college mcp-logo-header-white mcpherson

TV Legend Jay Leno Narrates McPherson College’s Historic Finish At Pebble Beach Concours D’elegance

The Path to Pebble documentary

McPherson College announced today that legendary television host and comedian Jay Leno will narrate “The Path to Pebble,” a documentary that tells the incredible story of McPherson College’s decade-long journey to compete at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the most prestigious car show in the world culminating in a historic podium finish in August 2023.

“Pebble Beach is all about turning heads. And some heads were turned that day. A student entry had never placed in this elite competition. Could they do it? Better yet, how did they even get here? There’s a ten-year long story behind their short drive to the reviewing stand. And it started 47 years ago,” said Leno to kick off the documentary.

The 28-minute documentary will screen in McPherson on February 13 in a “sneak peek” at 7 p.m. at the McPherson Opera House. Admission is free with a ticket that can be obtained on the McPherson Opera House website. A premiere will follow in Wichita on February 15 with an event at Mark Arts, and future viewing opportunities will be announced later.

McPherson College, a Kansas liberal arts college, is best known for its one-of-a-kind Automotive Restoration Technology degree program, offering America’s only four-year degree in restoring classic cars from Mercedes-Benzes to Ferraris. The program has received national acclaim and earned the support of car collectors, including Leno, a noted car collector and enthusiast and a long-time major supporter of the program.

In 1997, Leno established the Fred S. Dusenberg Scholarship and the Jay Leno Popular Mechanics scholarship, both of which continue to provide financial assistance to students interested in studying classic automotive restoration.

In 2023, McPherson College’s 1953 Mercedes-Benz 300S Cabriolet – restored entirely by students at the college’s Automotive Restoration program – secured second in class at the 72nd Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The victory marked the first time in Concours history that an entirely student-restored car has ranked in the top three in class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

“We’re so appreciative of Jay for lending his time and talent to document our historic journey to Pebble Beach, but especially for his continued support of our Automotive Restoration program, which has helped shape the future of our students,” said McPherson College President Michael Schneider. “We can’t wait to debut ‘The Path to Pebble’ and showcase our students, alumni, and faculty that poured their heart and soul into this project to make our lofty, bold, and audacious goal a reality.”

McPherson College Establishes $500,000 Scholarship Fund Honoring the Late Classic Car Expert Alex Finigan

Alex FiniganMcPherson College today announced that an anonymous donor has established a $500,000 endowed scholarship fund for its Automotive Restoration students in honor of Alex Finigan, a respected classic car expert and beloved automotive enthusiast, who passed away in April 2023.

The scholarship will help students jumpstart their careers in classic cars through McPherson College’s one-of-a-kind Automotive Restoration Technology program – the only four-year degree in restoring classic cars.

“Alex would be touched to know that his legacy of kindness, inclusivity and passion for this industry will live on through the development of students who share his joy in the history, restoration and preservation of fine automobiles,” said the Finigan family in a statement.

A self-proclaimed gearhead, Finigan was one of the most respected experts in the field of classic cars and facilitated transactions of many of the most valuable cars in the world, helping friends and collectors obtain the cars of their dreams. Finigan’s expertise ranged from hot rods, Porsches, and rare Mercedes-Benzes to Volkswagen Beetles – the car he got his start from in the automotive world when he opened an independent VW repair business. He was an integral part of Paul Russell and Company since its founding in 1978, working first as a restoration mechanic and later as Classic Car Sales Manager.

“Alex was one of those people whose enthusiasm – for cars, people, and fun, was contagious. You could feel it from far away as soon as you saw that big, warm smile. The Alex Finigan Endowed Scholarship fund is an appropriate way to honor Alex and all he brought to the automotive endeavor,” said Amanda Gutierrez, provost of McPherson College. “Many students who share his same passion and are seeking to expand their knowledge and skillset will benefit from these scholarships.”

Anyone wishing to add to the scholarship fund in Finigan’s memory can do so by visiting www.mcpherson.edu/giving/make-a-gift/, selecting “Auto Restoration” in the gift designation menu, and entering “Finigan Scholarship” in the comment section.

