||As Joseph Yurko neared his graduation date, the Valley Forge High School student knew he wanted to be an engineer and thought he could get a good start by enrolling at the nearby Western Campus of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®).
The main building on the Parma campus was under construction and a few outbuildings from the old Crile Hospital complex were still standing when Yurko walked to classes in the fall of 1973. “The classes were small and the teachers were very good,” said Yurko. “They were very supportive of your efforts and easy to relate to.”
Yurko attended full time his first quarter – the College was on quarters in those days – then reduced his course load when he got a job. “There were plenty of courses offered at night and on Saturdays so I could get everything I needed to take,” he said.
In fact, Yurko earned even more credits than he needed for his Associate of Arts degree in 1977. His class was the first to graduate from the Western Campus after its dedication in 1975.
Transferring to Cleveland State University was seamless, and with all the non-major requirements out of the way, Yurko concentrated on courses in his major, chemical engineering. Yurko found that he was well-prepared for his upper-level math and science courses; however, he noticed that the larger class sizes at CSU provided much less student-teacher interaction than at Tri-C.
While Yurko attended classes at night, he also worked full time for H.K. Ferguson, a downtown engineering firm that covered 80 percent of his college expenses. Yurko graduated with his Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering in May 1981 and Ferguson made him an offer he could not refuse. He passed his professional engineering license exam and stayed with the firm through various owners and name changes until 2002, when he joined Ben Venue Laboratories in Bedford.
Away from the office, Yurko is active in the local chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and takes part in Scouting with his wife and two children.
Yurko described his Tri-C experience this way: “By taking a diversity of classes at Tri-C, I began to see things from many different angles and points of view. This opened me up to new ideas. It was the path less traveled and it made all the difference.”