Faculty Appreciation Month – Meet George Hunt

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George, 37, originally from Detroit, Michigan, has lived in Arizona since he was 13. George is a welding instructor at The Refrigeration School. He runs the weekend Welding Specialist program, as well as teaching online welding theory classes during the week. 

Thanks for your time, George; how long have you been at RSI?

I actually just started in December 2023, so about six months now. I teach online during the week, and then I’m in-person in the lab on the weekends. I run the weekend welding course – that’s two 10-hour lab days on Saturday and Sunday, plus two evenings online. 

How long have you been welding?

I’ve been welding for about 10 years. I was actually a student in the flagship welding class at RSI, the very first welding class the school had back in 2018. So, I’m also an RSI graduate. I’ve been down the path our welding students are now taking. I did a little welding before school, and then decided to pursue it as a career. 2017 was when I made the decision to go to welding school and pursue it full time.

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That made you late 20s, maybe 30, by the time you went to welding school? What did you do before?

I was a truck driver for about six years. Before that I had done a bunch of different things. But I just got bored with truck driving. I was welding one day in the Fall of 2017 and decided  to look up local welding schools. I saw that RSI was starting up a welding program, so I came in and talked to the school and ended up signing up that day. I started the program a couple of months later in January 2018.

Talk us through your welding career.

Right out of the gate while I was still in RSI, I got hired as a welder at a gate company. I was building gates and fencing; I stayed with them for a few years and actually ran their shop for a year and a half before they closed down. Then I worked at an art studio for about a year doing all stainless-steel welding. After that I was welding in the mining industry; I did that up right up until I came to teach. 

Why did you decide to go into teaching?

Actually, the school had reached out to me in the past, and I’d turned them down. But then last year Eric Manson, who was my old instructor, reached out and asked me. Eric was poised to take over as director, but he was murdered in a road rage shooting in Goodyear in December. I was planning on coming back to work with him, but he was literally gunned down in a parking lot a day after he gave me the offer.

That’s terrible. What a tragedy. But you decided to still come anyway? 

Eric was my mentor. Even after I finished school, he and I stayed friends. He always thought I’d be a good instructor and then when he finally reached out to me, I decided it was the right time, and to go for it. I was ready for a change of pace anyway, and I liked the idea of being able to take what I’d learned, to give back and train the next generation…like Eric had done for me. It would have been cool to work with my mentor, but hopefully I can do his memory proud, and be as good an instructor as he was.

I’m sure you will. What do you like best about being an instructor, now you’ve been doing it six months?

Just seeing the progress that the students make. Watching them come in on that first day when some of them have never even picked up a welder, and then, by the end of the course, they’re able to weld. I get to watch them go through their struggles, their trials, and failures, and then see them rise back up and accomplish their goals. It’s very rewarding in that sense.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a fireman when I was a kid.  I never really pursued it when I got older. Honestly, out here it’s very competitive. They get thousands of applicants a year, and only a few guys or girls get in.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you?

I do a lot of artwork. I build art pieces, mostly out of metal, in my garage. Most of them are just pieces that I’ll keep, or gift to family members or friends. There’s one piece that I’ve been working on for a long time that I probably will sell eventually.

Tell us a little about your family, George.

I’m married to Keisha; we just celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. I have two daughters. My oldest is 11 and my youngest is four. We actually got married while I was in RSI as a student.  

If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?

It probably would be my grandparents, George and Lynn, my mom’s parents. They actually disappeared in a hurricane in Florida back in 1992 when I was about five years old. They were never found, and it left a lot of unanswered questions. Just getting the opportunity to be able to speak to them, just know what happened and everything, would be amazing.

That’s horrific. My condolences. What advice would you give students to be successful at RSI??

Be open-minded and be dedicated to your program. You’re not in school very long, just absorb as much as you can while you’re here. Take advantage of all the resources, including your instructors. Ask questions, just ask away. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed! It’ll be over quick, so make the most of your opportunity.

I tell my students that you will get out of this school exactly what you put into it. If you give it your all, if you show up every day and you work hard, you’re going to succeed. There’s no doubt about it. It’s just repetition and practice. I mean, we can only teach you so much. From there it really is just on you and how bad you want it, because how badly you want it will dictate how much time you’ll put into it.

Do you think having gone through the welding program yourself helps you empathize?

Definitely, because I can relate to them, and I think that helps. I let them know that I went through the same program, and I had to pass all the same tests they do. It also helps 

me because I know when someone’s just being lazy or if they are actually struggling!

If you got an unexpected afternoon to yourself, what would you do with that time?

Probably go up to the lake. Go fish, hang out. The girls like to play in the water, and I’d just go fish down the shore. 

What did you enjoy most about welding in the field?

I never did anything that was repeat production, so we were welding on something different every day. Even the gate and fencing work was all custom. It was always fun to weld on different stuff; it was never boring or repetitive. Sometimes we’d be on the ground welding all day, and then the next day we might be 20 feet up in the air. 

There are so many different avenues you can go down with welding. Anyone who wants to be a welder can be a welder. You’ve just got to put your mind to it if you really want it. I think some people are put off; they think they couldn’t ever do it. But there are so many different kinds of welding careers out there. There really is something for everybody. Want to stay close to home? You can weld in a fab shop. Want to see the country? Go traveling and do pipeline or refinery work. Want to specialize in something? You can do that – if you like diving and welding, become an underwater welder. Welding can be for everybody.

If you were to tell someone “Thank you” for making you the person you are today, who would it be?

Honestly, it probably would be Eric Manson, the gentleman I mentioned earlier from RSI. He is the one who really helped me in school. He just kind of guided my whole welding career. I mean, I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.

Thank you, George, for all you do to impact the RSI community.