Classic Cars of McPherson College at McPherson Museum

McPherson Museum exhibitVisitors to the McPherson Museum & Art Foundation will have an opportunity to see several unique cars this winter in a temporary exhibition open now through March. The museum is hosting Classic Cars of McPherson College, featuring the Pebble Beach award-winning 1953 Mercedes-Benz 300 S Cabriolet.

“The college has helped the museum coordinate a car exhibit over the winter for the past several years,” said Tyler Glidden, executive director of the museum. “Last year’s exhibit brought many out-of-town visitors to the museum, and we anticipate this exhibit will draw a large crowd to see the Mercedes.”

The exhibition’s centerpiece is the recently completed restoration of the Mercedes-Benz 300 S that was invited to participate at the 2023 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August. It received a remarkable second-in-class finish in the Post-War Luxury class. The restoration took seven years to complete and thousands of hours of research and work, all done by students in the Automotive Restoration program at the college.

The exhibit includes other cars from faculty and the college’s collection dating back to 1907. A rare 1910 Auburn Baby Tonneau, on loan to the museum from Chris Paulsen, professor in the automotive restoration program, is one of only four known to exist. The car’s restoration was completed by the Paulsen family in 2022. It was invited to compete at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2022, where it was the oldest car to complete the 70-mile Tour d’Elegance held before the Concours.

One of the earliest examples of the automobile, a 1907 Holsman, is also on display. The vehicle was originally purchased by the grandfather of a former college biology professor, Gilford Ikenberry, and has been in the family its entire lifetime. It was restored by McPherson College students in the auto restoration program. A 1929 Lincoln Model L “Town Car” from the college’s collection is another of the cars on display. This is one of 72 “Town Cars,” a body style characterized by an open driver’s compartment and sumptuously appointed rear enclosed passenger compartment.

“This is an excellent opportunity for our community and visitors from the surrounding area to see the Mercedes and appreciate what the automotive restoration program has accomplished with this car,” Glidden said. “We are grateful for the relationship we have with the college. Our student workers come from the college, its employees serve on our board, and the college has shared resources and helped with other exhibits. It’s an important partnership for us.”

The McPherson Museum is open from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and admission is free. It is located at 1111 East Kansas Ave.

Path to Pebble: Documentary Trailer Released

Witness the thrill, excitement, and challenges McPherson College students experienced on their Path To Pebble! A 10-year project culminating at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, bringing home one of the top awards. A full-length documentary of the student experience is currently being produced.

Watch the trailer below and follow us on Facebook for updates about the documentary.

Read more:

The Piston Foundation Awards 16 Scholarships For 2023 To McPherson College Students

2023 Piston Foundation Scholars

The Piston Foundation announced that 23 Piston Scholarships were awarded for 2023, 16 of them going to McPherson College Automotive Restoration students. This is the second year The Piston Foundation has granted Piston Scholarships to aspiring students who are training for careers in automotive restoration, collection management, and vintage motorsports.

McPherson College students receiving scholarships include:

Lindzie Archer, McPherson, Kan.
Lucas Beasley, Canton, Kan.
Edwin Buiter, Ireton, Iowa
Zoe Carmichael, Raleigh, N.C.
Jasper Fedders, Sioux Center, Iowa
Adam Hughes, Newman Lake, Wash.
Cody Kuss, Bremerton, Wash.
Carlos Leandry, McPherson, Kan.
Dryden Powell, Council Grove, Kan.
Philip Schieffelin, Limon, Colo.
Robert Schonberner, Omaha, Neb.
Riley Sojka, Wichita, Kan.
Blake Swingle, Columbus, Ohio
Elias Vasquez, Irving, Texas
Sean Whetstone, Fort Collins, Colo.
Samuel White, Topeka, Kan.

Piston scholars receive scholarships ranging from $3,750 to $5,000. The scholarships help pay tuition at the automotive school of their choice. This year, the Foundation saw a significant increase in the quality and diversity of scholarship applications compared to the initiative’s inaugural year in 2022. Twenty-three recipients were selected from among 130 applicants in 37 states, attending 27 different schools There were also 6 returning scholars, each having been one of the initial 10 to receive an award last year.

