(WACO, Texas) – Thomas Pechal, of Temple retired in August 2019 from Temple Fire and Rescue, where he was a firefighter and paramedic and also worked with community education and public information.
A week later, he was attending Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus working on a new career in Environmental Technology and Occupational Safety Compliance Technology.
“In that line of work, you are training and studying and learning new topics while in class,” Pechal said. “That is part of what a firefighter’s responsibility is: learning new things, staying relevant, and practicing new skills.”
Pechal received Associate of Applied Science degrees in Environmental Technology – Compliance and Occupational Safety Compliance Technology this spring at TSTC. He is also the spring recipient of the Mike Torres Jr. Leadership Award.
Pechal said he enjoyed what he learned in the two programs, including confined space training and calibrating a monitor to take air sample readings. He did a required internship at MTC in Temple, specializing in forklift battery handling and food processing equipment.
“No matter what job you are doing, you have to do it safely,” Pechal said. “The role of the safety professional is to advocate for the worker and make sure they can do their job safely and go home at the end of their shift.”
Lester Bowers, TSTC’s statewide chair of the Environmental Health and Safety department, said he admires Pechal’s willingness to take on difficult and demanding assignments and his ability to think for himself.
“Thomas is goal-driven, works extremely hard, and has learned discipline, excellent time management and concentration, with the quality and preciseness of his work being a testament to it,” Bowers said. “He is one of the most reflective and thoughtful students I have had in my class.”
Pechal is currently doing job interviews in Central Texas.
“I am excited about the future, no matter what happens,” he said. “I am looking forward to this next phase in life after school. I can take the knowledge and skills and apply that to help other people stay safe in the work area.”
Pechal grew up in the Temple and Houston areas and is a graduate of Rogers High School and Temple Junior College.
The Mike Torres Jr. Leadership Award is given to honor the memory of Waco native Mike Torres Jr., who taught in TSTC’s Digital Media and Design program until his death in 2005. According to the Waco Tribune-Herald, Torres graduated from Bishop Louis Reicher Catholic High School and TSTC’s Commercial Art Advertising and Integrated Digital Image program.
The award signifies qualities that Torres was known for courage, honesty and integrity. The award is given each semester at commencement to a candidate for graduation who is nominated by TSTC faculty and staff members. It was first given in fall 2011, according to TSTC archival information.
For more information on TSTC, go to tstc.edu.