Rickey, 68, currently teaches Phase 4—Fundamentals of Solar—at The Refrigeration School. When he first came to RSI in June 2019, Rickey taught Phase 7, which covers commercial troubleshooting. Born in Lancaster, PA, Rickey came to Phoenix in 1972. He has over 40 years of experience in the HVAC field.
Thanks for your time, Ricky. Tell us a little about your career.
I’ve done just about everything in the HVAC field, but you’re always learning. I’ve mainly worked in the commercial and industrial HVAC field, but like most people, I started in residential. I’ve been into all kinds of things. I ran air conditioning departments for companies. I have my own contractor’s license, so I started three air conditioning companies for others because I had a license and they didn’t. I had my own business at one time. I’ve traveled throughout the United States doing jobs for different companies.
Is RSI your first teaching job?
I’ve been teaching people all my career. I would hire people who didn’t know anything and train them in the whole business, teach them how to do their jobs. Before I came to RSI, I worked for Central Arizona College. I was their Professor of Refrigeration Technology. They contracted me out to the Florence State Prison where I developed their air conditioning program. I taught HVAC to prisoners for over four years, trying to help them get a better job when they got out, to not go back to what they were doing before. So I’ve been teaching full-time for about seven or eight years. I don’t do field work anymore. I have people call me for advice, but I don’t do the work anymore.
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Why did you come to RSI last year?
They are closing the prison, so they didn’t renew my contract. I was familiar with RSI as I was a student here many years ago. It was back in the 90s. I came here when they started the EP stuff. I needed the certification because before that we didn’t need a license. I had already been out in the field for years when I came through the school, which is why I came out as Top Tech. I had a lot of experience.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I’ve been in this business a long time, and it’s been very good to me. I view teaching as giving back. If people are interested in learning, I like to give back to the community. I show people all the ins and outs, the tricks that I’ve learned over the years, so they can prosper from this field like I did.
What did you want to be when you were young?
When I was a kid I was into the outdoors. I still am. I just wanted to hunt and fish all the time. I guess I wanted to do something in that area. I don’t know if I really thought about it that much though.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you?
I don’t have many secrets! I’ve been working most of my life. I did a lot of work for some of the movie stars who live here in the valley, worked on their big mansions around Camelback Mountain. I’ve also worked on a lot of the casinos, but that’s not really anything special!
If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
Probably my parents. They’ve been gone quite a few years, and I miss them. They would be my first choice.
Tell us about your family.
My wife Kathleen and I have been married 50 years. I joke with her that if I’d been put in jail for something I’d be out by now! We had two daughters, but one of them passed away several years ago in 2013. My other daughter is gifted. She has a photographic memory, so she excelled through college with straight As and all that stuff. She works for an accounting firm now.
If you weren’t a teacher what would you be?
If I wasn’t teaching, I’d be hunting and fishing, traveling to different parts of the United States and Canada. I like the outdoor life, so that’s what I’d be doing.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to new students considering RSI?
Come to school every day willing to learn. Simple as that.
What was your favorite tool in the field?
It’s a toss-up between my meter and my temperature sensor. They were the first things I grabbed in the morning when I was in the field. I tell my students that “your meter is your friend.” Anytime you’re around electricity, you need to safely figure out if you have power or not. You need to have your meter with you all the time. That’s how people get electrocuted. They don’t have their meter with them to know if wires are live.
What was your favorite part of your time in the field?
The different things I got to do every day. That’s why I liked working commercial and industrial in particular. Something new to learn, something new to fix or figure out. It was something different every day. No day was ever the same. I’m the type of person that likes a challenge. When my job is no longer challenging, I’m not happy. As long as I have a challenge, I’m happy. I’ve been that way all my life.
You get an unexpected day to yourself, what would you do with that time?
I’d pick up my wife and take a drive up in the mountains, go on a little road trip or something. Maybe go fishing or go out to dinner, just spend time with my wife and family.
If you were to tell someone “thank you” for making you the man you are today, who would it be?
It would probably be my father, Leroy. He had his own auto shop and I used to work for him. He didn’t teach me about this industry, but he did teach me about work ethics, going to work every day, being on time every day. Doing your job to the best of your ability. He always said that you have to do the job right and be happy with what you’re doing. That’s good advice.