Think you’re too busy to go back to school? Gary Malone wondered, too. But, like many students, he was attracted to the flexibility Rogue Community College offers, which allows non-traditional students to earn a degree while juggling full-time jobs and family responsibilities.
This spring, the RCC Foundation has named Gary as recipient of the 2021 RCC Outstanding Alumni Award—proof that the system works.
Like many young adults, Gary pursued other options after high school, most notably joining the U.S. Navy in the summer of 1975. Petty Officer 3rd Class Gary Malone served as a boiler technician and spent many months deployed in the Mediterranean before his honorable discharge in 1981.
A few years later, Biomass One in White City, Oregon, hired Gary as one of the first nine operators of the initial crew for the 25-megawatt wood-fired power plant.
That’s where Gary got connected to RCC.
“While on staff, it was recommended that I enroll in the Southern Oregon Boiler Operators JATC apprenticeship program,” he said. “I used that opportunity to work toward my associate degree in stationary engineering at RCC.”
Gary completed that degree in 1995, and a couple years later he secured an exciting new role as co-generation engineer for the University of Oregon.
Gary credits the skills he learned at RCC with helping him get the position at UO. “RCC gave me the confidence to apply for and get a better-paying job with great benefits and a retirement,” he said. “Before having my associate degree, I was just another guy with boiler and generator operations experience. I believe my degree helped me get this job.”
Gary said his studies at RCC prepared him to better manage both people and organizations. “RCC taught me how to interact more responsibly with diverse groups of people,” he said. “I also am able to apply classroom knowledge to real-world experience in the field.”
And the UO campus is reaping those benefits today.
As part of the Utilities and Energy department, Gary’s team is responsible for operating, monitoring and maintaining all services to the campus. “The campus is like a small city, typically supporting up to 30,000 people a day,” he said. “The electricity, water, steam, compressed air, and chilled water for air conditioning is all monitored and controlled at the central power station.”
In addition to his work, Gary has served as a union officer for 24 years, holding multiple positions including president. His current role is lead steward. Ultimately, Gary is a huge advocate for the value RCC offers to all students and especially to veterans and those who have been out of school for years.
“I say, go back to school. It is a lot different going back,” he said. “I couldn’t believe how much easier things are to accomplish when you are a little more mature. I graduated high school in 1975, and it took me 20 years to get my associate degree. And I am ever so grateful that I did. It gave me confidence in myself.”
The RCC Foundation honors the recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award at the annual President’s Circle Reception in September.