“It’s not true that young people aren’t interested in working in collector car restoration. Our 2023 Piston Scholars are proof,” said Piston founder Robert Minnick. “Each of our scholarship recipients is knowledgeable and passionate about classic cars. Our mission is to help them, and other future technicians, get the education and training they need to build their careers.”

The Piston Foundation is a public charity that works for the car enthusiast community, aiming to guide more young people down a successful career path with cars through its scholarship programs.

Historic Finish at Pebble Beach: Student-Restored Mercedes-Benz Captures Second in Class

Pebble Beach 2023 MB300 S on award ramp

This is the first time in the 72-year history of the world’s most prestigious car show that an entirely student-restored car has ranked at Pebble Beach.

McPherson College’s 1953 Mercedes-Benz 300S Cabriolet secured second in class at the 72nd Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance—the first time in the history of the show a car restored by students landed a podium spot. The vintage car, restored by the students of the college’s Automotive Restoration program, won Second in Class for the Postwar Luxury category. The victory marks the first time in Concours history that a student-restored car has ranked in the top three in any class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. This year’s Concours featured 216 cars from 18 countries and 30 states, with just a small percentage of entrants winning special recognition.

“Many car collectors dream of just competing at Pebble Beach their entire lives, so for our students to earn second in class is truly an exceptional achievement,” said McPherson College President Michael Schneider. “This is 10 years in the making, with students, alumni, and faculty pouring their heart and soul into this restoration project of the Mercedes-Benz to make this vision a reality. This accomplishment puts our students on par with the professionals of automotive restoration. As an alumnus and president, I could not be more proud of everyone that had a hand in this historic day for McPherson College. Today is a great day to be a Bulldog.”

The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is the oldest Concours in the United States and widely considered the most prestigious car show in the world. Thousands of applicants vie for a spot at the Concours, where automotive aficionados, industry professionals, collectors and other enthusiasts converge every year to see the best of the best in classic cars. This year, that included the students of McPherson College.

“Congratulations to these Kansas students and their outstanding accomplishment for placing second in class and making history as the first student-restored car to place in the top three at Pebble Beach,” said U.S. Senator Jerry Moran on social media. Moran is the senior senator from Kansas.

“It was heartening to see McPherson students, many of whom were recipients of our Phil Hill Scholarships, competing on our show field with a car they had researched and restored themselves,” said Concours d’Elegance Chairman Sandra Button. “Their efforts were truly deserving of being showcased here, as evidenced by the fact that their Mercedes placed Second in Class. Their knowledge, their abilities, and their dedication to perfecting even the smallest details of a challenging restoration project provide me with great hope for the future of classic cars.”

McPherson College, located in McPherson, Kan., is the only college or university in the U.S. with a bachelor’s degree in automotive restoration. This has helped the school gain the support of noted car collectors like comedian Jay Leno, as well as other important figures in the classic car industry. The unprecedented win at Pebble Beach is sure to continue to attract support for this unique program.

“I could not be more delighted to see the hard work of our students rewarded with a much-deserved and historic class award,” said Brian Martin, the senior director of auto restoration at McPherson College and crew chief for the team of students. “There is something extremely validating about competing with the best in the field and showing that we belong. I have always believed the automotive restoration students at McPherson College were world-class, and last weekend we proved it.”

The award-winning students and car left on a road trip from McPherson in mid-August, and will return to campus this week. Fall classes also began this week, and the performance in Pebble Beach is certainly an exciting way to begin the semester, especially for the automotive restoration students.

“The automotive restoration program at McPherson College has taught me so much about classic cars, and given me the opportunity of a lifetime to come to Pebble Beach,” said Jeremy Porter, a current student from Seneca Falls, N.Y. “Winning second place was just the icing on the cake, and shows what students are capable of achieving.”

Earlier this summer, McPherson College announced a transformational gift that will create the largest endowment of any small liberal arts college in the United States, at more than $1.5 billion. With this historic endowment, the automotive restoration program will have the resources to enter more competitions and allow its students to continue to test their expertise and skills on the biggest stages, such as the Concours d’Elegance.

