Steve Ellisor has $12,000 to show for his outstanding academic record at Universal Technical Institute. He has his hard work, coupled with the generosity of race team owner Roger Penske and the Universal Technical Institute Foundation, to thank for it.
Ellisor, a recent UTI graduate from the Avondale, Ariz. campus, has been selected to receive the Roger Penske Outstanding Student Award. The honor rewards academic success, impeccable attendance, leadership qualities and outside service over the course of a student's education.
Ellisor, a 31-year-old father of two and former Marine, is humbled and grateful for the cash award.
"It was kind of like a lottery winning," Ellisor said. "It was like, 'Wow.' I'm extremely, extremely grateful. I'm still kind of blown away by it."
Ellisor admits that his accomplishments and ultimately the award didn't come easy, but his drive and ambition to succeed as an automotive technician kept him focused. He and his family plan to relocate to South Carolina to be closer to family.
But, before using the money to pay down debts or purchase new tools, Ellisor decided to donate $500 of his award back to the UTI Foundation in honor of UTI's founder Robert Sweet.
"Without him, and his vision, I couldn't even of had this opportunity," Ellisor said of Sweet, who passed away earlier this summer.
Don Ableson, UTI Foundation president and board chairman, said Ellisor is a wonderful reflection of who the Penske Outstanding Student Award is designed for. Ableson said Ellisor's desire to immediately give back speaks to his character.
"Most students could care less about something like that. I'm very impressed with this young man. We hope he'll go far." Ableson, one of three members on the Penske Award committee, said. "It's wonderful to see people with that kind of mental attitude and to have those qualities that he has shown."
The Penske Award was created in 2008 with a $100,000 donation, and it is awarded twice a year to the top student across all 11 UTI campuses.