The Walter and May Reuther Family Education Center
When Black Lake Golf Club opened in June 2000, it became the newest addition to the recreational side of the Walter and May Reuther UAW Family Education Center.
The center is located in Onaway, Mich., on 1,000 acres of heavily forested land at Black Lake, one of the state's largest inland lakes.
"Our objective is to make it a state-of-the-art facility that continues to provide the best possible education for our members, while also giving the center the potential to be used during off-times as a conference center for outside groups," said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, who was elected at the union's 33rd Constitutional Convention in June 2002.
The Family Education Center was the dream of former UAW President Walter P. Reuther who saw it as a retreat for workers and their families that would give them a deeper understanding of the UAW and the union movement away from the routine of their daily lives.
Tragically, Reuther didn't see his dream develop. He and his wife, May, and Swedish architect Oskar Stonorov, died on May 9, 1970, in an airplane crash at nearby Pellston Airport while enroute to Black Lake for a final inspection of the project before its opening. Three others died in the crash, including Reuther's bodyguard and two pilots.
The UAW International Executive Board named the center after the Reuthers as a living tribute.
Former UAW President Stephen P. Yokich, who died in August 2002, originated the idea of building a golf course for UAW members, and he saw it through to completion with full support of the IEB.
The UAW's goal was to take advantage of the spectacular property available to us and add a top-of-the-line, environmentally responsible golf course. The center was designed from the beginning to include high-quality, recreational facilities, including a gymnasium, swimming pool, campground, beaches and boat ramp.
Designed as an environmentally-friendly course, BLGC is one of the few courses that has been certified by the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program, issued by Michigan State University. In June 2002, the course was certified by Audubon International under its Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System, a program designed to protect wildlife and preserve natural resources.
The UAW retained highly acclaimed architect Rees Jones to design a course consistent with the family-oriented, high standards already established at Black Lake. In addition, the course was both built and is being operated entirely by union workers.
BLGC includes a large practice area and a par 3 pitch-and-putt course for golfers of all ages and skills.
The course is open to all UAW members and retirees, as well as the public on a space-available basis.
The union also has made many physical improvements to the FEC, particularly regarding classrooms, housing, food service and recreation, as well as revamping educational programs.
The UAW Center develops and delivers leadership training programs for local unions and regions in such areas as health and safety, bargaining, employee assistance and communication.
In Cheboygan County, the facility is located near the tip of the Lower Peninsula. The UAW bought the 750-acre property - owned by Detroit advertising executive Lou Maxon - in 1967 and later purchased an additional 250 acres. Maxon had a stone and log hunting lodge on the lake, which is now used for meetings, receptions and staff housing.
Reuther enlisted longtime friend and architect Stonorov, who served as a consultant on the design of Solidarity House, the UAW's riverfront headquarters in Detroit, to create a complex of classrooms, audio-visual laboratories, library, glass-walled dining room, living quarters and recreational areas. Stonorov used Douglas fir, cedar, teak, red birch and Wisconsin stone and blended his design with the surrounding tall pines, hemlocks, oaks, maples and cedars.
A fervent naturalist, Reuther personally tagged nearly every tree on the property. Not one was taken down without his permission.