By MINDY MCKENZIE
Daily Globe Staff Reporter
SHELBY - Pioneer Career and Technology hosted the Ralph Phillips Business Partner of the Year Dinner where Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course received the honor of the award on Wednesday night.
Pioneer Board of Education President Douglas Theaker welcomed guests and past winners of the award to the dinner. After the welcoming took place, dinner was served by the Culinary Arts students of Pioneer.
Pioneer Superintendent Greg Nickoli provided a brief background on the how the event came to be.
“It all started several years ago when one of our supervisors, Martin Dzugan, asked to meet with our then Superintendent Glenna Cannon. He announced to her that we needed to start a program to formally recognize our business partners which had done so much for Pioneer and our students. He went on to say he already knew who the first honoree was to be, and that was Ralph Phillips, owner and president of Phillips Manufacturing,” Nickoli stated.
In 2006, Phillips was honored as the first Business Partner of the Year at the All Board’s Dinner.
“The following year, we formed a committee and set some criteria for the honoree. We decided that event should be separated from the All Board’s Dinner and have it’s own special event,” Nickoli said.
The criteria for nominees included a commitment to education, support for and participation in mentoring, job shadowing, career tech student organizations, field trips, community projects, service on Pioneer committees, advancement of Pioneer levies when needed, hiring of Pioneer students and utilization of Pioneer training opportunities.
“In 2010, the Pioneer Board of Education passed a resolution to name the award in honor of Mr. Phillips. He was such a special person and as the first recipient of the award, he fully embodied all of the criteria,” Nickoli stated.
Nickoli then announced Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as the recipient for the 2017 Ralph Phillips Business Partner of the Year Award.
“Mid-Ohio is a comprehensive motor sports facility that also includes a driving school featuring a permanent road racing circuit with two primary configurations. One being a 2.4 mile 15 turn route and the other being a 2.25 mile 13 turn circuit. The location is in Lexington and annually hosts locally, regional, and national sanctioned events for amateur club and professional drivers,” Nickoli said.
Nickoli then introduced Automotive Instructor at Pioneer Dave Such, who nominated Mid-Ohio for the award, along with retired instructor from Pioneer Cindy Bodkin.
“When most people think of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, they may think of automobile or motorcycle racing, or perhaps driving school classes. However, when Pioneer is associated with Mid-Ohio, it means opportunity and possibilities,” Bodkin explained.
“Mid-Ohio has been an avid supporter of Pioneer in many ways. They have provided opportunities for students to learn about employability, including what an interview process may entail,” Bodkin said. “Thanks to Dave Schwall, operations manager, Pioneer students were able to view a video about interviewing that Dave filmed with our Media Communications students.”
Bodkin explained Pioneer students learned the lesson of networking.
“I would like to thank Adam Fisher, director of operations and facility, for his assistance in setting up the visits. Mid-Ohio has hired many Pioneer students,” Bodkin said.
“The Pioneer Media Communications program also benefited from the expertise of Brian Till, part time driving instructor for the Mid-Ohio Driving School, as he gave up valuable time to help a student learn about sports broadcasting for his senior project,” Bodkin added.
One of the greatest impacts Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course had on Pioneer was in connection with the Automotive Technology program, Bodkin said.
“Not only is the Mid-Ohio Driving School headed by a Pioneer Outstanding Alumnus, Sonny Gee, but the fleet of driving school vehicles is also maintained by Scott McKinley, one of my former students here at Pioneer,” Bodkin stated.
Such then spoke and explained he wanted to thank Schwall for his help with Community Service Days in keeping the students busy.
“I would also like to thank the rest of the staff at Mid-Ohio for all they have done for Pioneer in general, and especially my good friend, Sonny Gee,” Such stated.
“I have known Sonny Gee, the director of the Mid-Ohio Driving School, for many years, dating back to when I had my own business in Mansfield. Sonny, whose father was also an auto tech instructor, encouraged me to become a teacher. He has continued to support me and stay involved in the auto tech field and with my program,” Such added.
Such explained Gee had served as a judge for senior projects and was a role model for the students.
“He has shown interest in seeing them become more successful. Sonny has allowed them to job shadow with him, and he even hired a former student of mine to work on the cars,” Such stated.
“Without Sonny’s influence, I might still be swinging wrenches 80 hours a week and Pioneer would probably have a different Auto Tech Instructor. It was an honor for me to nominate Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Ralph Phillips Business Partner of the Year for 2017 and I would like to congratulate them on receiving this honor,” Such continued.
Executive Vice President and CFO of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Mike Morissey and fellow members of Mid-Ohio accepted the award.
“We want to thank the board, faculty and the administration. This is quite an honor and this is just an amazing facility. We also want to thank the Phillips’ family. What an example you guys set for all these businesses and us to follow. So, thank you for that,” Morissey said.
“We look forward to continuing this relationship with Pioneer and we certainly appreciate everything you guys do for us. All the students come out and put the effort in and work with us. We do value that so much and we look forward to continuing this in the future.”