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Finishing Spotlight: 1st Annual Gebhardt Award

October - 2008
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The 2008 Southern Metal Finishing Conference, September 14-16 in Charleston, SC, ended on a jovial note, with an awards ceremony and luncheon the final day of the show. There were many prizes to be handed out - from golf and scavenger hunt awards (I-pod shuffles!), and a special award presented to Travis Stirewalt of Tiger Drylac in recognition of 5 years of excellence and service through powder coating instruction.

Once the awards were handed out, Paul Fisher, Executive Director of the Surface Finishing Academy - a sponsor of the conference - and publisher of Finishing Talk, announced from the podium that a new award was to be presented on behalf of Finishing Talk. Mr. Dustin Gebhardt of Charlotte, NC is the recipient of the first ever Gebhardt Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Surface Finishing Community.

As one of Finishing Talk’s most avid forum contributors, it was only fitting that he receive recognition for the seemingly endless advice, tips, and assistance he has provided forum members since the inception of the web site almost two years ago. This honor will continue to be bestowed in subsequent years upon Finishing Talk community members who give of themselves through their time and expertise to benefit others in the surface finishing community.

Dustin, a native of San Diego, CA, “somehow managed to survive” high school and street racing his Datsun 280ZX, while pursuing his passion and feeding his curiosity through Chemistry. After attending UCSD on a full academic scholarship, he graduated in 2001 with his BS in Biochemistry/Chemistry. Not wanting to be cooped up all day in a research lab like his friends, many of which went on to work in the pharmaceutical and medical industries, Gebhardt wound up as a Lab Tech for a plating company in Vista, CA. “I had been working there for a year or two when I was introduced to A Brite Company. With their extensive support and mentoring, I gained much of my foundation on plating.”

During this time, Dustin also finished his CEF coursework, becoming a Certified Electro Finisher. He gradually became more involved in the daily polishing, plating, powder coating, and wastewater treatment operations that his company performed. Dustin’s next job was at a small factory in Tijuana, MX. But when that company started having financial problems, he approached his friends at A Brite for a job recommendation— and ended up with a job!

Dustin spent the next two years working for A Brite out of Yuma, AZ, covering the Southwest US and Northwest Mexico regions. During this time, he gained additional knowledge and experience with a variety of finishing processes. However, with 4 kids, and a wife at home, traveling daily started to become a strain on him and his family, so he sought a more stable position. This brought him to his current job as Value Stream Engineer (Plating Engi-neer) for Danaher Tool Group in Gastonia, NC.

“We left Arizona wearing shorts and sandals with a temperature in the 70’s, and arrived in Charlotte to a light snow storm. Talk about a change in scenery.” Gebhardt says that he first learned about Finishing Talk through Paul Fisher, whom he met for the first time at the Los Angeles Powder Coating School (sponsored by the Surface Finishing Academy) while he was still working for A Brite. “When I moved to NC, I realized he was just down the road, and we met up several times. He mentioned his ideas for an online forum and I signed up when it went live. The rest, as they say, is history.”

In addition to a successful career in metal finishing, Dustin enjoys spending time with his family - 5 year old twin boys, 3 years old and 1 year old daughters, and his beautiful wife. As far as pets go, they are down to two dogs and a large freshwater fish tank.

Dustin spends his free time on “tinkering in the garage”, working on his car, woodworking, computers, fish-keeping, camping, and on role-playing games. “But all of those take a back seat to hanging out with the kids, where I am a coach for the boys’ flag-football team and unofficial cheerleader for my daughter’s gymnastics class. First and foremost, I am a family man.”

Dustin hopes to stay in the metal finishing industry for a long time. He aspires to acquire the skills and knowledge possessed by the “gurus” that he’s met along the way, including Bruce Anderson, Scott Dunigan, Bob Kosier, Larry Farnsworth, and Dianne Patterson.