After 110 years of the same concrete overlooking Rapid City, the M on M Hill is getting a facelift.
Calvin Tohm, South Dakota Mines alumnus and civil engineering Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arizona, Mines faculty, alumni, local businesses and volunteers are working to refill the M with around 200 yards of concrete by Aug. 1.
"I can't imagine how the people felt 110 years ago when they were pouring it," Tohm said. "Now I get to be part of that. Hopefully every year when I come back, I get to look at it and say I got to help out with that."
Tohm has been working on the project for about three years. He said it started as a senior design project. He said the M was fairly dilapidated and torn down.
"It was kind of dangerous for students to be able to go up and do our traditional sliding down the M," he said. "There were more injuries that were occurring, so this was about fixing that and making it safer for everyone and also kind of revamping school spirit."
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Concrete was originally poured into the M in 1912. The M has been used as a slide by senior students on M-Day after being whitewashed during Homecoming week.
Tohm said part of the project is removing the plaques that were on the M and cleaning them. The plaques contain the names of all graduating seniors from Mines. There are also plaques on the S and D. Tohm said the oldest plaque that has been taken off so far was from 1922.
The M now has rebar, which will help it stay in place. He said the letter had slid down about a foot and a half from its original position. All of the old concrete has been thrown away.
He said about 40 students have volunteered their time to help with the M. Tohm said many local businesses that are owned by alumni are helping as well. He said he met an alum who graduated in 2006.
Realistically the concrete is expected to last for at least 100 years.
Dan Crowser, a 2015 civil engineering graduate from South Dakota Mines, said he was hired to work on the M with SRS Concrete. He said he played football and never had the opportunity to slide down the M.
"Seeing it up here, it's one of those things, it's kind of a staple piece for the city," he said.
Crowser said he grew up in Sturgis and played football and ran track at the stadium.
He said he never thought he'd be working on the M, but he also never thought it would be chipped out.
"It was one of those things," Crowser said. "You can see the S and the D, they're pretty torn up. Having the opportunity to kind of reface this thing so people can look up here and kind of get an enjoyment out of it again, it's really cool."
Crowser said having his part in history setting the concrete has not set in all the way yet, but knowing he can drive by with his kids and show them what it means to him has sentimental value.
The M will be fully completed by Homecoming.
— Contact Siandhara Bonnet at firstname.lastname@example.org —