The problem is not what to say about Neal Grover. The problem is what to leave out of his story as an educator, which starts in the 1960s. There just isn’t enough space here. His abundant accomplishments and awards. Trails he blazed and “firsts” he reached. His early championing of I-CAR®
that accelerated its use in Utah. And, of course, the countless students he trained and inspired at his alma mater, Salt Lake Community College, and in industry.
“I’ve been teaching so long,” says Grover, “I’ve got grandchildren of former students in my class.” He hears frequently from students and follows their careers. He recalls one of his first female students who took his class “because she thought it would be fun,” and is now a collision shop manager. Others followed his lead and work for I-CAR, including “a good student who’s been a friend for years,” David Robinette, I-CAR Business Development Manager - Northwest. One talented student, Kirk Miller, recently surprised him by leaving a high-paying industry job to train as Grover’s replacement . . . that is, if this
retirement sticks. Grover has planned to retire before.
Although he turns 79 on August 7, Grover’s calendar is nearly as full as ever. He just covered an emergency assignment, preventing a session of Measuring (MEA01) from being canceled. In coming weeks, he’s booked to teach several industry classes. As an I-CAR instructor, he’s in great demand and has a large repertoire of I-CAR courses, with nearly 60 ITE exams to his credit. When classes resume at Salt Lake Community College, he’ll be there to mentor Miller in the finer points of teaching the PDP-EE™
At his core, “I always was a body man and it still works for me.” The car that launched Grover’s career was the best he could afford in high school, a “1941 Chevy with a lot of dents. I didn’t have $10 for a dolly, so I used a rock and a hammer and beat it into submission.” Grover’s life revolved around his car, and he enrolled in “vocational school to learn how to paint and how to ‘lead’ to build a contour.” He recalls, “You’d spend a week working on a hood back then. Today you just put on a new one.”
Grover racked up 2,022 hours of training in the rigorous auto body repair program at what is now Salt Lake Community College. He opened Grover’s Body and Fender Shop, but before long was drawn to teaching. After a stint with a program to retrain workers displaced by new technology, Grover returned to Salt Lake Community College’s original campus in 1965 to teach. He would also serve as Faculty President, Dean and recently was named Professor Emeritus.
In 1979, Grover became the first I-CAR instructor in Utah. He brought I-CAR training to his college students. The old ways of “heat it ‘til it drips, pull it ‘til it rips” were outmoded and I-CAR filled a void. “Before I-CAR, there was nothing to tell you the right way to do things.” He’s seen vast improvement from the tape recorder and slide carousels he used to lug to class for I-CAR courses. Now, online classes “can be done at home and there’s more time for hands-on learning.” Grover ranks his I-CAR gold service ring and induction in I-CAR’s Hall of Fame among his top accomplishments.
Grover also is proud of his education. The consummate “body man” was just as driven to be a first-rate educator, earning a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s in trade and industrial education from Utah State University. He’s been honored with many teaching awards from multiple organizations. One of his basic teaching tenets is: “Never go unprepared in the classroom.” If Grover’s taught a class a dozen times, he still reviews his teaching materials before presenting class.
The secret to teaching collision repair, Grover believes, is to break the process down into “mini-steps.” He says, “Collision repair work doesn’t come naturally to students. There’s so many facets to it, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. If you teach them to get the little steps right, then there’s no stopping them.”
As a founder of SkillsUSA (VICA) competition in Utah, Grover helped provide a proving ground for his students. Over the years, many of them earned national recognition and medals.
“I don’t know where the time went,” says Grover. More than most, Grover has left a lot of evidence where his time went, in the organizations he made stronger and the people he helped develop. It was time very well spent.