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A dream undeterred

Jul 1, 2007 12:00 AM

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For the past decade, U.S. schools have struggled to attract students into into their baccalaureate programs in the graphic arts. It's a challenge that soon will extend beyond the classroom and to the boardroom.

“We need 60,000 people every year just to replace those in printing [and related industries] who retire or leave the field,” RIT's Frank Romano told the Electronic Document Systems Foundation (EDSF) scholarship luncheon attendees at the OnDemand show. “It's a serious problem. Without these students, we're going to be at a disadvantage. We need the new thinking they bring to bear.”

Following in Dad's footsteps

Romano then shared the story of David J. Jimenez, a seven-year employee with what is now Moore Wallace, an RR Donnelley Co. The two first met when Romano spoke at Jimenez's graduation from the High School of Graphic Communication Arts in New York City's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood.

Becoming a printer was an early aspiration. “I knew I wanted to be in the printing industry since I was 12 years old,” Jimenez says. “My father had been in the industry since 1972 and my mother, four brothers and I always had food on the table and a roof over our heads. I knew it was an industry where I could provide for a family.”

During high school, Jimenez worked at the same company as his father, gaining practical experience in imposition, film assembly, camera work and plate making. He enjoyed the work, but he wanted to go further. “My father had done very well with his high school diploma, but I could see the world and the industry was changing,” Jimenez explains. “I could wait for a company to bring in new technology and learn about it then. Or, I could go to school and see what else was out there. I always knew I wanted to go to RIT. I just took a different route to get there.”

Jimenez enrolled in a two-year community college in Rochester, NY, with the goal of completing his basic coursework and transferring to RIT. “I was always preparing myself for that,” says Jimenez. “I knew that's where I wanted to go and that's where I needed to be.”

Jimenez did well in the two-year program and entered RIT. He paid for his education with two part-time jobs, scholarships, grants and student loans.

He remained focused on his school work — “My best year was my senior year,” he says — but also found the time to look for a full-time job for after college. “I interviewed with 65 companies and had 22 second interviews and 12 job offers. I did this to get experience with interviewing with companies,” he says.

“I was very proud to shake David's hand as he came down from the stage [on graduation day],” recalls Romano. “He worked very hard to get that degree.”

After three years of working in the industry, Jimenez returned to RIT to earn his master's degree. He became a certified operator on several digital devices and did extensive testing for some major imaging companies.

“We helped Dave find some scholarships,” says Romano. “He worked in the Printing Applications Laboratory running digital equipment. We also had him teaching some seminars and courses. He graduated, and again, I was very proud to stand at the edge of the stage and shake his hand.”

Prior to graduation, Jimenez, who also took out student loans, was working a full-time job and going to school part time.

Making the cut

In 2000, Jimenez joined Wallace Computer Services as a Research Graphic Analyst, where he helped the company transition to digital imaging. In January 2003, Wallace merged with Moore and dissolved Jimenez's group. “I was fortunate enough to join the Business Communication Solutions division,” Jimenez explains. “I still helped with digital solutions, but I started working closely with vendors on cost analysis specific to transactional data work.”

In late 2003, Moore Wallace merged with RR Donnelley, and, as Romano put it, “Once again, Dave made the cut.”

About a year and a half ago, Jimenez joined the company's Application Engineering Group. “It's more than just imaging,” says Jimenez. “Now, I'm looking at mailing, packaging and sorters, IT solutions, and working with databases.”

Jimenez, who was inspired by his father's work ethic, recently became a father himself — he and his wife, Kim, welcomed their first child, Isabella, a year and a half ago. “I'm very fortunate and happy with my educational experience,” he says. “It's helped me become who I am.”

Romano concurs. “Dave is in his job today because of the donations you've made to EDSF and other educational institutions' scholarship programs,” he told the group at the fundraising luncheon. “He would not have this job, his wonderful wife and child, he would not be a phenomenal contributor to this industry without your help. So please give, and give deeply.”