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Donor Markku Ihantola: “Studies at Otaniemi paved an excellent way for my career”

Aalto University provided Markku Ihantola a solid foundation for his career in aviation technology and the courage to learn new things. "I am happy to pay back some of this debt by donating."
Markku Ihantola kesäisellä parvekkeellaan. Markku Ihantola and the balcony view.

Who are you?

I am now retired. I took my matriculation examination at Porin Lyseo upper secondary school and started my studies at Helsinki University of Technology studying aviation technology in 1965. I graduated with a Master of Science in Technology degree in 1972.

For most of my career, I worked in the Finnish Air Force. I ended up there by accident when I started as a project manager in the Draken interceptor project at Air Force Command Finland. After that, I worked in different development and management positions in the Air Force, participated in building defence material collaboration in Europe and, in the end, I was the Chief Engineer of the Finnish Defence Forces, one of the general officers at the Defence Command. 

My choice of career was based on the study guide available at the time and my number one choice was aviation technology, which provided a diverse education. I believed it would give me capacities to work in many different fields. That was all I knew about my future profession.

What was included in your studies?

The education in aviation technology was broad-based and there were no ECTS requirements at the time. The aim was to understand objects and their movement in a medium.

Our studies included a great deal of applied mathematics and studies in the strength of materials, thermodynamics, aerodynamics, fluid dynamics and systems engineering. They were supplemented by metal physics and aircraft engines, and we also studied mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, electronics, chemistry and even meteorology. However, to study behavioural science and economics, we had to go to the University of Helsinki. I did my master’s thesis for Finnair on the problems of DC-9 and Caravelle engines.

What are the best memories of your study days?

The studies gave me confidence about the future. My course was the first one to start on the new Otaniemi campus, the construction of the wind tunnels was completed, organised photocopying of lectures began, the construction of Dipoli was completed in time for Lakinlaskijaiset, the “Caps Off” party, in 1966, and the campus in Hietalahti was given up a couple of years later.

Life in shared student accommodation was busy. In addition to the traditional hobbies, the students living in our flat also participated in making the Käpy sculpture. We had a department of our own at the art event in Dipoli, and we also made a record of our own in Dipoli’s excellent recording studio. I heard it played much later in the “Spoiled Classics” series on the radio. We also played a prank of our own: we put an additional link to “The chain is as strong as its weakest link” monument in front of the Police Academy. During our studies, we formed permanent friendships and our course still meets up regularly.  

What kind of foundation did the studies provide for your career?

Helsinki University of Technology provided an excellent foundation for both the knowledge and the attitude required in an engineer’s career, and courage for learning new things. The Finnish education in aircraft engineering was exceptionally broad-based and it was esteemed in the aviation superpowers both in the East and in the West. The West even offered work for graduates.

You have already supported Aalto substantially before. What inspires you to donate again now?

I my view, the education I gained in Otaniemi has given me a solid basis for a career that turned out to be interesting and diverse. I am only happy to pay back some of this debt and hope it will encourage Aalto further in its education and research work, even though the university discontinued education in aircraft construction. I find that regrettable. I would have hoped to see a more long-term view on this and a deeper understanding of the field.  

What king of greetings would you like to send to students currently studying at Aalto?

I would like to emphasize the importance of confidence in your own competence, courage to face future challenges and learn new things. The friendships formed during the studies are important. I think they may be most likely to form in shared accommodation in the student village.

Most importantly, for engineers it is worthwhile to study also economics and art. They will need that knowledge in their work and in life in general.

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