“So I set a goal and worked hard. I’m about where I want to be at this stage of life.”
—Gary Wallen, professional welder
Reaching goals clearly matters to Gary Wallen.
Tired of wearing a coat and tie after some 30-plus years in the corporate world, Wallen began running down some long-held dreams.
First, he quit his administrative job for a southern California franchise management company and left an overcrowded Big Bear Lake resort town. Then, drawn to the southern Oregon region, he and his longtime partner Laureen bought 30 acres near Days Creek and started building a home. Wallen also researched career opportunities in southern Oregon and matched those with his interests. Welding topped Wallen’s lists, and RCC emerged as the best place to gain new skills. “I had been interested in welding for years,” he said. “My original plan was to earn a one-year certificate, but once I got in the RCC program, I realized there was so much more to learn.”
Wallen went on to graduate with honors in 2008, earning an Associate of Applied Sciences degree in Industrial Welding Technology. Since then he has started a mobile service, Wallen Welding Inc., and set up a well-outfitted truck. He also volunteers part-time three days a week helping students in RCC’s welding lab.
“RCC’s welding program is very good because it starts out with basics and each term moves along to the next level,” Wallen said.
Learning welding was challenging for Wallen, but instructors Jim Hamilton and Dana Peterson wouldn’t let him quit. “I came to realize that welding is a developed skill,” he said. “Because of instructors’ support and backing, I continued on and reached my goal — learning welding."
“I had worked inside 30 or more years,” he added. “I like being outdoors and in different places, and I wanted to work for myself, so I set a goal and worked hard. I’m about where I want to be at this stage of life.”
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