Pihlman receives scholarship to continue studies at 73

Donna Gestel

Gunflint Trail resident Dewey Pihlman at his May 20, 2013 graduation from Lake Superior College. 
Photo courtesy of Dewey Pihlman Gunflint Trail resident Dewey Pihlman at his May 20, 2013 graduation from Lake Superior College. Photo courtesy of Dewey Pihlman Gunflint Trail resident Dewey Pihlman, 73 years old, has been selected as one of 20 recipients of the Mark M. Welter World Citizen Award. The award/scholarship was open to students in 20 schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system. MnSCU is comprised of 24 twoyear community and technical colleges along with seven state universities serving more than 430,000 students.

Pihlman, who is a Navy veteran and has worked in the tool and die trade for over 50 years, went back to school in January 2011 after a short stint at retirement. He has lived on Seagull River off and on since 1980. “Retirement is over rated and I enjoy my work too much to not do it. My college experience turned a whole new page to a brand new adventure,” he said.

Pihlman graduated from Lake Superior College May 20, 2013 with an associate’s degree in computer design engineering and machine technology. He enjoyed his college experience so much that he has registered again at Lake Superior College and is currently taking classes in AutoCad Inventor and Inventor Design. He plans on taking Rapid Prototyping/3D Printing next year. Most of his work is now done online, but he visits the LSC Duluth campus when he can.

“My goal is to again work in new medical device development,” explained Pihlman. He has some experience in the field, having created a variety of items in the machine shop he operated for 35 years in the Twin Cities.

Pihlman recalls one of his first tool and die jobs in the 1960s— making two-color computer keys. “We saw all kinds of strange words on these keys—cursor, escape, enter...,” he chuckled.

As part of his degree studies, Pihlman had to create a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the work he has done. It makes an impressive resume. Pihlman has machined special parts for Harley-Davidson, Johnson Controls, IBM, American Medical Systems, 3M, Honeywell, US Surgical and Jenn-Air. He also remembers an especially challenging three-year project, designing the complete process to manufacture and supply burn-sockets to Cardiac Pacemaker’s Inc.

He appreciates being required to compile that information for his resume. “I had never done one. I never realized all I had done. I was kind of amazed!” said Pihlman.

Pihlman hopes his degree will enhance his ability to work on projects and to do things that were not possible for him before. He said he would like to be hired as a project engineer, where he can oversee every aspect of a project, from the idea to part design, tool design, and mold building all the way through plastic injection molding and the finished device.

Despite all his real world experience, Pihlman said he was so worried when he approached Cook County Higher Ed, he was nervous. However, he said Kirstin van den Berg at (CCHE) was very instrumental in helping him find the right college and program for him. Van den Berg helped make appointments with an advisor at Lake Superior College and determine study plan options. CCHE helped with the necessary testing to meet registration requirements. “I can honestly say without the professionalism, kindness, encouragement, and determination to help me that I received from Cook County Higher Ed, I would never have begun this adventure,” he said.

It was a great adventure, even the general study requirements. “Generals? They were fun,” said Pihlman when asked about the non-computer-design courses. He said he especially enjoyed his communications class.

He also took courses in metal art and has created some beautiful jewelry pieces—realistic copper fish and starburst pendants of silver and turquoise. “I’m hooked on that. Silver is the ‘Queen of Metals,’” he said.

When asked if he had any advice for people contemplating going back to school, Pihlman said, “Just do it! Lake Superior College and others have so many programs in anything anyone could possibly want to learn. The high-tech time we live in requires education. CCHE will show you the way,” said Pihlman.

Cook County News-Herald editor Rhonda Silence also contributed to this story.

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