The Houghton Mining Gazette, Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Dresch a U.P. original

We noted with sympathy, and a very real sense of loss, the passing of Stephen Dresch of Hancock last weekend.

The longtime Copper Country public figure lost a battle with lung cancer at the age of 62.

Dresch will undoubtedly be remembered by some for his consulting business or how he assisted distant law enforcement agencies with mob investigations.

Certainly those, and other, similar accomplishments, were significant. But we suspect most Copper Country residents — in fact most people from the Upper Peninsula — will recall him as a property rights activist, a former state representative and Michigan Tech University official who didn’t mind taking on the establishment.

In fact Dresch, who was elected to a single, two-year term as a Republican state representative in 1990, seemed to be fond of tweaking the establishment’s nose. For example, at a time when most Republicans in the state spent time toadying to then-Gov. John Engler, Dresch locked horns with the state’s chief executive, especially on matters of fiscal policy.

A maverick in every sense of the word, Dresch clashed publicly and privately with Engler. And because both were Republicans, these dust ups were showcased on a state and national level.

Prior to his term as a state representative, Dresch put in a career at on the MTU campus in the school’s forestry department, where he gained notoriety helping expose wrongdoing at Ventures, an MTU economic development arm.

And after returning from Lansing, he became immersed in the Richard Delene property rights fray in Baraga County, often casting himself in the role of spokesman for Delene who was then battling the state over control of privately-held acreage.

Although Dresch’s involvement in the case lessened as the years passed, anyone who knew him was keenly aware of his aversion to government intrusion into the lives of its citizens.

Gifted at rhetoric, Dresch was a U.P. original. A public figure during an era when partisan getting along to go along was (and still is) the order of the day, he bucked city hall at a time he, himself, was employed there.

It probably made him few friends but we suspect it garnered him great respect, including that of this newspaper.

He will be missed.

Dresch dead after long battle with cancer

Former state rep dies at home Sunday

By GARRETT NEESE, Daily Mining Gazette Writer

HANCOCK — Stephen Dresch, a former state legislator, Michigan Tech University dean and forensic analyst, died of lung cancer Sunday at his home. He was 62.

Dresch enjoyed a long and varied career, culminating in the indictment of a former New York City FBI agent accused of aiding a Mafia informant with murder.

While dean of the School of Business and Economics at Michigan Tech, he worked to expose activities at the Michigan Tech Ventures, an economic revitalization group that had become a hotbed of embezzlement.

“He was a very bright individual ... he was very smart and very ethical,” said Terry Monson, a professor at Michigan Tech. “That’s the story of his life.”

As dean, Dresch hired Christa Walck as associate professor. Walck, now dean of the school herself, looks back on that time fondly.

“He was a very intellectually engaged, thought-provoking man,” she said. “We were fortunate to have someone of his intellectual caliber at Michigan Tech and the School of Business and Economics. Things were never boring when he was around.”

Walck credited Dresch with raising the intellectual standard of the school, broadening the teaching emphasis of the school to include more research. He also fostered a higher level of debate at the school through everything from symposiums with visiting faculty from Eastern Europe to routine conversations.

“I’ll always remember seeing him in his office ... his feet propped up and having an intellectual conversation about the state of the world and economic issues,” she said.

Dresch served one term as state representative, winning his seat in 1990. In a rarity for the Democratic-leaning district, he won as a Republican.

State Rep. Rich Brown, D, Bessemer, who now holds Dresch’s former seat, praised Dresch’s tenacity.

“He was a fighter for the folks he felt that had been wronged by the government ... he never wavered in his desire to make the things he felt were wrong right,” he said.

As an example, Brown cited Dresch’s legal work with Richard and Nancy Delene, a Baraga County couple who fought the Department of Natural Resources over their creation of wetlands on their property.

He also created his own firm, Forensic Intelligence International, LLC, in which he pursued a variety of cases.

Last year, he tipped off the Federal Bureau of Investigation about a stash of weapons hidden by Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols in Harington, Kan. The tip came via mob informant Gregory Scarpa Jr.

His most recent high-profile case was that of R. Lindley DeVecchio, an FBI agent accused of providing information to Scarpa’s father that helped him commit four murders.

“I should wait for a conviction to notch my gun, but, given that it is unlikely to occur within the next few months, I think I’ll do it now,” he told the Gazette in April.

Walck said Dresch’s death would be a real loss for the community.

“It’s tragic that someone of his intellectual caliber died so young,” she said.

Garrett Neese can be reached at