Ranken Success Stories

Ranken changes lives. This fact is demonstrated by the accomplishments of our graduates. Below are just a few of the individual success stories from our graduates, each sharing the real-world impact of a Ranken education. Every Ranken grad is prepared to make a lifelong difference in our community, and we are proud of their past, current and future achievements! If you are an alumni and would like to share your story for possible publication, please contact Brien McCarthy at [email protected] or 314-286-3602.


Brad Francis – ‘01 Automotive Technology, Certified Performance and Auto Repair Inc, Owner

Brad did not like high school. He did like working with his hands and as a high school student he worked as an automotive technician at an independently owned repair shop. The owner and employees at this repair shop were all Ranken graduates.

After high school he decided to go to Ranken. “I wanted to be a great mechanic. Real world experience was good, but I really wanted to know my craft. I was not a fan of high school, and skipped a lot of school as a result. At Ranken I only missed one day and that was because I was at work and had the start day wrong.” After graduating he continued to work at the same repair shop.

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After a few years working for someone Brad got the entrepreneur urge and he decided to go into business for himself. In 2005, at the age of 23 Brad opened his own independent repair shop in Overland, MO and after a month in business convinced one of his friends from Ranken to join him in the venture. Business was good, but realizing that many of their customers were from St. Charles County, they decided to move their business. They eventually ended up in Moscow Mills, MO, where they found a good deal on the building they still own and onto which they recently added 4500 square feet. Today, Certified Performance and Auto Repair Inc. is a respected and successful business.


Ignatius Chibitty – ’20 Electrical Systems Design Technology student, Summer intern for Paynecrest Electric

After 13 years of homeschooling, Ignatius had his heart set on entering the seminary. When that didn’t work out, he went to a community college to get his general education requirements completed. After graduating with his Associate’s Degree, he was simply not sure what he wanted to do. “I talked with my Mom, and she encouraged me to go to Ranken.

I had two uncles who graduated from Ranken, Tom Schumacher, ’83 INEET, and Jerry Dorhauer, ’89 INEET. My Mom knew I would like Ranken because of the experience of my uncles and she knew I would like something technical. Ranken has motivated me to excel in school because it has given me the ability to focus on something tangible that I enjoy. Learning became fun again because I had a trade to work towards.”

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While at Ranken, Ignatius has been very busy making the most of the opportunity, “I work for two Microenterprises, GWR Seat Belt Manufacturer and BioMerieux. I also will be working this year as an RA in the dormitory, which will provide me with a free room and a meal plan.” This, combined with the Alumni Scholarship and the RTC Donor Scholarship, will enable Ignatius to attend Ranken during his second year with very little expense. Ignatius has also landed an internship for the summer at Paynecrest Electric. “Ranken took us on a tour of Paynecrest. . . they mentioned their summer internship. I wanted to go home for the summer, but this sounded like a great opportunity. I applied and got the job. This position has given me the opportunity to work at GM and at the construction site of Centene’s new facility in Clayton.” Ignatius credits Ranken with restoring his love for learning, “While a student at Ranken, on top of learning my trade, I have grown in every way. I have an overwhelming appreciation for Ranken.” After graduating, he hopes to work at either Paynecrest or with his uncle at Bell Electric.

Shelbie Mayer -‘19 Information Technology

Before attending Ranken, Shelbie had just had a baby and was working as a waitress. “I watched my older brother go to Ranken, graduate then work there as an instructor. I was aware of the success he had with his Ranken degree and asked him if he thought Ranken was a possibility for me. He sat me down to discuss my options, and I decided to enroll in the Information Technology program.”

She knew from the beginning that this field wasn’t common for women, but she followed her desire to pursue a nontraditional career path.

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The Alumni Scholarship she received helped her in this pursuit. Being a single mother, she says her main goal is to be successful not only for herself but for her child, and Ranken gave her that chance. After Ranken, she plans to continue her education by pursuing a bachelor’s degree. “I would recommend Ranken to anyone, especially to women who are interested in IT.” Shelbie tells people that, “The instructors are great, and learning hands-on is the best way to actually learn what you will be doing in a real-world job.” Shelbie’s keys to success, “Hard work and dedication will get anyone where they really want to be in life.” Shelbie is currently working at All Steel Products, Inc., and has one semester left at Ranken. I am working to get a few more certifications that I will need in order to be considered for any networking position.”   Shelbie is one of a growing number of females at Ranken – now nearly 8% of the total student body.

