After more than 30 years teaching students, the impact of diesel technology instructor Dennis Hibbs is seen in the faces of employees across the region.
Hibbs will retire at the end of this month after 33 years in the diesel technology program based in the Purchase Training Center, part of West Kentucky Community & Technical College. The program became part of West Kentucky State Vocational School in 1987, which later became WKCTC.
He has been at the center since shortly after it opened in 1980 and has been teaching since 1981. Prior to being a instructor, he worked with his father, Carless Hibbs, in the family-owned garage in Fulton.
"It has been a rewarding career, and I am proud to have been a part of this program and its success," he said. "I've spent half my life in the program, and it's become a part of me."
Hibbs said he has taught and sent hundreds of students into the transportation workforce during his tenure. The instruction includes training in three areas - medium/heavy truck, construction equipment and agricultural equipment. Former students are employed in a diverse number of industries that include farming, construction, river and railroad industries and many more, he said.
He cannot remember a time when all of his about 20 students didn't get placed into the professional world directly following their graduation. Hibbs said the hiring is often cyclical as older graduates become foremen and then hire more recent graduates of the program.
"It has been a very rewarding career. The friends, students, business leaders, partnerships and the community that I feel so much a part of," he said. "The rewards of the program are seen in the faces of our graduates who found good jobs in western Kentucky."
Jay Kelso, former student and UPS maintenance technician, said he considers Hibbs "one of three life-long role models." He said Hibbs is special because of a strong personal ethic and keen ability to place students in careers tailored to their personal skills.
"He has impacted so many men with the knowledge he shared and long hours he worked to benefit the program," Kelso said. "Dennis is a people person who grew the program in the community. He will be very hard to replace."
WKCTC will host an open-house retirement reception and celebration of the program from 5-7 p.m. on Thursday at the Purchase Training Center on Pioneer Industrial Drive in Mayfield. The event is intended to celebrate Hibbs and the overall program for former students, community members and potential new students.
Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.