Challenge grant of $3 million sets record as largest ever


Photo by Patrick Johnson

Steve Herrow, vice president and education director of ADAMM; Dr. Vicki J. Martin, MATC president; Tom Hurvis, Chairman of Old World Industries; Peter Feigen, Milwaukee Bucks president; and Tom Barrett, Milwaukee Mayor; gather after MATC receives $3 million grant. The grant is going to expand the automotive programs and create the Al Hurvis/Peak Transportation Center at MATC. This is the largest private gift in the school’s history.

Al Hurvis, a highly successful automotive executive with Heiser Ford in Milwaukee, was known among his professional peers as “the professor” and cared deeply about education, according to his son Tom Hurvis. It was in his father’s honor that he co-founded the Al Hurvis/Automobile Dealers Association of Mega Milwaukee (ADAMM) Education Foundation. The foundation recently announced a $3 million challenge grant to expand the automotive department at MATC.

The grant, announced March 28, is the largest private gift made to MATC,  with an initial donation of $1 million and an additional $2 million to match every dollar raised by the MATC Foundation over the next two years.

According to a press release sent by MATC before the announcement, grant funds will result in the building of the Al Hurvis/PEAK Transportation Center and expanding activities, including:

Recruitment of students to MATC’s automotive programs

Automotive clubs in which MATC students repair their own vehicles

Mentoring and support services to help MATC automotive students succeed academically

Service learning projects in which students provide auto diagnostic services to the public

Internships and job placement activities linking MATC graduates to employment

Summer camps and after-school programs for middle and high school students

Students, faculty, local officials and community members all gathered in the  Technology Building Auditorium (T-Auditorium) on the downtown Milwaukee campus to witness the announcement of the historic grant.

The ceremony’s speakers included Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin, MATC President Dr. Vicki J Martin and Hurvis, chairman of Old World Industries LLC. and Scott Fisler, automotive maintenance technician instructor at the Oak Creek campus.

Among the many benefits the grant will offer, most of the attention was focused on the building of the Al Hurvis/PEAK Transportation Center and the future job opportunities for students.  The center will ultimately facilitate the training needed for students to enter the job market.

“Don’t get too comfortable,” joked Martin as she explained to the crowd the seats they are sitting in will soon be gone as part of the process to create the new transportation center.  The center will take over the T Building auditorium located on SIxth and Highland.  Now the auditorium is used for various student concerts and gatherings but will serve a much greater purpose under the new grant.

The center will serve as a learning hub for automotive students who will experience real-world, hands-on automotive training. Around half of the initial $1 million will be used to create the center, estimated Jim Tolkan, ADAMM president.

It also will help with recruiting students to the college and offer access to more MATC students. MATC offers an associate degree in automotive technology at the Mequon campus and technical diplomas in automotive maintenance and auto collision repair and finish at the Oak Creek campus.

Automotive courses are currently very limited at the downtown Milwaukee campus. That would change with the center, concluded Martin, “being at the downtown campus means being able to offer more opportunities and access to more students.”

Steve Herro, ADAMM vice president and education director, echoed Martin’s statement. “While there are already programs at Mequon and Oak Creek not all the students have the means to get out there. This center will serve the needs of those students,” he said.

While a new center at the downtown location may draw attention, and attract students away from other campuses, Martin sees it another away. “Those shops will stay open,” she said, adding, “the downtown center will attract more students and serve as a feeder to the other campuses.”

As far as jobs go, the demand is higher than ever. The press release sent out by the school cited the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections that employment in the automotive repair sector will increase 9 percent between 2012 and 2022.

John Lausten, fixed operations manager at Russ Darrow Auto Group, “I’ve been in this industry for 22 years and I don’t think I’ve ever seen demand this high. All of our skilled technicians are ready to retire and there’s a shortage of people to take their place.

Highlighting the effects of the job shortage, Fisler noted that every student he has worked with that submits a résumé to the JOBshop ends up with a job.

“I’m excited because we have all the pieces of the puzzle, we have a shortage of jobs in the industry, students who need jobs, and the perfect opportunity at MATC to train the students,” said Hurvis.

When asked what this means for his district, State Representative David Bowen said this is exactly what Milwaukee needs, “this will provide opportunities for young people in the community to land sustainable employment at high-income jobs.”

Anticipating the future jobs for the students, Martin said, “The fact we will be able to put people into great-paying jobs that are desperately needed by the auto industry is rewarding for me.”