Nick Binsbacher -’11 Plumbing Technology, Integrated Facilities Services, Plumbing Service Technician, Residential Services Division

When Nick graduated from Francis Howell North, he knew he wanted to pursue a trade and stay in St. Louis. His Dad was a building inspector while his brother was a carpenter – they both encouraged him to look into plumbing. He participated in a Shadow-a-Tech day at Ranken, and that convinced him that Plumbing was the trade for him. Nick did not particularly like high school. He did just enough to get by.

This all changed when he arrived at Ranken. “When I got to Ranken, I loved it because it was something I was invested in, and I liked working with my hands.”

Nick’s changed attitude about school resulted in him graduating Cum Laude.

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Unfortunately, when Nick graduated, the country was coming out of the recession, and there were not many plumbing jobs available, so he took a job with a backhoe company. While doing a job for a plumbing company, Nick’s boss mentioned that he had studied plumbing at Ranken. “Performance Plumbing hired me soon after this. I think my old boss was sorry he mentioned that I went to Ranken.”

Nick stayed with Performance for six years and was then hired by Integrated Facilities Services to help launch their residential service division. He was soon joined by another Ranken grad and classmate, Ariel Lunn (another Success Story). Ariel speaks very highly of Nick and values the opportunity to work and collaborate with someone she has known and respected for years. “Having someone like Nick to talk with is a game changer,” Ariel says. “He helps me on difficult jobs and is a great person to share ideas with.  One day, we were working on a job together, and he said to me, ‘I love plumbing,’ I told him that I do too.” Nick’s positive attitude and enthusiasm for his trade makes him a valuable employee at IFS. Nick has this advice for people considering the trades, “I think Ranken has helped me get my foot in the door. I would encourage people to go to Ranken.” Nicks’s Supervisor, Christina Schafer, had this to say about Nick, “The quality of Nick’s work is second only to his work ethic. He has turned a lot of heads since starting at IFS, and our team will benefit greatly from his input and skill.” With regard to his Ranken education, she added, “Thanks to the extensive training that Ariel and Nick have received, we are able to offer new services and improve on the services we currently provide.”

Ariel Lunn- ’11 Plumbing Technology– Integrated Facilities Services, Plumbing Service Technician, Residential Services Division

Before Attending Ranken, Ariel was a Pre-Med student pursuing a career as a surgeon. “I didn’t like it,” Ariel recalls, “I’ve enjoyed plumbing since I was a child.” It is not every child who has experience with plumbing, but Ariel distinctly remembers an incident which planted the seed of her decision to pursue Plumbing as a career, “Our drain was clogged, and I took apart the P trap, cleaned it out, and reassembled it.

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My Mom asked who fixed it, and I told her it was me. I remember a sense of pride knowing that I fixed something and helped my family.” Upon deciding to leave her Pre-Med program, Ariel contacted several plumbing companies asking for a ride-along. “Realizing that your opinions can change as you grow, I wanted to see what a day in the life of a plumber was like and if it was still something that still interested me. After the ride along I was convinced that this is what I wanted to do and, the gentleman I rode with told me [that] when I graduate, I had a job.“

When asked why she chose Ranken Ariel had this to say, “I wanted people to know that I was a serious professional and Ranken had the reputation of being an excellent school. I knew that having Ranken on my resume would open doors for me.” After graduating in 2011, Ariel went to work for A and G Plumbing and then Roto-Rooter for six years. In March of 2019, Ariel was hired by Integrated Facilities Services (IFS) to start and lead their Residential Service Division along with another Ranken alum and former classmate of Ariel’s, Nick Binsbacher (another Success Story). “I enjoy working at IFS because it is a local company, and as a result, I am able to have a bigger impact. They respect my opinion and have given me the freedom to develop the Residential Service Division. I set the pricing, manage inventory, and order tools necessary for residential jobs. I even created a flier, which they have used to promote this new division. One day, Nick and I were on a job, and he told me, ‘I love plumbing.’ I said that I did, too. It is rewarding to have a job you love and to be able to help people. I am fortunate to work with the staff at IFS. They are supportive and helpful. I feel like we are a family.” Her Plumbing Manager, Christina Schaeffer, mentioned that Ariel has been selected as Employee of the Month and, also had this to say. “Ariel’s reputation for exemplary service and unparalleled dedication in the plumbing industry preceded her to IFS.  We are proud to have her with us and look forward to the growth and improvement she will bring to our residential plumbing division.” With regard to her Ranken Education, Christina added, “Thanks to the extensive training that Ariel and Nick have received, we are able to offer new services and improve on the services we currently provide.”

