What do a walking stick and a songbook have in common?

Old technology students have a habit of reminiscing about their time as students.

Tola Tolvanen, who graduated with a degree in construction engineering, produces a walking stick that he found at the Polytechnic Institute some 70 years ago. The stick had since resided, unused, in a cupboard for decades. As time passed, he remembered the stick once more and started to use it. At the meeting of the Ikäteekkarit, or ‘old technology students’, Toivinen recounts a story about the stick from 1945, when life at the institute began to return to normal following the war.

Slightly unwillingly, Toivinen was appointed as the clerk of the engineers' guild, whose job involved carrying out the duties of foresinger at the guild's various events. The foresinger is required to know the words and tunes of the songs to be sung. He had opposed his appointment on the grounds that, as he did not have a traditional background in engineering when he began his studies at the Polytechnic Institute in 1939, he didn't know the usual technology student songs.

The situation got even harder when songbooks ran out of print. Assistance came in the form of the office manager for the student body of the Polytechnic Institute, Liisa Jutila, who took Toivinen to the small storeroom next to the stage in the institute's ball room. The room was packed with sheet music for the choir and orchestra, and even a few instruments that Toivinen believed belonged to members of the orchestra who had not returned from the war. A black-bound songbook from 1936 and a red-bound one from 1928 were also on one of the shelves. On a whim, Toivinen picked up a walking stick that was by the door, as he left the storeroom.

Tola Toivinen goes on to recall how he somehow managed to survive the foresinger's job in the end. However, he made sure the guild had a songbook of its own. As for Toivinen himself, he kept the walking stick as a reminder of his time in the guild. He has now been able to put the reminder into good use.

A little luck goes a long way

Forest products technology alumnus Olli Pinomaa recalls an oral exam that required him to attend lectures and read three books. He admits that he didn't end up going to the lectures, and of the three books, he only managed to read part of one. He nevertheless managed to successfully listen to the professor in charge of the exam without actually understanding any of the questions at all.

When the professor asked what happens when a water molecule meets a cellulose molecule, his gaze ended up on Pinomaa, who ended up having to answer. Without hesitation, Olli answered, and to his surprise, the answer was correct! By his own recollection, this answer was the sole piece of knowledge he'd gleamed from the one partially-read book. He didn't need to answer another question before the end of the exam, and, amazingly, he passed.

The Aalto spirit is strong among the old technology students

One could imagine that this kind of event might be dominated by talk of the good old days from the time of the Helsinki Polytechnic Institute and University of Technology. That couldn't be further from the truth, however. In fact, it quickly becomes apparent over the course of several conversations that these alumni all agree they should play an active role in bringing the Aalto University vision to pass. In their opinion, they are best able to live up to the Aalto University spirit by combining their old technology student activities with those of business, design and arts students. Aalto University’s management was represented at the event by university Provost Ilkka Niemelä, who promised to pass their suggestion on and thanked the attendees for the excellent idea.

The old technology students, i.e. those who began their studies between 1934 and 1944, met up at their annual meeting, held in the Tekniska Halls. The average age of the participants is well over 90 years.

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