Journey was life-changing for JWCC grad Hufford

Randy Hufford stands in front of his employer, Titan Wheel. Hufford won the WGEM/JWCC Career Makeover in 2015 and graduated from John Wood Community College on Friday night. The experience helped him receive several promotions and an opportunity to help teach classes at JWCC. | H-W Photo/Michael Kipley
By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 19, 2017 10:20 pm Updated: May. 19, 2017 10:27 pm

QUINCY -- Originally, Randy Hufford wanted to make a difference in his own life.

Now, he hopes his example can make a difference in other people's lives, too.

Hufford, 50, graduated Friday night from John Wood Community College, two years after winning the WGEM/JWCC Career Makeover competition.

Hufford's journey has seen him not only further his education in manufacturing, but earn two promotions at Titan International. He will also help teach some courses at JWCC.

Hufford wanted to become more involved in the "technology" side of manufacturing after working on the floor as a welder for most of his 30 years at Titan.

Having now moved to an office role in design -- thanks to his added education -- Hufford is the perfect liaison between the workers on the floor and those in the front office.

Hufford's road to a degree in manufacturing technology at JWCC was far from a piece of cake, although his "high honors" academic status might suggest otherwise.

There were plenty of 60-plus-hour weeks of working at Titan and attending classes at JWCC. The support of his wife of 20 years, Anne, helped make the two-year journey possible.

"I can remember lying on the couch and seeing the commercials on TV about the Career Makeover and telling my wife that maybe I should try that," Hufford said. "My wife kept telling me I should, so I finally entered."

When he was eventually selected as the 2015 winner, he was, in his own words, "blown away."

"I had never won anything," Hufford said.

The annual Career Makeover winner has up to 68 credit hours, plus fees and books, covered by the JWCC Foundation.

"The Career Makeover isn't just a competition, it is a life-changing event," said Carlos Fernandez, WGEM vice president and general manager.

Hufford agrees wholeheartedly.

"(The additional education) has improved every aspect of my life," Hufford said. "I wish I could tell everyone -- get the education."

Hufford expected the graduation exercise to be emotional.

"I'm already a little nervous about it," he said prior to the ceremony. "My family has continued to support me and tell me how proud they are of me. I know I was a pain to live with at times."

Hufford said his self-esteem and self-confidence are both much higher.

"I'm a better person now," he said. "Education has done so much for me. It's been one heckuva ride, and it's going to continue."

Hufford said he is "willing to talk to anyone" about trying to better themselves, and that's why he is so anxious to begin his teaching duties at JWCC. He will use his talents -- and message -- to help manufacturing technology students at the college.

"I'm really looking forward to that," he said. "It's definitely a way of paying it forward."

JWCC graduation ceremonies were Friday evening in the Student Activity Center at the 48th and Harrison campus.

JWCC conferred 343 associate degrees and 237 certificates. JWCC president Mike Elbe conferred degrees and certificates and Larry Fischer, chairman of the JWCC Board of Trustees, accepted candidates as graduates.

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