Jeffery Scott -’06 Industrial Technology, Ameren Missouri Training Supervisor – Machinist Apprentice Program

Jeffery’s parents naturally wanted their son to be happy and successful, but their idea of success meant getting a traditional four-year college degree. Jeff spoke with his high school counselor and told him he always wanted to be an engineer or a tradesman or maybe a teacher.

His counselor told him he was “too smart” to go to trade school. So, he went to community college and took the required classes. While going to college, he supported himself by working as a maintenance man and realized this was a natural fit and what he would like to do for a living.

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His parents supported his decision. Jeff met with an admission counselor at Ranken, “I told the admissions counselor that I wanted to be ‘a machinist or something,’ The counselor asked him what he meant by, ‘or something,’ and Jeff described what he did as a maintenance man. The counselor told him about Ranken’s Industrial Technology program and it was a perfect fit. “Ranken felt like home from the minute I walked in the door. Seeing all of the old-world craftsmanship in Finney hall made me feel at home.” When asked why he chose Ranken, Jeff said, “Ranken is the be all and end all. If you talk to people in the trades, they will tell you to go to Ranken. There is weight and trust behind the Ranken name. It is a great place to be from. There is a legacy behind Ranken. I will be forever grateful for what Ranken did for me. That is why I wanted to teach there.” After graduating, Jeff had a couple of jobs in his field when a teaching position came open at Ranken. Having an opportunity to teach in the trade he loved and give back to Ranken checked a lot of boxes for him and he took the job. Jeff taught at Ranken for ten years. He is now at Ameren Missouri, where he has been for one year as a Training Supervisor for Ameren’s Machinist Apprentice program.  Jeff was honored with the Ranken Distinguished Young Alumni award in 2011.

Dan Martin -’70 Automotive Maintenance

In second grade, a family friend gave Dan a ride in a Corvette and he knew two things after that – he wanted to work on cars and he wanted to own a Corvette someday. Dan has been highly successful in achieving both goals and he gives Ranken Technical College much of the credit.

Dan had a career waiting for him. His father, Mathew Martin, was a 1942 graduate of Ranken’s precision machining program. He, along with his father and uncle, owned a tool and die company in Florissant, Mo.

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Mathew Martin hoped his son would join him in the shop, but Dan Martin had another calling. His uncle lived next door and sometimes worked on cars. Every time the garage door went up, Dan wandered over. “I was fascinated to look at the parts when he had a car taken apart and I tried to understand how everything worked,” he said. “I’d ask questions, hand him tools, pretty much got in the way. I just gravitated toward cars.” Because Dan’s father valued the education he received at Ranken, he encouraged his son to enroll there. “I didn’t think I was college material,” said Dan, “but I was wrong. It turned out to be the most important two years of my life. Everything I learned at Ranken shaped my career.”

Dan graduated in 1970 with his degree in automotive maintenance. He was ready to enter the workforce, but the Army got to him first. he was drafted and spent two years in the Army before resuming his career as a mechanic. When he returned home, he found work in local auto repair shops doing what he loved. In 1978, Martin saw a newspaper ad seeking mechanics at UPS.

“It was during the Carter Administration when the economy was really bad,” he recalled. “I walked into the UPS office and saw more than 80 people lined up for two jobs. I put in an application but figured I didn’t have a chance.” Two weeks later, he was hired. “The UPS bosses told me the main reason they hired me was because of my Ranken diploma,” he said. “That meant the world to me at the time.”

UPS spotted Dan’s leadership potential quickly. After three years as a mechanic, the company promoted him to fleet supervisor and then fleet manager. “I never would have been promoted without my Ranken training. At Ranken, I learned to do more than work with my hands. I learned to work with people. I learned about management and financing. Ranken gave me a great foundation.”

UPS then promoted Dan to district automotive manager and moved him to Orlando, Fla., Washington, D.C. and finally to San Antonio where he retired in 2005. Retirement, however, may be too strong a word to describe his golden years. He opened a Corvette restoration business for vintage Vettes – models 1953 through 1982. He created a web domain to promote his business but never launched a website because word of mouth advertising brought him more business than he could handle. Most of his customers are in the United States but he’s had clients from Sweden, Canada and Australia.

Martin also maintains and shows the five Corvettes in his personal collection at events throughout the country. He is a master judge of vintage Vettes for the National Corvette Restoration Society and he helps to coordinate an annual car show in San Antonio that raises up to $90,000 for St. Jude’s Ranch for Children.

