He also started teaching auto body classes at the college on Saturday’s beginning in 1972. They were full of Kearney State students who commuted, and two sessions were offered – one during the day and one at night. Eventually, demand increased to the point that there was a waiting list for the night class.
“Ginger Snodgrass and Jim Doyle would come to the Chevrolet dealership once a week begging me to start an auto body program at the college,” Wilson said. “One day, I got into an argument with John Hurt, so I took Doyle and Snodgrass up on their offer, and here I am.”
That was 1975. Wilson has witnessed a lot of changes in the program since then – everything from the materials used to the facilities and the people who have come and gone through NPCC’s hallways.
“Everything has evolved,” said Wilson. “We used to paint with lacquer, and now it’s polyurethane basecoats and topcoats. There are high strength metals. You really have to keep up on things to know what’s happening.”
As enrollment and equipment needs changed, so did the location of the auto body program.
“The first year, I was in the auto mechanics shop. The next year, I was teaching in the sheet metal shop. Then I was moved to the maintenance building. At one point, I was in the electrical shop. The building the auto body program is currently in was constructed in 1993,” Wilson said.
The program, itself, has also evolved. One of the biggest changes was the start of the car raffle 16 years ago. Every year, the college’s auto body technology and automotive technology students build a car that is raffled to raise money for transportation program scholarships.
Wilson’s favorite was a 1939 Studebaker.
“It was the first fiberglass raffle car we did,” Wilson said. “It had an S-10 chassis. One student, in particular, and I put a lot of time into that car. I’ve found that you really have to teach auto body to know it. It’s amazing all the things you do differently when you’re teaching as opposed to working in the field. Actions aren’t just automatic.”