“As the only automotive restoration program in the country, we are used to making history, but winning second place at the Concours is truly special,” said McPherson College Provost Amanda Gutierrez. “This performance shows that McPherson College is a true powerhouse: in the classroom and the classic auto industry.”

 

McPherson College Hosts Most Unique Car Show In Midwest

1969 Chevrolet Astro III concept car

1969 Chevrolet Astro III concept car

One-of-a-kind classic automobiles will be displayed during the 23rd Annual C.A.R.S. Club Motoring Festival at McPherson College on Saturday, May 6, 2023, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. A few of the cars expected on the field this year include the 1951 GM LeSabre concept car, the 1969 Chevrolet Astro III concept, and a 2024 Chevrolet all-electric Blazer EV SS, all from the General Motors collection, as well as a 1955 Ghia Gilda.

Each year, the student-run car show attracts rare vehicles from across the country and expects 350 to 400 vehicles to be on display throughout the campus grounds this year. Alongside the rare classic cars, automotive restoration students also present vehicles they are currently restoring.

“The car show serves as one of the biggest networking and alumni-gathering events for the college,” said Matt Kroeker, car show chair, “Every year, hundreds of cars ranging from student projects and local show winners, all the way up to Pebble Beach best-of-show contenders, converge on the college lawn for a unique day celebrating McPherson’s heritage as a leader in the antique automobile industry.”

At the car show this year, the students, alumni, and staff who recently found out their 1953 Mercedes-Benz 300 S Cabriolet was accepted to Pebble Beach will be recognized, and the car will be on display.

In addition to the wide variety of classic automobiles, the event will also feature entertainment provided by the McPherson College Jazz Band and the McPherson High School Jazz Band. The Model-T Team will demonstrate at 2 p.m., just before the awards ceremony. Building tours of Templeton Hall, home of the McPherson College Automotive Restoration Program, will be available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Complimentary trolley service will be available between campus and Main Street from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. There is no charge for spectators. Food trucks will also be available on campus to purchase food and beverages.

Car enthusiasts are encouraged to participate in a Cruise-in on Friday, May 5, on Main Street in McPherson beginning at 6 p.m. No registration or entry fee is required for this event, which serves as a sneak peek at what will be on the show field and an opportunity for any car or motorcycle owner to display their rides in an informal show.

Pre-registration for Saturday’s event is available online at a discounted rate until April 22. Registration can also be made on the day of the show. Details are at www.mcpherson.edu/autorestoration/cars.

Small Kansas College Will Show Car at Pebble Beach Concours D’ Elegance

McPherson College MB300S Pebble Beach Team

McPherson College’s classic 1953 Mercedes-Benz 300 S is the college’s first car fully restored by its students to be accepted in the nation’s most prestigious car event.

A vision, 10 years in the making, has come true for students, alumni, and employees of the McPherson College Automotive Restoration program — the only four-year bachelor’s degree program for automotive restoration in the nation. The 1953 Mercedes-Benz 300 S Cabriolet, entirely restored by students, has been accepted by the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and will be shown there on August 20.

“Congratulations to the McPherson College students for having their car accepted to Pebble Beach,” said comedian and car enthusiast Jay Leno. Leno’s support 20 years ago was the turning point for the program when it pivoted from an associate’s to a bachelor’s degree. “I am proud to be associated with the college. Much like art historians who clean and repair the works of the renaissance era, the young men and women at McPherson College are doing it with automobiles, recreating abilities and techniques long forgotten, and they’ll make a good living doing it. Our hobby and heritage are safe in their hands.”

The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is the oldest Concours in the United States and one of the world’s most prestigious gatherings of rare and antique automobiles. Prized collector cars compete each year for Best of Show, the most coveted award in the automotive industry. The Concours Selection Committee spends weeks vetting each entry, narrowing its selection down to the top classic cars in the world, which are invited to show.

McPherson College MB300S rotisserie restoration
Early work on the Mercedes-Benz 300 S restoration.

