The Distinguished Alumni Award is a prestigious honor given to alumnus for his or her ongoing efforts to benefit the school and the greater community. Eligibility for the Distinguished Alumni Award requires:
- At least one earned academic degree or diploma from Georgia Piedmont Tech
- Recognition for exceptional professional achievement
- Outstanding support of Georgia Piedmont Tech and its current students and alumni
- Nomination by Georgia Piedmont Tech faculty, staff, or alumni
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Brian Finzer: Alumni discovers his passion through motorcycle mechanics
Students arriving for class at Georgia Piedmont Technical College come in various modes of transportation. Some dually-enrolled students arrive on school buses, others take MARTA and some take bicycles or drive cars. However, few arrive in “biker-style” to class on a motorcycle. But those students come with a hunger for working on and fixing the two-wheeled motor bike.
One of those students was Brian Finzer, who found himself in Michigan in 2006 with not much more than craving to work on motorcycles. “I didn’t have a job. I pretty much took whatever I had in my pocket, packed up my car and moved down to Atlanta with my toolbox.”
He landed a job at a local motorcycle shop to make ends meet. In talking to his co-workers and new-found friends, he heard about what was then called DeKalb Technical College. He enrolled and had to work two jobs while going to college. That’s where he met Mike Sachs, the Motorcycle Service Technology instructor.
Sachs has been teaching at the college, now Georgia Piedmont Tech, for almost 30 years and knows how to rev up the students by boiling down his teaching philosophy to a simple thought: “This big complicated Harley (motorcycle) we’re looking at is comprised of hundreds of little machines. Each one of them can be taken apart, analyzed, enjoyed and understood. The more you understand the little machines, the more you understand the big machines.”
Learning those machines is no simple task. Finzer puts it succinctly. “Motorcycle class is a tough curriculum. You do your book work first, then you get to touch the motorcycles. That’s how Mike’s class went, and I loved it.”
Motorcycle Service Technology students earn 49 credit hours to get their diploma. The program takes about three terms. Sachs says some of his top students go on to engineering school after his course. Others go into the motorcycle repair field, and he says some of them end up finding other lines of work. But they all come into class and begin with the basics.
“We start this program assuming they’re not mechanics. We start with, ‘This is a motorcycle and this is a wrench,” says Sachs. He adds, “This is a job. You love to do it, but you need to make sure you do it right.”
Brian Finzer echoes that feeling but says this is a stringent program. “He’s teaching you the fun, but Mike is dead serious.”
Several years after going through Mike Sachs’ motorcycle class, which can also be called “lessons in life,” Brian Finzer has refined his passion for bikes and has moved into repairing and riding the non-motorized type of bike. For more than two years he’s focused his tools on bicycles while working at Free Flite – Atlanta Bike Shop. Looking back on his time in Mike Sachs’ class, he says the Motorcycle curriculum was tough. But more than a decade later he still hangs on to his textbooks, and refers to them.
Finzer was only two years old when Mike Sachs first came to teach at the college 30 years ago – first as an automotive instructor and then into teaching motorcycle mechanics. This is where his passion lies. It is a passion he tries to ignite in his students. Over the years he’s noticed a change in the type of students in his class. He says it makes his job all the more challenging and even more rewarding. “Now the majority of our students have never held a wrench or a screw driver before,” says Sachs.
The Motorcycle Technology program launched in the summer of 1998. In the past seven years, more than 300 students have enrolled in the program, according to data provided by GTPC’s Knowledge Management System (KMS). Finzer is just one success story in a three-decade long program that has produced many motorcycle mechanics.
The curriculum was conceived, developed, implemented and taught by long-time instructor Mike Sachs. As he ponders riding off into the sunset on the back of his BMW motorcycle, Sachs can rest assured that he has touched the lives and impacted the careers of hundreds of students like Brian Finzer who have passed through the doors of Georgia Piedmont Technical College.