With more than 23 years behind him in retail management, Todd Humbert sought a second career in a medical field and discovered Ogeechee Technical College’s echocardiography program. Now he will represent the college as this year’s GOAL winner.
“This is totally unexpected but extremely appreciated,” were Humbert’s first words on receiving the award Tuesday during the luncheon at R.J.’s Steakery.
“No pressure at all,” was another of his comments.
For three of the past eight years, Ogeechee Tech’s GOAL winner has gone on to win the statewide Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership. Selected from winners named by the 24 Technical College System of Georgia schools, the statewide GOAL student serves as an ambassador for technical college education.
The state-level prizes include a new car, as 2014 Ogeechee Tech and statewide GOAL winner Lucas “Luke” Teague, helping present the awards Tuesday, confirmed firsthand.
Humbert thanked Jane Stanley, who was his echocardiography instructor and adviser when she nominated him. He thanked the screening and selection committees and congratulated the other four Ogeechee Tech 2015 GOAL finalists.
Those finalists were Sheila Wilmore Butler, nominated by funeral services instructor Michelle Rupar; Shane Fischer, nominated by instructor Anthony Pisacano in culinary arts; Dana Gillican, nominated by instructor Laura Chambers; and Jasmyn Smith, nominated by instructor Bryan Richard in culinary arts.
These five were selected from among 20 nominated students, 14 of whom chose to participate in the competition, said Kelli Waters, Ogeechee Tech’s GOAL coordinator.
With 10 students enrolled in the echocardiography program each year, Humbert, now 51, has consistently been the oldest student in his class, where several others are in their 20s.
“When we think about GOAL, we want somebody who’s going to represent the Technical College System of Georgia,” Stanley said in an interview.
So the program seeks students “the rest of the classmates look up to” and who demonstrate “things like integrity, honesty,” she said.
Often, when Stanley was trying to explain something, Humbert would raise his hand and give an example from life experience. Then, other students would say they understood.
“When Todd talks in the classroom … everybody stops and listens to what he says, but he’s not so stoic that he doesn’t make the class fun,” she said.
The echocardiography diploma program reports a 100 percent job placement rate. Salaries for recent graduates start above $20,000 and range to around $30,000, depending on where they get a job, Stanley said. Echocardiographers use ultrasound equipment to provide views of the heart, which physicians use to diagnose problems and make treatment decisions.
“Our patients generally are individuals who have had heart attacks, heart disease … murmurs, any type of heart condition,” she said.
Stanley recently left the program, and Ogeechee Tech now has a new echocardiography instructor.
Humbert has an earlier associate degree in management from Montgomery College in Maryland. He and his wife, Kimberly, live in Savannah. Their two children are now in their 20s and are pursuing careers of their own.
A lottery-funded Zell Miller Grant is paying Humbert’s tuition as a full-time student. To qualify, he maintains a 3.5 or higher grade-point average. HOPE Grants, paying a large part but not full tuition, go to students who maintain technical college GPAs between 2.0 and 3.5.
In an awards program where nontraditional paths stand out, Humbert is not the first person to win GOAL honors while preparing for a second career and making a long commute to attend the college of his choice.
In fact, last year’s OTC and statewide winner, Teague, 28, earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and worked as a radio disc jockey and news anchor before he decided on a career in funeral services.
Living in Augusta, he commuted to Statesboro for classes once a week and took other OTC classes online. In the past year, he completed his studies and tested for and received his funeral director’s license. Besides working full-time at an Augusta funeral home, he now serves as associate editor of Southern Calls, a magazine for funeral directors.
Yet Teague has made several appearances as a representative of technical education in Georgia. A picture of him with the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze he won appeared on posters distributed to the technical colleges to promote the GOAL program.
He will continue to serve as statewide GOAL representative until April, and is slated to speak to a joint session of the Legislature this year.
Meanwhile, the next step for Humbert will be regional competition.
Last year, each state finalist received an iPad and a DeVry University scholarship worth up to $26,500, Teague noted.
Other state GOAL winners from Ogeechee Tech were Molly Bickerton in 2008 and Alvie Coes III in 2011. Stuart Gregory was state runner-up in 2013, and Amanda Miller Roberson (2009), Cynthia Simms (2010) and Michael Williams (2012) all were regional finalists.
So, although he said he had no proof, Teague had some reason for thinking that Waters may be “the most winning GOAL coach in the program’s history.” All of those wins and near-wins have occurred during her eight years as the college’s GOAL coordinator.
OTC President Dr. Dawn Cartee congratulated Waters, but also credited faculty members who nominate students.
“This is the heart of the GOAL program,” Cartee said. “Without these faculty members identifying those students in their programs who have that little sparkle, that something that makes them extra special, we would not be in the place that we are today from a state standpoint.”
That winning history is as much inspiration as pressure, Humbert said.
“I’m going to do my best in making Ogeechee Tech proud because I think that the technical college aspect in education, today, truly benefits so many,” he said. “With the way the economy has been over the past few years, I think the technical college industry has risen to the occasion to provide superior education at a minimal cost.”
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.