MTI honors supporters at donor eventTech school salutes people, businesses that help it educate and train students.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
Mitchell Technology Institute said a formal “Thank You” Thursday during the tech school’s yearly Donor Recognition event at the Campus Center building on the Spruce Street campus.
The festive event, which featured gourmet-style foods and confections prepared by the school’s culinary arts students, noted those faculty members, friends and corporate givers who supported the MTI Foundation during the past year.
The heating and cooling technology industry was recognized as the “Industry of the Year,” for its long-term support of MTI.
“We rely on the good graces and action of industry to make things work,” MTI President Greg Von Wald said in opening comments.
He said it is MTI’s mission to supply industries that regularly support the technical school with the skilled graduates they need.
“We feel grateful to be able to help address that need,” he said.
Von Wald joked with the large group of local and regional captains of industry in the HVAC field that their contributions would have to be jointly recognized on one plaque in order to save money. Present were Gopal Vyas and Rasid Kadir, of Tessier’s; Wes Hofkamp, of Johnstone Supply; Chuck, Lois and Scott Paulson, of Paulson’s Sheet Metal; Loren Noess, Ken Schlimgen and Lincoln Feistner, of Central Electric; and Marci Pirlet, of Frisbees Inc., and the Sioux Empire Home Builders Board.
Jeff Nelson, the general manager of East River Electric, was given the “Volunteerism and Service Award” for his role as a longtime promoter of technical education. Von Wald said Nelson was instrumental in helping to secure state and federal funding for MTI’s wind turbine as part of the South Dakota Wind Partnership. The working turbine is being used to train students in the school’s wind technology program
Von Wald named Sencore of Sioux Falls — represented by vice president of operations Dana Nachreiner — as MTI’s “Corporate Donor of the Year.” The company donated more than $20,000 in digital satellite broadcast equipment to the school. The donation, Von Wald said, has allowed students to learn, on state-of-the-art equipment, the digital broadcast skills that will be in demand upon graduation.
CHS/Farmers Alliance was given this year’s “Donor Legacy Award,” which was accepted by Todd Kirby, the Mitchell elevator’s grains manager.
Von Wald thanked Farmers Alliance for its ongoing contributions his school’s agriculture technology program as well as for donations to scholarships and for student internships.
The “Individual Donor of the Year” award was given to the Merchant Family Endowment, and it proved to be evening’s most emotional moment.
Von Wald handed the plaque to Dorothy Merchant, of Brookings, the widow of the late Dennis Merchant, who started MTI’s Power Line Construction & Maintenance program in 1974.
Merchant died in February at the age of 74 from diabetes-related health issues, said his son, Dan. After leaving MTI, Merchant founded Merchant Training and Safety Incorporated, which created industry training standards for apprentice linemen programs.
Merchant’s daughter, Tracy Merchant Bezesky, her husband, Dave Bezesky, and their daughter, Liz, also attended, as did grandson Parker Merchant, and Dorothy Merchant’s brother, Barry Hillestad.
“The family continues his legacy,” Von Wald said.
“He taught here from 1974 until 1987, and he would be pretty proud of this award,” Dan Merchant said. “He never did get to see the new lineman training building, but he would have been pretty amazed.”
Dorothy Merchant said her family used the proceeds from the sale of her husband’s 1959 Ford Thunderbird and other items in his personal collection to fund the Merchant Family Endowment at MTI to provide scholarships for MTI students in the program he once taught.