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Peak experience leads to danger

Porsche Haag
Porsche Haag on Mt. Whitney before the storm.

Porsche Haag ’04 (marketing) has reached new heights – and found it can be a little scary.

On July 28 this year, Haag and her uncle made it to the summit of California’s Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous 48 states. At 14,491 feet, the peak reaches into a zone where views are spectacular and oxygen is scarce.

Haag and her uncle, Bob Dittman, 58, an elementary school principal from Modesto, Calif., attempted the climb in 2003. They reached 13,600 feet when Dittman’s knee began to swell, ending their hopes of reaching the top. They vowed to return, and were able to secure a permit for a second visit to Whitney on July 28 of this year. (Access to the trail is controlled by the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service.)

“We were on the trail by 1:15 a.m.,” says Haag. They reached the top at 10 a.m. and then heard a sound that put a damper on their elation: the rumble of thunder.

Their only alternative was to start down immediately, knowing that the journey would take many hours. They had descended less than 700 feet when hail began to fall. There was lightning and the rain came in sheets. The stormy conditions continued for the entire climb down the mountain. They arrived at the trailhead about 4:30 in the afternoon – exhausted and relieved.

“Our accomplishment felt bittersweet,” says Haag, “when we learned that others had died in the same storm.” (Two Boy Scouts had been struck by lightning in nearby Sequoia National Park.)

The experience on Mt. Whitney has not cooled Haag’s passion for mountain climbing. “If it were easy, everyone would do it,” she says. “The element of risk makes it exciting, but we’re always cautious.”

Haag’s main challenge these days is her career. One week after graduating last year, she started work as a marketing analyst at Ducker Worldwide, an industrial research company with headquarters in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., near Detroit.

“I’m enjoying market research even more than I would have imagined,” says the Caledonia, N.Y., native. “My projects, usually studies regarding market size/segmentation or customer satisfaction, deal with everything from gaskets to electrical components to windows and doors. It’s challenging, but a good kind of challenge.”

Haag is one of four RIT grads who have joined Ducker in the past two years. David Fuehrer ’04 (MBA) was hired at the same time as Haag, followed by Anabelle Morel ’04 (MBA) in August 2004 and Alexandra Feng ’05 (MBA) earlier this year. The Ducker/RIT connection was fostered by John Ettlie, professor and director of the Technology Management Center in the College of Business. Ettlie, who has done consulting work with Ducker over the past decade, encouraged the company to recruit at RIT.

“It’s a small, family-owned, diverse company,” says Ettlie, “and our students are a good fit. Our students are quite entrepreneurial, industrious, with excellent skills. One by one, Ducker has selected our students over candidates from other schools.”

Haag says she’s pleased to be among Ducker’s first RIT hires.

“I feel really fortunate to have found such a great job right out of school.”