“We set a bold vision 10 years ago to show a car at Pebble Beach, and I was confident our students and staff could attain it,” said Amanda Gutierrez, provost and vice president of automotive restoration. “The goal was to get invited to compete at Pebble Beach, but there is a significant process that makes that happen, especially at a small college with students working outside of class hours. This project has been a valuable learning experience for our students as they study toward their bachelor’s degree in automotive restoration. It was intense work requiring exceptional commitment, and I am extremely proud of them.”

After an exhaustive search for the right car, work on the project began and has incorporated classroom curricula, expert guest lectures, and senior capstone experiences. The restoration was completed by teams of student interns who worked over the course of the restoration. Brian Martin, director of automotive restoration projects, supervises the student team.

“When we set out to do this, we knew it was going to be a long-term commitment,” Martin said. “It is a complete, frame-off, top-to-bottom restoration by students. We planned for it to become the cornerstone of our program and an example of the skills our students develop while they are here.”

McPherson College has a long history of student participation at Pebble Beach, dating back to 2008 when the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Pebble Beach Company Foundation established scholarships honoring Formula One World Champion and famed restorer Phil Hill. Over the years, more than 25 McPherson College students have earned college scholarships from Pebble Beach.

Pebble Beach Company Foundation scholarship recipients not only attend the event and shadow the judges, they also have been part of panel discussions, prepared and presented cars for the field, and attended numerous additional events during the week. However, this August will mark the first time the college will show a classic vehicle fully restored by its students.

McPherson College MB300S engines class
Students working on the Mercedes-Benz 300 S engine.

“It’s a remarkable accomplishment,” said McPherson College President Michael Schneider. “Since the project began, nearly every student in the auto restoration program has been exposed to the restoration through classes, workshops, or as part of an internship team. For some of them, getting a chance to work on this project was why they decided to attend McPherson College. This achievement will positively impact our students and program for years. Managing this project was an enormous undertaking, and I commend the individuals, especially Brian Martin, who helped mentor our students through this process. Our friends at Paul Russell and Company as well as the Mercedes Benz Classic Center, were excellent advisors on the project. I also thank Jay Leno, whose early and consistent support over the years has helped us flourish and reach Pebble Beach.”

Members of the student team, the Pebble Beach Scholars, college staff, and alumni will accompany the car to Pebble Beach in August. A recognition of their efforts will be celebrated during the CARS Club Motoring Festival on Saturday, May 6, at McPherson College at 2 p.m. before the awards ceremony.

Showing a student-restored car at Pebble Beach is another example of McPherson College achieving what many people consider impossible. In November, the college announced a historic $500 million matching gift. To date, the college has raised over $170 million of the $250 million needed to secure the $500 million, including generous gifts from car enthusiasts Melanie and Richard Lundquist, the Rob Walton Foundation, and Dave Kinney.

Nation’s Top Automotive Industry Research Authority Partners With McPherson College Auto Restoration Program To Develop Mobility, Engineering Program

McPherson College will partner with the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) — considered the most respected research source in the automotive industry — on a study exploring the future of transportation and mobility to create a new engineering, design, and mobility program building on its existing Automotive Restoration program. Creating a national center for the future of engineering, design, and mobility is one of the key initiatives supported by the college’s $500 million double-match estate commitment.

The CAR study will examine a wide range of approaches to the future of mobility, including electrification, mobility ecosystem, urban planning, roadway design, and more, to create a dynamic curriculum for the new program.

“For decades, the Auto Restoration program at McPherson College has been offering a one-of-a-kind experience for students interested in the history and hands-on restoration of classic cars,” President Michael Schneider said. “We want to build from this unique program and offer students more opportunities based on what the future looks like for transportation and mobility. CAR will help ensure we move in the right direction.”

CAR, a non-profit organization based in Ann Arbor, Mich., is focused on the future direction of the global automotive industry. Its mission is to inform and advise through independent research, education, and dialogue, enabling a more viable and sustainable automotive ecosystem. CAR maintains close collaboration and relationships with automakers, suppliers, industry associations, government, non-profit, labor organizations, and educational institutions to provide leading, thought-provoking, and impactful research.

