Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
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CSE Public Lecture, Lost in Shangri-La, features AEM Alumni

The College of Science and Engineering hosted a lecture on July 16 by author Mitchell Zuckoff, whose recent book, Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II, tells the story of a plane crash in the jungles of New Guinea during World War II, featuring the story of two Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics alumni, John and Robert McCollom.

The McCollom twins, who graduated from the University of Minnesota with AEM degrees in 1942, were two of twenty-four passengers in a US Army plane that crashed into a New Guinea mountain range inhabited by Stone Age tribesmen. Twenty-one of the passengers died, including Robert McCollom. Lieutenant John McCollom, Sergeant Kenneth Decker, and Women's Army Corps Corporal Margaret Hastings were the only survivors of the crash. Lost in Shangri-La tells the story of the seven weeks they were stranded in the jungle and the details of their eventual rescue.

Zuckoff, a journalism professor at Boston University, did extensive research to uncover the story of the crash, the survivors, and the rescue, including visiting the crash site and interviewing the people indigenous to the New Guinea mountain range. John McCollom's widow, Betty (BB) and Robert McCollom's daughter, Dennie Scott McCollom, were also instrumental in the book's research. Zuckoff's hour-long free public lecture was attended by 250 people, including BB and Dennie. The lecture was also available on webcast as registrations reached capacity within a week of the lecture announcement.

John and BB were active members of the U of M alumni association in the Dayton, Ohio area. Following John's death in 2001, BB established a scholarship fund in AEM in memory of the twins, the John and Robert McCollom Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded to promising AEM undergraduates and memorializes the brothers' leadership and service. Others can support the scholarship through their own financial gifts by contacting the College of Science and Engineering.

For more information on the book:

See the lecture in its entirety.

See a book review from the Star Tribune.

Dennie Scott McCollom (left) and BB McCollom (right) pose for a photo with Mitchell Zuckoff after the lecture.
Last Modified: Thursday, 23-Aug-2012 10:07:54 CDT -- this is in International Standard Date and Time Notation