Lori Sommer received her Associate Degree in Machine Shop Technology in May 1991. She tells us Ranken had an amazing impact on her life. “I learned the practical skills of the trade in an excellent program with exceptional instructors. However, the lessons went far beyond that. I was taught the dignity of labor, as well as critical thinking skills that eventually applied to all aspects of my life.” Lori was a student in the McDonnell Douglas Foundation Scholarship/Internship Program while attending Ranken. While she had hoped to acquire permanent employment after completing the program, the aerospace company began laying off one out of every seven workers. Lori was honored with the Outstanding Graduate and the Perfect Attendance in Program Awards at graduation.
With over 15 years with the Associated General Contractors of Missouri, where she managed operations for Construction Careers Center Charter High School, Lori now holds the position of Associate Director of Charter School Compliance at Washington University in St. Louis.
One memory of Ranken, very personal to Lori, speaks to her being the only female in her machining class. She remembers the program starting off a bit rocky. Back then, women in the trades were often looked upon with some suspicion and disdain. She says, “Most of the guys didn’t know how to speak to me for the first six months. I preferred the silence to their sometimes-cutting remarks. I kept my head down and focused on the challenging courses.”
Two weeks before May graduation, her shop instructor, Mr. Pumfrey opened a discussion about the future and who merited their upcoming degrees. He pointed to Lori, saying “What about her?” She recalls the guys all turning to her, several of them chiming in, “She deserves it; she earned it. She worked her behind off for this.” Lori reveals, “It was honestly one of the proudest moments I’ve ever experienced, more so than any honors or awards. In that moment I truly felt accepted as an equal by my peers.” Mr. Pumfrey often stayed and tutored Lori most days after school during the first semester so she could practice on the machines and improve her skills.