as a party chief in geophysical processing at their New Orleans, LA office. After a year in New Orleans, he was transferred to their Houston office. Then, 2 years later Hugo was transferred to their West Coast office in Los Angeles, CA. He worked as a party chief processing marine geophysical data and subsequently was promoted to supervisor of geophysical processing and manager of computer operations. The West Coast office was closed in 1970 and Hugo was transferred to Houston, TX as a manager of geophysical processing. In 1972 he accepted a position as a geophysical processing manager for Digicon, Inc. in their Houston, TX office. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to vice president of North American operations. In 1974, Hugo resigned his position with Digicon, Inc. and moved to Denver, CO. As President, CEO and Chairman of the Board, Hugo established Denver Processing Center, Inc. (DPC). DPC engaged in digital processing of geophysical data for the petroleum industry.  Between 1974 and 1984, DPC expanded to include offices in Houston, TX, Anchorage, AK, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Lima, Peru and Bogotá, Columbia to provide worldwide services. After DPC was involved in a merger, Hugo retired and started work with a partner recording and processing 2,500 line miles of seismic data in the Montana portion of the Williston Basin. He still owns and offers leases of this data as a service to the petroleum industry.

In 2010 Hugo made a generous contribution of valuable seismic data he collected to the Geophysical Engineering Department at Montana Tech. The data covers the rugged area in northwest Montana that borders Glacier National Park. Consisting of approximately 190 miles of two-dimensional seismic reflect data, Hugo’s contribution is giving Montana Tech students access to information that if collected in today’s market would value over $2,000,000.

Hugo currently resides in Denver, CO.