Retail Bakers of America president, bakery director of Kings Supermarkets, Parsippany, N.J., and AIB graduate Ken Downey delivered the keynote address.
The 181st class of Baking Science and Technology students graduated from AIB International, Manhattan, Kan., on Dec. 14. The intensive, 16-week program teaches bakery ingredient functions, the science of baking, quality management, process control, cost calculation and reduction, food safety and basic finance.
Retail Bakers of America president, bakery director of Kings Supermarkets, Parsippany, N.J., and AIB graduate Ken Downey delivered the commencement speech, during which he lauded the training he and fellow graduates receive at AIB.
“Twenty four years ago this month, I sat where you are sitting,” said Downey, who self-sponsored graduate of class 55. “And 24 years later here I am and I wouldn’t change anything. This was absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I don’t have to tell you that because you all just lived it. When we started the first two weeks I think we lost seven people because it was too hard for them so they went home. And I spent the next two weeks thinking I was going to be the eighth person going home. But just like you I made it, and I made it work for me.”
"This (degree) is the gold standard in the baking business," Downy said in his speech. "Self-sponsored students--use it. Get jobs, move ahead. Company-sponsored students--go back, get promoted, become a boss. Now you have the knowledge to do it. Don't take it for granted."
Of the 37 graduates, only 10 are from the United States, with the rest hailing from such countries as Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Peru, Mexico and the Philippines. Two of the graduates were self-sponsored; the rest were sponsored by baking and equipment companies including SPC Group, Grupo Bimbo, Flowers Foods, Tasty Choice and Yamazaki Baking Co. Many will return to their companies with promotions and new responsibilities in recognition of the training and skills they acquired at AIB.
“The AIB diploma in the baking industry is the same as a Harvard MBA for a guy going for a job on Wall Street,” Downey said. “This diploma will open doors for anything you want to do in the business. I’m living proof of that.”
One of the self-sponsored students worked full time at Walmart during his 16-week training at AIB to pay his tuition. He was offered a job at Flowers Foods, which begins this week. The other student, from Japan, plans to return home to find a job.
“We typically have just a handful of self-sponsored students each class,” says Kirk O’Donnell, vice president of education at AIB International. “One of our major goals is to grow that number.” AIB offers financial assistance in the form of scholarships ranging from $500 to full tuition from corporations, clubs, professional organizations and individuals.
The ceremony and preceding student dinner were rife with cheers, congratulations and laughter, as graduates supported one another and traded jokes about lab fires, mastering time management, late-night parties and forgotten product that burned to a crisp.
The 37 graduates brought family members, loved ones, mentors and friends from around the world to help them celebrate.
“Sixteen weeks is an extremely long time to be away from our friends and family,” said class president Louie Hartley during his speech. “But during the last four months, we have been a family here at AIB.”
Faculty members encouraged graduates to keep in touch with one another and AIB despite that they will be thousands of miles apart after returning home. And Downey stressed the importance of getting involved in the bakery industry through local associations.
“Get involved,” he said. “Go back to where you live and join your bakery associations. There are baking associations throughout the United States and throughout the world. Give a little back so that the industry is here for the next class and the next class and the next class. I promise you, whatever you put in, you’ll get back twofold.”
During the student dinner on Dec. 13 at the Manhattan Country Club, faculty gave out light-hearted awards to students and faculty. Achievements included "creative design in delayed yeast," the "bunsen burner" award for burnt product and "school's biggest cheerleader" award to Ken Embers, manager of career development, who will retire this year after attending his 55th graduation.