For many of the participants in the Summer Institute program the road that leads them to McPherson College begins with a great car story.
The Automotive Restoration program at McPherson College has hosted the Summer Institute for more than a decade. It offers five-day long workshops scheduled over three weeks where car hobbyists and professionals can concentrate on a specific skill area and gain hands-on learning from the program’s faculty.
It has been 16 years since Kevin Throneberry from New Mexico first came to the Summer Institute to take a paint class with his father-in-law who was a mechanic. Back then, the two were interested in learning new paint techniques. His father-in-law passed away late last year, leaving him and his family an extensive car collection to maintain. Throneberry decided it was time to return to the Summer Institute and brought his 15-year-old daughter, Jade, with him.
“Our biggest concern is how to maintain and fix anything that might need fixing,” he said. “We have a lot to learn.”
Jade’s interest in cars comes from spending hours with her grandfather watching him and helping him work on his cars and from knowing that as the oldest of the kids, she will have to help pitch in to maintain the collection.
“I mostly handed him wrenches,” she said about helping her grandfather. “I have a lot to learn and feel like my brain has expanded two times its size after taking this class. I’m sure we will come back next year, probably for three weeks, and bring my brother.”
Jade and her dad spent two weeks at the Summer Institute taking paint, sheet metal and drive train classes. Although Jade said she learned a great deal in her classes, her favorite part of the Summer Institute was learning to drive a Model T.
Another common thread among Summer Institute participants is enjoying time with family. The three generations of Tanner family, who travel from Massachusetts and Virginia, started coming to the Institute together last year; however, the youngest member of the trio, Cole, has been coming for the past three years and will begin his freshman year in the Automotive Restoration program this fall. But it was a car that ultimately introduced them to campus.
“I had a 1974 Porsche 914 as a teenager,” said John, Cole’s dad. “I had a picture of it and Cole always gave me a hard time for selling it.”
Cole and his grandfather, Eric, decided to track down the car. They were able to locate it in Georgia and talked the owner into selling it to them. After finding the car, the Tanners joined the Porsche Club of America and started going to events where they met Paul Russell, a long-time supporter of the Automotive Restoration program and a member of its National Advisory Board. Russell encouraged Cole and his family to look into McPherson College.
Cole, who will bring a 1929 Model A with him when he comes to campus this fall, says he loves coming to the Summer Institute classes and has enjoyed getting to know the professors. His dad agrees.
“It’s great to see teachers with such passion for what they do,” John said. “It’s infectious. I can see why their students are so successful.”
Sharing a passion for cars also brought the Casas family to Summer Institute this year. Eddie Casas, who participated in Summer Institute last year, brought his three sons – Eddie, age 17; Jacob, age 15; and Joshua, age 13 – with him this year and spent three weeks in paint, 3-D modeling and design, and advanced paint classes. The self-described “hands-on” family not only took advantage of all the classroom and lab experiences, but also took an opportunity to look for a new project to take back to Texas with them.
“We got out of class early one night and drove to Ottawa to buy a trailer then on the way back to McPherson stopped and purchased a 1952 Chevy panel truck,” Eddie said. “We didn’t get back until after eleven that night, but that’s the joy of it, having an adventure, and sharing it with my sons.”
The Casas call their panel truck the “McPherson Project” and hope to complete it and bring it back to show off at a Summer Institute in the future. “It’s a very meaningful project to me,” Eddie said. “We bought it together and will work on it together. We are really excited about it.”
The Casas brothers each had a favorite course from the three they took this summer, but did agree that the best part was interacting with the faculty, working on projects, and not sitting through lectures.
“It’s a great experience,” Eddie said. “The professors are very knowledgeable, which is one of the things that brought me back.”
The McPherson College Summer Institute classes are held in June of each year. Course descriptions and registration can be found on the college website at: https://www.mcpherson.edu/autorestoration/institute/