Tom Jokerst -‘69 Communications Electronics and Computer Technology

School didn’t hold much interest for Tom, but taking apart the oscillating fan, the toaster and the television set and putting them back together on his family’s farm in southern Illinois did. His curiosity about electrical devices grew even deeper when he began playing guitar in high school and learned to manipulate amplifiers to modify his sound.

“It was pretty clear I wasn’t cut out for the traditional college path,” said Tom, who explored other technical colleges before deciding upon Ranken.

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“The technical training” was excellent but I was more impressed with the instructors. They were seasoned professionals who had successful careers in the military or at Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. They reinforced in me what I learned at home: work hard, work with integrity and take pride in my work.”

Tom said this philosophy has served him well both in his life and career. Just as he was graduating from Ranken, the electronics industry was moving from vacuum tubes to solid state devices. After Ranken, Tom continued his education earning an associate degree in electronics technology from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in 1971.

It was time to get a real job and Tom received two job offers: one from General Telephone & Electronics and the other from Cable Information Systems (CIS) -a New York-based cable company that was building the cable system in Carbondale.  “I made my career choice literally by flipping a coin,” he said. It landed on cable. Tom started out as a video engineer and became the system’s regional chief technician. Over the next five years he helped the company build new cable systems, maintain existing systems, and design, construct and implement operations.

“I was on the ground floor of a new industry,” he said. “I had plenty of room to explore my interest and skills.”

After leaving CIS, Tom moved to Continental Cablevision where he was responsible for the technical integrity of cable systems in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. By then, his innovative ideas and skills at implementing and deploying cutting edge broadband services were well known within the cable industry and he was in demand as a speaker and consultant across the country. He was asked to serve a two-year stint as an executive-on-loan with Cable Television Laboratories in Boulder, Colorado, where he evaluated standards for the cable industry and competing approaches to digital video compression methods.

In 1994, Tom was asked to join Charter Communications, a St. Louis-based start-up, which, at the time, had no customers and no revenue.

“It was my job to create the structure and build from scratch the engineering, technical operations, purchasing and inventory management functions,” said Tom, who helped the company become the fourth largest cable operator in the United States with 4.7 million customers in 25 states.

He was lured from Charter Communications by Broadbus Technologies in 2002 to help develop video­on-demand solutions for cable and telecommunications service providers.

In retirement Tom has pursued passions which he had put on hold. He took piano lessons in his St. Louis home from legendary organist Ernie Hayes. He has set up a ham radio station in his home and routinely makes contacts with other ham radio operators worldwide.  He has also traveled internationally and especially enjoys travel to Africa for hunting, fishing and photography.

Tom gives Ranken credit for much of his good fortune and continues to encourage young people searching for career opportunities to strongly consider Ranken.  “Ranken was the best choice for me, and I’m sure it could be for others as well” said Tom.

Bill Rueckert -’56 Automotive

Bill’s father owned a filling station in the 30s, 40s and 50s on Grand Avenue across the street from Sportsman’s Park. He wanted an easier life for his son, but the pull was too great. Working on cars was the only thing Bill wanted to do. He heard about the automotive program at Ranken Technical College from his best friend.

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They took the bus to campus every day for two years. “In those two years I learned the basics required to prepare me for the next 45,” Rueckert said. When Rueckert graduated from Ranken in 1956 the country was in a recession and he couldn’t find a job in automotive maintenance. Thanks to the comprehensive training he received at Ranken, however, he did find a job as a draftsman designing food service equipment, including steam tables and cafeteria counters. A year later, McDonnell Aircraft Corporation hired him away to work as a machinist on jet fighters and the Mercury and Gemini space capsules. “They were great jobs,” said Rueckert, who kept his automotive skills sharp by restoring, rebuilding and racing cars and motorcycles. “I enjoyed them both, but my calling was cars. The average person behind the wheel has no concept of what’s going on beyond the foot pedals and the shifter, but I couldn’t live like that. I wanted to get under the hood and know exactly what was happening.” In 1963, Rueckert spotted a small classified ad in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch seeking a clerk in the warranty department at Volkswagen Mid-America, Inc. He was hired on the spot.

Volkswagen quickly recognized Bill’s talents and he rose through the ranks. He became manager of the warranty department and eventually district service manager. For six years he also held the position of technical instructor, teaching mechanics from throughout the Midwest to service Volkswagens. Rueckert said he patterned his teaching style after Paul S. Hayden, one of his most beloved Ranken instructors. “If you asked him something he challenged you to figure it out for yourself,” he said. “He taught you to stand on your own two legs and that served me well for years.”

