Curt Utter Thankful for Milford Mentors

Curt Utter was destined for a career in an industrial-related field. After all, he spent countless hours in his father’s business, Butch’s Welding & Repair Shop on Main Street in Milford.

After graduating from Milford High School, Curt took advice from a school counselor to check out Southeast Community College. He enrolled in the Non-Destructive Testing Technology program and has worked in the field ever since.

“My dad’s welding repair shop did influence my career into NDT,” Curt said. “He always said that yes, you do get to create solutions for customers in welding, but it’s always a dirty business. Cleaning the shop from my elementary days up until graduating from SCC gave me an appreciation for a career in NDT. I also learned a work ethic in my dad’s shop, which has definitely helped in the ability to survive layoffs in the aircraft business.”

Curt also was influenced by cousins who took the program in the early 1980s “and enjoyed it.” And his first impression of SCC? He “was in awe, to say the least.”

“You grow up in the town, not really realizing what you’re walking into, and as you become familiar with the staff and your instructors, it becomes like home,” Utter said.

While at SCC, Curt was taught by men like Erv Woodard, Bill Wiley and Randy Walbridge. Woodard, who died in 2011, was an NDT instructor who later served as chairman of Doing Better Inspections, a Lincoln company. Walbridge recently retired as chair/instructor of the program, and Wiley is still a program instructor.

“These men will forever be my NDT mentors,” Curt said. “They have my gratitude for molding me into the inspector I am today. Each one of them was unique in their method of instruction, and they truthfully taught us how it would be in the industry. They trained us to study and follow our instinct over what we learned. The theory and applications were programmed into our heads so we could make the right decision based on the circumstance.”

Utter noted other Milford Campus employees who impacted him, including Business Instructor Sheryl Piening Keller, Physical Plant employee John Stabenow “for his helpful advice,” Placement Coordinator Gerald Eigsti (“a sage in disguise”), and “our beloved Larry Meyer, Dean of Students. He was the best!”

After graduating from SCC in 1996, Utter took a job in Bensenville, Illinois, a village located near O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. There he worked for Visual Inspection Technologies (which later became Everest VIT and then acquired by General Electric). He worked with remote industrial visual inspection technologies such as video crawlers, borescopes and retrieval tools.

“Our three-man field office covered 13 states, and at that time the company had only five offices throughout the United States,” he said.

For the past 25 years, Utter has worked at Wichita’s Textron Aviation, whose products include Beechcraft and Cessna. He’s still in the NDT department, but after seven years in a lead position, he changed jobs.

“I decided I needed to be humbled and return to receiving job duties rather than handing them out,” said Utter, who holds four company NDT Level III testing certifications in Liquid Penetrant, Magnetic Particle, Ultrasonic, and Eddy Current, with a Level II in Radiography.

For decades, SCC’s program, and a handful of others around the country, has been called Non-Destructive Testing Technology, but most high school students don’t know what it is. Utter said there are many opportunities for those who hold a degree in NDT.

“It is a challenging program that will test your perseverance in a field with endless possibilities for (job) placement,” he said. “Our young people deserve to be told that the vocational trade jobs are perfect starters for future careers in other fields. Many folks will start in NDT and get a job with a company that will pay for tuition for a future career position that will benefit the company as well as the individual. I was content to stay at the floor level, supporting my team with experience that was lost with others advancing themselves into engineer positions.”

Utter said the last time he was on the Milford Campus was 1998.

“Since my father passed in 2014, it’s hard to return to those memories,” Curt said. “But maybe one day.”

Utter and his wife, Celeste, have two children. “My daughter and my son are the joys of my life.” Curt said.

Stu Osterthun
Administrative Director of Marketing & Communications