Words Bob Sblendorio, photos Thomas Sblendorio:
“I love it — why else would I drive three hours a day to come and work here,” explained Ron Alexander, an instructor and the Department Chair of the automotive program at Morrisville College. He’s not alone in his passion because 15 of the 16 instructors in the program are alumni of the college. “You’re just not going to find that anywhere else. Many have circled back after gaining experience in the industry, and they bring that experience back to the college for the benefit of the students.”
Upon entering the impressive Automotive Building, perched high on a hilltop, we were immediately greeted by a small group of friendly students from the Auto Club that were there waiting for us. Within a few minutes, Ron Alexander along with instructor Matt Polak completed the greeting. The enthusiasm to have us there and share what’s going on in the automotive programs was fantastic. From there, our tour was planned and off we went.
Patrick McNamara, president of the Auto Club, along with Jody Smith, the longest standing member, and Wyatt Sands, the secretary and treasurer, took the time to explain the club’s activities. The club has a long history that started back in 1946, and these students recognize the legacy of what they are carrying on.
The club organizes and sponsors two car shows every year, one in the spring and the other in the fall. The shows allow the club to showcase their project car, which is eventually raffled off. The raffle provides money for the club’s next project car. All of the club’s activities are self-funded and done on their free time. The instructors support the students, also on their free time. That’s dedication!
This year the club is working on a 1972 Chrysler Newport. To listen to the students explain all the engine work and other modifications that they doing is nothing short of impressive.
Manufacturer Program Support
Morrisville also offers 4-year degree programs where students have the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree. Billy Terrell, another member of the Auto Club, is a third year student getting a Bachelor Degree in Automotive Technology. He is also in the Mopar College Automotive Program (MCAP), which is where students earn a manufacturer-specific credential. In Billy’s case, his goal is to become a Service Manager at a Chrysler dealership.
It’s not all work…Billy told about how members of the Auto Club just got back from the big SEMA show in Las Vegas. It was a mixture of some fun opportunities, like going to a drag race and attending a variety of student seminars.
In addition to the MCAP program, Ron Alexander explained that the college also receives manufacturer support from Ford and Subaru. The manufactures “help immensely with the support of our programs here at the college.”
Auto Body Program
Just how much do the students enjoy it here? Meet Matt Hartunian, who has a 4-year bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Technology and is now completing the 2-year Auto Body Technology program. As part of his skills training, he is refurbishing his own 1987 Dodge Ramcharger that has a few holes here and there. “The instructors push me to learn new skills and gain more knowledge…and I just love it,” Matt explained.
Legacy of Morrisville College
Herb Meinking, a member of the Apex team, is a 1957 graduate of the automotive program at Morrisville College. He went on to have a successful 40-year career after getting his 2-year degree, always working with (and driving) Chrysler products. He said even back then most of the instructors were former college alumni. Herb had many accolades about getting his education from Morrisville, and credits that foundation as the springboard to many enjoyable years working in the automotive field.
The students we met and talked with are articulate, and obviously well educated and trained. There is a lot going on at the college and the visit demonstrates that the future is bright, energetic and always changing.
Since 1933, the Morrisville College Automotive Department has had a long standing reputation for outstanding instructors and modern teaching facilities — and the takeaway for me — it’s still pumping on all cylinders today!