A North Dakota native who grew up in Butte survived years during World War II in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, notorious for their brutality, as well as the November 1965 crash in Salt Lake City of a United Airlines flight, a crash that killed 43 people. He was credited with helping to save lives in the aftermath of the crash and the fire that erupted after the aircraft landed more than 300 feet short of the runway.
Charles “Chuck” Arentzen was 96 years old when he died in July 2016 in Arizona. A friend described him as “a humble, hard-working extractive metallurgical engineer who credited Montana Tech with helping him find his passion.”
Montana Tech announced this week that it has received from Arentzen’s estate a $600,000 gift that will provide scholarships to students pursuing four-year degrees.
Don Blackketter, Montana Tech’s chancellor, said the gift has allowed the school to offer scholarships to more than 50 students who will begin studies this fall at the Butte-based university.
“Mr. Arentzen made a powerful endorsement of a Montana Tech education through his generous gift and at the same time made a powerful investment in the future of the students who will receive his scholarship,” Blackketter said.
“I’m amazed by his personal story and by his courage, and wish I could have had the opportunity to have known him and thank him for providing these scholarships,” he said.
Arentzen was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, but grew up in Butte.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Arentzen was in the U.S. Navy and stationed in the Philippines. On May 6, 1942, following a prolonged siege of Corregidor Island by Japanese forces, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright surrendered the Corregidor garrison and the captured Americans included Arentzen.
He was eventually imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp in Manchuria.
After the war, Arentzen enrolled at Montana Tech and received in 1950 a bachelor’s of science degree in metallurgical engineering. He went to work for the Anaconda Co., reportedly authoring several patents for innovative work.
In 1951, he married Margueritte. She preceded him in death after 55 years of marriage.
In 1970, Arentzen received an Honorary Professional Degree from Montana Tech for his contributions to the field of metallurgy. He and Margueritte had moved to Tucson in 1968.
Friend Darren Clausen said Arentzen felt that attending Montana Tech put him on the path toward a successful life.
“It was important to him to provide that same opportunity to future students of Montana Tech,” Clausen said.