A Look Back on 75 Years: My PTC Experience
As PTC celebrates its 75th anniversary, we take an inside look at the past, present and future of the college through the lens of current students, faculty, board members and more.
In the first installment of this six-part series, we caught up with Cassidy Spade and Michael McGarvey, a pair of alumni who reflect back on their time at PTC to discuss what the college means to them and how it got them to where they are today.
A 2019 HVAC graduate, Spade is currently working as a service tech at Allegheny Refrigeration. Joining the company immediately following graduation, Spade specializes in commercial refrigeration in commercial kitchens, hospitals and much more. She credits PTC instructors Robert Rossell and Scott Lynch for helping her land her first job and steering her down her current career path.
McGarvey, a 2008 graduate from the IT Network Administration program, joined Amazon Web Services three years ago and has climbed the ranks to earn the title of America’s Delivery Leader in a global leadership role across the Americas overseeing revenue target responsibilities for a subset of customers all over the world.
How did your PTC experience help prepare you for your current role today?
CS: It helped me a ton. I came in not really knowing much about HVAC other than duct work, and I honestly thought that’s what I wanted to do, but it’s actually not, as there is so much more to HVAC that I did not know. They teach you every single component that you need to know out in the field and what it takes to work out in the field as well. The instructors help you by staying after class if you’re ever confused as well, which is outstanding. I don’t know many people that would do that. They taught me everything I know.
MM: I think the biggest thing at PTC is you’re being educated by industry professionals versus academic professionals, although they’re also obviously academic professionals as well. When I think back to my time at PTC, it’s those types of instructors like Charles Eltringham, Charles Fellr, Tyrone Smith, Michael Russell, Maggie Buck and more. There’s just so many educators at PTC that really approach education as it pertains to the real world. They put you in real life situations and scenarios. You have projects that are practical use cases and they know what moves the needle in the industry. Getting that guidance and being able to ask questions to people that have encountered these issues before is super helpful, and it really prepares you for what you’re going to encounter in the real world.
What led you to initially choose PTC?
CS: When I was in high school I had a friend that went to PTC, and at the time I was taking an HVAC vo-tech program. My friend would always tell me that if I ever wanted to pursue a career in that field that PTC was the place to be and that he learned so much just walking in the door. Whenever I graduated high school I went and viewed a few schools, but they didn’t have as many resources as PTC in terms of the variety of different units to work on. I’m really happy that my friend showed me PTC, and I remember my initial campus tour thinking that this was absolutely where I wanted to be and then my first day of classes just being blown away by how much I was going to be able to learn.
MM: At the time of my college decision, I was actually ready to attend a four year university in Ohio for a business finance degree, but wasn’t certain of the decision, as well as what degree I even wanted to pursue. I had a bit of a technical background and one of my best friends was committed to attending PTC. He invited me to visit with him and the rest was history. Just meeting everyone there and seeing the close-knit atmosphere was great. The decision was really beneficial for me, because I wasn’t committing to four years, but at the same time I was getting practical knowledge and hands-on experience.
What did you take most from your time at PTC?
CS: It was definitely all the lessons from the instructors based on their experiences out in the field. They would teach us something from a textbook and then go right into hands-on learning and I really enjoyed that aspect. It just made things so much easier out in the field after graduation.
MM: Relationships. That includes everyone from my fellow students to the instructors. Some of my former instructors still send me text messages on my birthday or holidays. I would have to say Charles Eltringham is probably the best educator and mentor I’ve ever had. For me, the biggest takeaway is you have faculty and staff who genuinely care, and to still be contact with them over a decade later is a testament to that.
What are some of the biggest lessons and values you learned during your time on campus?
CS: I really value the required graduate degree internship program and how PTC helps you during the internship. If I had any questions and wasn’t sure who to ask, I could talk to my teachers. I’ve actually called Mr. Haddock out in the field, and he’s helped me a few times. I was a bit confused at first out in the field and he helped me move forward.
MM: The biggest thing for me was the coursework, and how it taught you to be self-sufficient to be able to go out and conduct research. Almost everything that we went through, if not everything, were practical, real-world use cases. Students had to go solve real world problems or address real world use cases by doing research, consulting with peers, consulting with instructors and more. It really instilled a work ethic, and a strategy on how to approach problems and projects.
Does a specific class from your time at PTC stand out to you above the rest?
CS: Controls class, it taught me a lot about electrical wiring and different thermostats and how some controllers can connect to your phone or computer and how to view them. It blew me away with everything that went into HVAC and what different varieties could do. We use thermostats, we call them KE-2s, but they connect to the customer’s phone and they can see what we’re doing on the thermostat, as well as delivering notifications if something changes drastically. I just thought it was amazing that they could manage so much from behind a computer, phone or tablet in the HVAC field.
MM: I don’t remember the exact titles of the courses, but I can say that the first immediate impact course was taught by Charles Eltringham. I believe it was Intro to Operating Systems. That, as well as some of the more advanced type courses, I think in quarters five, six and seven were some of the most impactful courses that I can remember. I also had a Constitutional Law class that was super interesting.
What is your 75th “happy birthday” message to PTC?
CS: Happy birthday PTC for 75 years! I’m so happy the college is here to educate so many students, because I know so many people that go to college where it can be a bit of a waste. But PTC goes above and beyond that. Thanks to the educators and everyone on campus.
MM: Happy birthday, it’s a tremendous milestone. The college gave back to me quite a bit. I’m still engaged with the school, as I’m fortunate enough to be on the IT Academic Advisory Board with Dr. John Scarpino. You get out what you put in, especially with PTC. The opportunities are endless and the people care. It’s a great place with a great support system and the education is top notch. And I would just say, don’t stop, keep going and furthering opportunities for students. I don’t think there’s a limit for what PTC can provide to students and prospective students.