CAR specializes in connecting the needs of the automotive industry to what academic curriculums require to match those needs. This includes analyzing degree programs, evaluating student preparedness, and assessing facilities, classrooms, and equipment.

“CAR engages with academic institutions, automotive industry leaders, and municipal organizations to understand the required skills and competencies of the future workforce,” said Alan Amici, President and CEO of CAR. “Our findings will enable McPherson to create an academic program that meets the needs of students and employers in a rapidly changing environment. Today, there is a strong need for students to be involved with a company or project that benefits society. McPherson College recognizes this and values strong community engagement. We are excited to work with McPherson College to bring all these components together in developing this new program.”

The Auto Restoration program at McPherson College is 45 years old and recognized as the only program of its kind in the nation. It offers a bachelor’s degree in technology with an emphasis on automotive history, restoration management, automotive communications, restoration design, and automotive restoration technology. Students are immersed in the automotive industry through hands-on experiences and internships across the country and around the globe. Current students are restoring a 1953 Mercedes Benz 300 S Cabriolet to compete at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August.

The CAR study will include benchmarking existing engineering programs at other colleges and universities, analyzing the engineering skills needed to succeed and lead in the future mobility ecosystem, and making recommendations for curriculum. CAR will also consider additional certification programs to supplement and enhance the new program. McPherson College will receive a final report at the end of May 2023.

To date, the college has raised close to $150 million of the $250 million needed to secure the $500 million match, including a $50 million commitment from Californian philanthropists and car enthusiasts Melanie and Richard Lundquist. To learn more about the $500 million two-for-one match applied to endowment donations and estate gift commitments made to McPherson College, visit www.mcpherson.edu/500match.

McPherson College Establishes the Rob Walton Scholarship Fund

Rob and Melani Walton Foundation

$1 million gift will go toward $500 million match campaign

McPherson College has announced the creation of an endowed scholarship fund for students pursuing a degree in automotive restoration. The Rob Walton Scholarship Fund will focus on attracting and retaining the best students in the college’s unique automotive restoration program.

The $1 million gift from the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation will be supplemented by the two-for-one donor match announced by the college in November, resulting in $3 million for the McPherson College endowment. The anonymous double-match estate commitment of $500 million is the largest in the history of any liberal arts college in the United States.

“This grant helps us fulfill our mission of being the center of excellence for students serious about automotive restoration,” said McPherson College President Michael Schneider. “Students completing their degree from our program are the skilled craftsmen, technicians, historians, curators, managers, marketing and communication persons, and leaders necessary to preserve the classic car industry.”

The Waltons join the former host of The Tonight Show and car enthusiast Jay Leno in providing student scholarships for the program and continues the significant contributions toward the $500 million match recently announced by McPherson College.

“Driving and collecting vintage automobiles is a personal passion,” said Rob Walton. “We’re pleased to contribute to educating the next generation of car restorers and making college more affordable for McPherson students.”

The McPherson College automotive restoration program combines a liberal arts approach with hands-on craftsmanship that prepares students to be successful in a broad range of careers in the automotive industry. Graduates of the nation’s only accredited four-year bachelor’s degree program in automotive restoration go on to work for the biggest names in the automotive industry. Current students are restoring a 1953 Mercedes-Benz 300 S Cabriolet that will be entered in the renowned Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2023. The program has attracted the attention of industry leaders and car enthusiasts such as Richard Lundquist, who donated a 1972 Ferrari 365GTB/4 Daytona to the program.

Beyond offering one-of-a-kind educational opportunities, McPherson College is committed to helping students graduate with little to zero student debt. Its Student Debt Project utilizes financial literacy, mentoring, and matching funds to assist students working while attending college. So far, students in the program have reduced their projected debt at graduation by $12,000. Scholarships, like the Rob Walton Scholarship Fund, work in tandem with the Student Debt Project to help minimize the need for student and family educational loans.

To date, the college has raised over $130 million of the $250 million needed to secure the $500 million match, including a $50 million commitment from Californian philanthropists Melanie and Richard Lundquist. To learn more about the $500 million two-for-one match applied to endowment donations and estate gift commitments made to McPherson College, visit www.mcpherson.edu/500match.