As a manager at Volkswagen, Rueckert was in a position to hire people for his team and he always looked to Ranken. He has been both mentor to and employer of four successful Ranken graduates who built successful careers of their own.

Rueckert was with Volkswagen Mid-America for 25 years until the St. Louis office closed. He was hired immediately by American Suzuki Motor Corporation where he spent the next 15 years of his career.

Before retiring in 2002, Rueckert had 35 years of continuous membership in the Automotive Technicians Association, including 12 as president. He was also an A.S.E. Master Registered Technician for 30 years.

Bill has worked hard for what he has but he said none of it would have been possible without the professional foundation learned at Ranken. He has referred at least five students to Ranken who have since graduated and gone on to successful careers. Twice he has delivered Ranken’s commencement address and in 2007 during Ranken’s centennial celebration, Rueckert was named one of the college’s 100 most outstanding alumni. “I have many trophies and certificates but this, by far, is my greatest honor,” he said. “I will be forever grateful to Ranken.”

Gene Drury – ’40 Machine Shop

Gene Osmon Drury was born September 23, 1919 on a farm outside of Plainville, Indiana. Gene attended Elementary School in Indiana in Vice President Pence’s hometown. He went to Middle School in Langleville, Illinois and graduated from High School in 1937 while living in Maplewood, Missouri.  Gene attended David Ranken Jr School of Mechanical Trades from 1938 to 1940 and received a two-year certificate from our Machine Shop. While a student at Ranken he created a metal lathe for a class project.  When he graduated, he bought the lathe and it sits in his shop to this day.
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After graduating from Ranken Gene worked at Western Cartridge in East Alton, Illinois and Curtis Wright in St. Louis as a tool and die maker.

Gene was drafted into the US Navy in 1942.  He scored 100% on the mechanical aptitude test and, as a result, instead of finishing boot camp, was assigned to Pearl Harbor where he served as a submarine mechanic until December of 1945.

After completing his service, Gene shipped back to San Francisco where he caught a train to St. Louis.  Gene said that, “If you wore your uniform you did not have to have a ticket.”  Gene also noted, “There were ladies at each train stop with coffee and sandwiches so that’s how I ate.” Gene went to work as a tool and die maker in shops around St. Louis for two years then in 1947 went to work for McDonnell Aircraft in St. Louis.  In 1967 he continued working as a tool and die maker for McDonnell-Douglas.  He retired in 1977 and he and his wife Lydia moved to Lake Havasu City, AZ.  Lydia died January 31, 1997.

In his retirement Gene began making reproductions of famous violins, though he is not a musician. Gene started his first violin in 1986 and finished it in 1987. Gene didn’t want to go into business, but he stated that he did, “want to get them out into the world, so I just give them to young people.”  Violin #2 went to his brother Ralph who gave it to a family member.  He has given every one of his violins away; giving them to family and friends.  He only asks that the recipient take at least one year of violin lessons. Gene has a musician come over and tune/test each violin as it is completed.  He just recently put the varnish on #205! Gene also restores and repairs old violins so they can be put back into service.

Gene married Nelda Sollars Drury January 1, 2002 in Lake Havasu City, AZ. Together they have numerous grand and great grandchildren.   Gene and Nelda are active members of St. Michael’s United Methodist Church.

In January 2012 Gene had open heart surgery.  The doctor wasn’t too keen on doing the procedure on a 93-year-old until he met Gene.  Gene was an ideal patient and was religious about rehab and exercise.  The results of that surgery speak for themselves as he remains an active 100-year-old.

Gene’s older brother Ralph is 101. His Aunt Ada Cox Osmon lived to 108 so he is determined to live “at least that long”.  Gene continues to work daily in his shop making violins. His generosity is an inspiration to us all.

Important Facts about Ranken.

Admissions Data
  • Student / Teacher ration: 11:1
  • Percentage of FT students receiving grant/scholarship aid: 74%
  • Note: 88% of FT Ranken students benefit from financial aid
Student Data
  • Job Placement Rate (surveyed graduates within six months): 98%
  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs
  • Participates in the Post-9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program (172 students)

Recent Honors:

  • Louis Regional Chamber 2019 Arcus Award Finalist;
  • National Council for Continuing Education and Training (NCCET) Exemplary Program Award, 2018;
  • Tomorrow’s Tech 2016 School of the Year;
  • HI-TEC Innovative Program Award;
  • NCPN Career Pathways Excellence Award;
  • Missouri Association of Manufacturers Apprenticeship Program Excellence Award