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2024 Hall of Fame: Lon Phillips

June 7, 2024

Lon Phillips was born in the city of Chicago and raised from the age of 4 in Schaumburg, IL. His upbringing was infused with a love for tinkering, instilled by his father, who was an auto mechanic. Surrounded by cars and the racing world, Lon’s early years were marked by a fascination with mechanics and engineering. Throughout his youth, Lon also immersed himself in competitive ice hockey, displaying a determination and drive that would carry over into his professional endeavors.

During his freshman year of high school, he discovered his passion for working with engines, taking his father’s self-propelled lawnmower apart and successfully putting it back together in his first shop class. This initial foray into mechanics laid the foundation for Lon’s future career path. Inspired by a guest speaker from Wyoming Tech during his junior year, Lon set his sights on pursuing a career in the diesel field. With the help of a scholarship from the George M. Pullman Educational Foundation, along with support from his family, Lon enrolled at Wyoming Tech immediately after graduating from Schaumburg High School. Lon’s dedication and commitment to his studies were evident as he achieved perfect attendance and graduated from Wyoming Tech in December 1982. During his time there, he also rekindled his passion for hockey, receiving a contract to play for the Chicago Hornets upon graduation. However, fate intervened when Lon received a job offer in Atlanta while visiting his brother in January 1983. Seizing the opportunity, Lon made the decision to relocate to Atlanta and embark on a new chapter in his career. His first job with Jasper Construction Company involved working on a fleet of 60 dump trucks and heavy equipment, laying the groundwork for his expertise in the drivetrain aspect of the industry.

Over the years, Lon’s career trajectory saw him delve into various facets of the diesel and heavy equipment sector, including roles in heavy equipment manufacturing, and even a stint as a Snap-on Tool franchise owner. His thirst for knowledge led him back to school at the age of 37, where he earned a Machine Tool and Manufacturing Process Degree with honors. In May 2019, Lon seized the opportunity to start a Diesel Equipment Technology Program from scratch at Lanier Technical College, assuming the role of Program Director and Instructor. Under his leadership, the program has flourished, with student participation growing substantially and earning notable achievements in SkillsUSA competitions. Today, Lon’s passion for teaching and mentoring the next generation of diesel technicians continues to drive his work at Lanier Technical College, where he remains dedicated to shaping the future of the industry.

As an esteemed figure in the field of diesel technology, Lon offers sage advice to the young students under his tutelage. His words of encouragement resonate with a simple yet profound message: diligence and commitment are the keys to success. To his students, Lon emphasizes the importance of punctuality and reliability, urging them to show up to work on time and avoid absenteeism. He stresses the value of hard work and going above and beyond what is expected, highlighting that these qualities are within everyone’s grasp, regardless of skill level. Lon paints a picture of the rewards awaiting those who heed his advice. By demonstrating dedication and exceeding expectations, students can expect to be recognized for their efforts, leading to potential raises, promotions, and invaluable learning opportunities when they enter the workforce. Above all, Lon’s message underscores the fundamental truth that success in the diesel industry is not solely dependent on technical skills, but also on attitude, work ethic, and a willingness to continually strive for excellence. Through his guidance and wisdom, Lon empowers his students to chart a course towards a fulfilling and prosperous career in diesel technology.