July 17, 2009

Students benefit from Bridgestone donation

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Bloomingdale-based Bridgestone Retail Operations, LLC, recently presented Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Department of Automotive Technology a financial gift to assist the nationally recognized program.

The department received a $6,000 grant from the Bridgestone Americas Trust Fund, the philanthropic arm of Bridgestone Americas, Inc. The gift will go toward equipment purchases and establishing a $2,000 scholarship this fall, said Jack S. Greer, who chairs the automotive technology department.

“A donation of this kind, especially in today’s economy, shows the company’s support for our program and the interest it has in hiring our graduates,” Greer said. He noted the company is continuing to expand its retail establishments. The company has been recruiting managers to open and operate retail stores through SIUC’s program for the last five or six years, he said.

“Bridgestone’s donation demonstrates a clear commitment to our students and their futures in the industry,” said Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and CEO of the SIU Foundation. “Our automotive technology program has been a source of pride for the University and has garnered nationwide respect. We greatly appreciate Bridgestone’s continued support of our young people pursuing careers in this field.”

According to the company, Bridgestone Retail Operations presented the donation on behalf of the Bridgestone Americas Trust Fund. Bridgestone Retail Operations runs the largest network of company-owned automotive service centers in the world -- more than 2,000 tire and vehicle service centers across the United States -- including “Firestone Complete Auto Care,” “Tires Plus,” “ExpertTire” and “Wheel Works” stores. Credit First National Association and “Firestone Complete Fleet Care” are also part of Bridgestone Retail Operations, which is a member of the Bridgestone Americas family of companies.

In late January, the company opened its 1,500th Firestone Complete Auto Care location, and there are plans to continue to open more. Forty-two new automotive service locations opened in 2008; each new store creates about 12 jobs.

Twelve SIUC automotive technology and automotive service management graduates now work for Bridgestone Retail Operations.

“It’s important for Bridgestone Retail Operations to contribute to schools and universities that educate tomorrow’s leaders, today,” said Matt Metzelaars, Midwest zone recruiting and retention manager with Bridgestone Retail Operations. “We look to schools with programs like Southern Illinois University Carbondale to prepare students to easily transition into their future careers. We currently have SIUC graduates working for our company in various roles ranging from store manager to intern.”

In 2005, the automotive technology program earned the Automotive Industry Planning Council's Award of Excellence -- its third time as the nation's top program. The program also earned top honors in 1991 and 1999; national winners cannot compete again for the award for five years.

The program also operates an off-campus program at Harry S. Truman College in Chicago that began in fall 2007. The off-campus program provides Chicago-area students the opportunity to obtain a bachelor’s degree in automotive technology. Students complete an associate of applied science degree from Kennedy-King or Truman College, and then transfer into the automotive technology program, where SIUC faculty teach upper-level automotive technical and automotive management courses at Truman College.