Exciting and Enlightening- The Recollections of John Hasse ‘68

The verbosity of this DX Brother cannot be denied. And with a nickname like “Sweet Ass,” you’re pulled in from the word go. From fraternity, to family man, Brother Hasse is the perfect model of DX values.

“Mostly, I remember we were a fairly diverse group for our day,” said Hasse. “The brothers came from many states I had never visited and were of different ethnicities and religions, something I had never been exposed to before. Most of the houses at that time were either Jock houses, Jewish Houses, African-American, WASP houses etc.  But the Delta Chis had members from many backgrounds I had never encountered before. I found that exciting and enlightening.”

The Brotherhood itself are amongst Brother Hasse’s fondest memories. He states that living in a dorm with hundreds of people didn’t allow for anyone to really know, well, anyone.

“In the house, you ate with one another, studied with one another, even slept and showered with one another. So you got to know people, their thoughts, beliefs, hopes, aspirations and even their fears.  We were close,” he recalls. “So we worked together, and mostly grew up together. Maybe that was why I most loved drinking beer and singing around the piano.

“My nickname was Sweet Ass,” Brother Hasse recalls. “I would like to believe it was because the expression ‘Sweet Ass’ meant something good in my day. But actually it came about because the Pledges were mocking me and my last name behind my back. It stuck and is still inscribed on my Delta Chi beer mug to this day.”

When he pledged Delta Chi, Hasse cites it as his first decision made by him about his own life. Up until then, he remembers almost everything he had done being guided by his parents, school counselors, pastors, or someone else. This was the first major decision about life on his own, and he stuck it out, made it work. He says it wasn’t always easy, but he learned that he could rely on himself and other men his age for support and encouragement, which was a terrific life lesson.

“Together we won a few sporting events, drank a lot of beer, lost our virginity and became men- what else is there?”

Receiving his first degree, a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in December of 1968, Hasse started working with Ford Motor in Engine Engineering within weeks of departing Ann Arbor. Then came his journey to a Master’s degree.

“I went to night school and earned a Master’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan’s Dearborn campus,” he recalls. “In those days, the Dearborn Campus did not have a graduate program. The Night School Program was run by Rackham in Ann Arbor and the professors actually drove in from Ann Arbor to teach the courses. So my degree is actually from Ann Arbor. What was ironic was that I only earned two credit hours for the same courses that were worth three credit hours if taken in Ann Arbor. Why? Well, none of us ever receive a satisfactory answer for that one.”

“I worked for Ford Motor Company my entire career of nearly 40 years.  I worked in Engine Engineering that entire time. I worked on four, six, eight, 10, and even 12 cylinder engines. I helped design motors that were powered by gasoline, diesel fuel, natural gas, propane and ethanol. I was part of programs for Car, Truck, Marine and Industrial engines, several of which never went into production. The second half of my career was spent in the management ranks and at different times I was a Supervisor or Manager of Engineering depending on my assignment.

When I was younger I was not surprisingly into Automobiles and racing.  Wrenched on a lot on cars and even spent a few years building one. It was raced on the Bonneville Salt Flats, where we were actually able to set a Land Speed Record of over 200 mph.

Most of my life I have enjoyed building models.  Planes, cars, ships, rockets, and whatever. In the last twenty five I have built up a collection of heavy lift mobile cranes and trucks. Don’t ask me why, I just find them fascinating. As part of this hobby, I have learned a lot of about woodworking from Scott Kremer ‘69 and made most of the cabinets that I display my collection in.

Always, I have enjoyed reading, especially history. I love the history of the 20th century in particular since I lived most my life in it.

Incredibly, in the period of one week, I graduated from Michigan, began working at Ford, got married and got drafted. I actually received my orders to report the night of my Rehearsal Dinner (Talk about a wedding gift from the Government)! However, when I reported, I flunked the physical because I am asthmatic. A lucky break, because Vietnam was roaring away at that time.”

“My dear wife Gretchen and I have been married for 48 years. We met on campus when she was in the Dental School. When she graduated in May of 1970 she was the first married Dental Hygienist in the school’s history. Up until then, married women were not allowed in the program, because they would quit to raise families. The Dental School had never met anyone like my wife before and they had to change their rules. She actually accomplished something for women long before anyone had heard of Women’s Lib. We have had four children, of which three, Darin, Meredith, and Janel have graduated from U of M in Ann Arbor. Darin and Meredith are engineers and working in their respective fields.  Janel graduated with a Nursing degree and later receive a Masters and a Nurse Practitioner’s Degree from Rush Medical School in Chicago. Darin is currently working on MBA. Janel crewed for U of M and her boat actually won a Big Ten Championship in 2001.

I come from a large family of U-M boosters. I have a sister, brother-in-law, brother, wife, three children, a son-in-law, and numerous nieces and nephews that graduated from U of M.  I think I counted up a total 14 in all. My Grandfather and Grandmother were great U of M football fans. They used talk about boarding special trains at the old Michigan Central Terminal in Detroit and riding them to Ann Arbor for the games. They actually had Season tickets at the old Regents Field before the current stadium was opened in 1927.”

Hasse has enjoyed many life successes, both professional and personal.

“As far as my career went, I was privileged to work on a number of teams that won awards for Best Car or Truck of year,” he said. “The 1983 Thunderbird was especially memorable since I was part of the team that designed the first Turbocharged and Fuel Injected engine by an American Manufacturer. I am also proud to have managed teams that won two “Best Engine of the Year” Awards. The competition for this Award included foreign manufacturers, so it was especially gratifying.

Overall, I think my greatest success has been my family. I have stayed married to my College Sweetheart, raised my four children and tried to instill in them a good work ethic, values and regard for all people. In turn, they have also married and blessed me with eight grandchildren, including seven grandsons. (I wonder how many of them will attend the University of Michigan)?”

The Delta Chi has additionally been involved with various volunteer efforts over the years.

“It has varied a lot over the years,” he says. “I have always tried to be involved in my church and its outreach programs. When my Children were younger, I coached baseball, soccer, volleyball, and a lot of basketball. I spent several years in Scouting with one of my sons.   In between I have volunteered at Focus Hope in Detroit, the Gleaners Food Bank in Detroit, and other places. I even spent one summer helping paint Henry Ford High School in Detroit. Most recently, I have been working with a mission in Detroit through my church. My wife and others usually cook a meal twice a month and then three or four take it down and it serve at our Mission Church in Southwest Detroit. Usually we serve about 150 meals.”

With success of course, come a few failures, or, as Brother Hasse states “mistakes and learning experiences.”

“At this point in my life, I can look back and see many setbacks,” Hasse recalls. “Several things affected my life and went on for years and I never thought I would overcome them. But I know now that if I retained my faith in God, everything eventually worked itself out. Maybe not the way I wanted it to, but the way it was meant to be.”

“When I graduated I hoped for a great career and success. I wanted to earn a lot of money, own a big home, drive terrific cars, and be respected in my field. To a great extent, I achieved those things. But at this time in my life, I treasure the relationships I have had most of all.  You young men are going to meet many, many people in your life. How you interact with those people and how they in turn regard you is something that I feel is very important. So respect people, respect their opinions and remember that they matter too. You may think you know everything, but you can always learn more. Listen to other people. They have something to offer too.

I would like to be remembered as a good husband, father, and friend.  An average guy who tried to give back at least as much as I was blessed with.”

DX Brothers can reach John at [email protected]