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Student Awarded Scholarship, Then Meets Iconic Benefactor

Learn about tool scholarship winner Andrew Reisinger from those who have worked and studied with him and read about his aspirations for the future.

Pennsylvania College of Technology

It’s not every day that a cultural icon gives an online shout-out to a college student, but in fairness, Andrew C. Reisinger is no ordinary young man. Respectful of his parents, grateful for his education and unfailingly polite, it’s no surprise that he’d be a national “poster boy” for success in the skilled trades.

A photograph and article about the Stockholm, N.J., resident, soon to graduate from Pennsylvania College of Technology with a degree in heavy construction equipment technology: technician emphasis, are featured on the website of Mike Rowe, creator and host of the widely watched “Dirty Jobs” series on the Discovery Channel and a spokesman for the Ford Motor Co., VF Corp./Lee Jeans and others.

Reisinger recently was awarded a $500 tool scholarship from The mikeroweWORKS Foundation, and as good fortune would have it, won some face time with his benefactor while attending an unrelated Las Vegas event with his family. A photo from that meeting is posted on the Web , along with Rowe’s recollection of Reisinger waiting “in a ridiculously long line” to thank him for the award.

“His grades are excellent. He aspires to repair heavy equipment – cranes, in particular – and work on the road full time. He aims to be self-employed,” noted Rowe, who is as intensely passionate about vocational education as he is instantly recognizable. “Andrew is gracious, enthusiastic, smart and very motivated. In short, he’s exactly the kind of guy we want to encourage, and I couldn’t be happier to help fund a few of the tools he’ll need moving forward.”

The get-together took place at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2011, a gathering of more than 2,000 international construction exhibitors at the Las Vegas Convention Center, which Reisinger attended with his parents.

“On the first day of the Expo, I stopped by a booth for the I Make America campaign, where they had different games to win trinkets – T-shirts, keychains – and I won a meet-and-greet with Mike Rowe,” he said. Later that week, “I introduced myself and thanked him, and he asked me what I wanted to do with my degree. I told him I want to be a field mechanic for Manitowoc Cranes.”

What impressed Reisinger most about the meeting was that, with only 10 minutes to spare and a crush of people at the booth, Rowe made sure that he talked with everyone – “I want to meet ‘em all,” he said – no matter how briefly.

Reisinger was one of 24 scholarship winners chosen from Association of Equipment Distributors-affiliated colleges for their high grade-point average; mention his name around campus, though, and it’s apparent that academics is just one part of his success.

“It’s been my pleasure and honor to have Andy in various classes over the past two years,” said William P. Kilcoyne Jr., instructor of diesel equipment technology at Penn College. “He’s such a well-rounded young man. He displays a lot of traits that most employers only hope to find: respect, responsibility, dependability, enthusiasm and initiative, as well as taking pride in what he does.”

With maturity that transcends his youth (he turns 21 this fall), and particular aptitude for reasoning and mechanics, he is never one to shy away from a challenge or – in the case of his time at the college’s Schneebeli Earth Science Center – two.

For starters, Reisinger and his longtime laboratory partner – Ryan P. Herring, of Hegins – voluntarily took over restoration of a hulking, 12-cylinder Caterpillar C32 marine engine that was donated to the college in 2009 and had been dismantled by other students during an earlier semester.

“While some may not see the monumental task that this is, one must remember this is not a small engine and they have never worked on one of these before. It’s a very difficult process to step into a project of this magnitude and pick up where someone else left off,” Kilcoyne said. “I’d be willing to bet you would be hard-pressed to find some technicians out there in the workplace that could have stepped up to the plate and accomplished the same thing.”

Perhaps no one explained the difficulties to Reisinger, who talked with obvious familiarity about the job that he and Herring faced: which cylinders weren’t getting the proper cooling, the worn-out seals that caused combustion “blow-by” to flow into the crankcase, the O-rings that needed to be ordered.

“Tell him what you need accomplished, and he’ll jump right in and take off,” said Kilcoyne, who also coordinates the Caterpillar program for the school. “Never once did I have any doubt in his ability to complete a task or job.”

“Tell him what you need accomplished, and he’ll jump right in and take off,” said Kilcoyne, who also coordinates the Caterpillar program for the school. “Never once did I have any doubt in his ability to complete a task or job.”

Sharing a major and a work ethic, the pair also helped rehabilitate a CAT IT28B wheel loader that sat idle in a West Virginia coal mine for about five years. Students in a number of classes have worked on the project off and on, Reisinger said, and “I opened my mouth and dragged Ryan into it!”

He and Herring took off the cab and pulled the engine out to rebuild it, then put the cab back on after other students rebuilt the transmission and reinstalled the engine. Younger students are working on the remaining odds and ends, Reisinger said, including electrical connections and the final “buttoning up” of the machine.

Their abilities are reflected in their yearend selection for student honors: Reisinger will receive the American Infrastructure Award as his school’s top-performing technician of 2011, and Herring was chosen by Caterpillar for its Pathfinders to Excellence Award.

Reisinger’s exposure to Penn College came during a recruitment event at the Javits Convention Center in New York City, and he and his family subsequently visited the Allenwood-area campus.

“He is an excellent student, as well as a natural-born leader,” said Melissa M. Stocum, former matriculation and retention coordinator for the School of Natural Resources Management, who since has taken a position with the college’s Academic Success Center.

Reisinger expressed interest in tutoring diesel majors, and when the job-application process temporarily stalled during the Fall 2010 semester, she said, he was willing to work informally with those students for no compensation.

“He’s just that kind of person. He was always good-natured and friendly every time I encountered him,” she added. “He occasionally would show up with his parents at events such as Parent and Family Weekend and show them around, which showed a lot of school spirit!”

If not for childhood inspiration from his father – “I used to get him tools and what-not when he was repairing machinery” – and the satisfaction of hands-on labor, Reisinger’s career path might have led elsewhere.

“I wanted to be an engineer,” he recalled, explaining that he and some friends started a robotics team in high school where he learned he’d rather troubleshoot, repair and build than design.

“I realized that I can’t sit behind a computer all day,” he said. “So I hopped over to the other side to be a mechanic like my Dad.”

His eye toward employment as a diesel technician was further focused during an internship last summer at the Schiavone Construction Co. in Secaucus, N.J., and the countdown to commencement found him considering which of several options to accept.

“During our Spring Career Fair, as I walked around and visited with the heavy equipment employers in attendance, most of them mentioned Andrew and how impressed they were with his skill set, maturity and ‘people skills,’” said Mary A. Sullivan, dean of natural resources management. “He had his pick of eight or nine employers that day, and any one of them would have been lucky to get him! He would be a tremendous asset to Manitowoc Cranes, and I wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

 

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