John Peck was among the first Greenville Tool and Die workers to earn a certificate at Montcalm Community College.
Peck began working in a grocery store in eighth grade for 65 cents per hour. Learning that Greenville Tool and Die offered $1 per hour in the summer between 10th and 11th grade, he switched jobs. After graduating from high school, he worked full-time at Greenville Tool and Die because “the shop was more interesting than going to college,” he says.
“At that time, no apprenticeship-related training classes were offered locally. Everyone went to Grand Rapids and you waited your turn. My turn did not come up until 1963. Stan Ash, Greenville Tool and Die owner, saw that there was a local need to get MCC going, and that is how I wound up at MCC,” he says.
Greenville Tool and Die paid for his classes at MCC because he was an apprentice, but he still had to study outside of work time. Because most of the apprentices worked nights, the related classes were held on Saturday mornings.
“After being away from schooling for several years, there was a bit of apprehension going back to the classroom. As I took evening classes, most of the students were in the same boat, which made it easier. The instructors were very good at dealing with adult students,” he says.
He enjoyed all the classes he took, particularly remembering science and physical education courses. He also found that his English and writing courses helped him in the future.
Peck earned a Tool and Die Maker Certificate in 1967. Ten years later, he earned an Associate of Arts & Sciences.
“After MCC, I continued on at Greenville Tool and Die and worked there for over 25 years. It was a great place to work and I learned a lot. Charlie Randall, Stan Ash, Bill Arntz and Dale Hartway were just good people to work with. I have been fortunate to have visited die shops in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, China and Korea; I would put Greenville Tool and Die at the top.”
After leaving the die business, Peck managed engineering groups for about eight years and automotive supplier plants for more than a decade.
“All my years in manufacturing have been in some way involved with the automotive business, and it started with Greenville Tool and Die, as they have specialized in automotive stamping dies for years,” he says.
Peck then taught Machine Tool, Tool and Die, Industrial Maintenance and Welding at Tennessee College of Applied Technology for six years. He took an 18-month break from teaching and was Corporate Tooling Manager for a Japanese-owned Company. He currently teaches the same classes on a substitute basis. He also has his own business instructing in tool and die repair as well as doing consulting work with International Organization for Standardization (ISO) documentation and auditing.
“My personal success is based on who I have helped along the way and relaying my experiences, over the last 50-plus years, to others,” he says.
After living in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Georgia and Alabama, Peck now resides in Shelbyville, Tenn., with his wife, Grace Rohlf. He has three children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.