Celebration the “Milke Way” Brought Former Chair’s Term to a Wonderful Finale

In a reception dinner at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, students, alumni and friends of the Department of Fire Protection Engineering (FPE) reunited to commemorate the retirement of Professor Emeritus Jim Milke, who has been associated with the department since obtaining a B.S. degree in 1976, followed by an M.S. degree in 1981, and who has been serving as department chair since 2011. During the reception, attendees had an opportunity to have their photo taken with Testudo.


The “Celebrating the Milke Way” dinner, which was held on October 7, 2023, was an effort, mostly led by several of his former students and University of Maryland classmates, dating back to 1975, to showcase the professor emeritus’ outstanding career spanning more than 45 years in the service of the FPE community.  In addition to the dinner, the attendees were treated to a special ice cream prepared by the University of Maryland Dairy called the “Milky Way.”


Several of Milke’s mentees gave remarks and expressed gratitude for the profound and meaningful marks that he left in their personal and professional lives. For some, like Rosalie (Wills) Hrybyk ‘13, M.S.‘15, he would be present in important milestones such as graduating from her master’s degree to attending her wedding ceremony. 

Other highlights of the event included the engaging presence of Bill Koffel ‘79 acting as Master of Ceremonies as well as remarks given by A. James Clark School of Engineering Dean Samuel Graham Jr, and by FPE Chair Arnaud Trouvé. The dinner was also a fundraising event and over $15,500 were collected to support the Dr. James A. Milke Scholarship for undergraduate students. 

Additionally, a retirement book gift that collected over 150 alumni messages, which showcased pictures of Milke with members and alumni of the department, was subsequently presented to Dr. Milke.



  • Bill Koffel ’79, Chair

  • Christine Pongratz ’93, M.S.’94, Vice Chair

  • Tim Cunningham

  • John Denhardt ’86

  • Rosalie (Wills) Hrybyk ’13, M.S.’15

  • Ken Isman ’86

  • Jack Poole ’86

  • Karli Steranka ’20, M.S.’21

  • Nicole Hollywood 

We would like to extend our gratitude to the event sponsors: INCENDIA, JENSEN HUGHES, EBL, the American Fire Sprinkler Association, CCI and POOLE FIRE PROTECTION. Additionally, the celebration wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our sponsors: Eric Rosenbaum, FM Global, Hill Fire Forensics, the National Fire Protection Association, Seneca Fire Engineering, LLC, Telgian Engineering & Consulting, Viking Corporation and William Koffel.  

These generous contributions not only allowed a donation to be made to the Milke Scholarship but also helped to control costs to the participants and allowed current students to participate at a substantially discounted price.

Published February 14, 2024