Little Red Schoolhouse marks 50 years of industry training

MORTON GROVE, ILL Bell & Gossett can trace its origins in the plumbing business to a plumber, said Ken Graham, who came to work for the company in 1953. "The plumber built a pump to take care of a hot water problem," Graham recalled. "Bell & Gosssett got a hold of it because he didn't know what to do with it." Graham, an early instructor at Bell & Gossett's Little Red Schoolhouse, was a featured guest

MORTON GROVE, ILL — Bell & Gossett can trace its origins in the plumbing business to a plumber, said Ken Graham, who came to work for the company in 1953.

"The plumber built a pump to take care of a hot water problem," Graham recalled. "Bell & Gosssett got a hold of it because he didn't know what to do with it."

Graham, an early instructor at Bell & Gossett's Little Red Schoolhouse, was a featured guest during a special event Aug. 26 to celebrate the school's 50th anniversary. Other guests and former instructors included Frank Gall and Bob DeWyze.

The company saw the need for an educational facility to provide solid and practical training for the industry. In 1954 the heating market was making the transition from steam to hot water.

In the last 50 years, the facility has trained more than 50,000 students in Morton Grove and more than 125,000 worldwide through its " traveling classroom" program, the company said. Little Red Schoolhouse students largely are Bell & Gossett customers: industry trade groups, consulting specifying engineers, mechanical contractors, wholesalers and end users.

Although the methods of training have changed since 1954 from a blackboard to computers and electronic projection, the educational principles and value to students have remained the same, the company said. Bell & Gossett last year retired the name "School of Living Comfort," which had been used since 1954 to describe one of its fourday classes.

Today, seven three-day courses ranging from Hydronics Basics to Design of Large Chilled Water Systems are offered. Classes include:

  • Modern Hydronics Basic Seminar;
  • Modern Hydronics Advanced Seminar;
  • Design of Commercial HVAC Systems Seminar;
  • Service and Maintenance Seminar;
  • Steam Systems Design Seminar;
  • Operation & Maintenance of Steam Systems; and
  • Large Chilled Water Systems Design Seminar.

"The key word is systems because we stress the systems concept," said Roy Ahlgren, director of training and education at ITT Industries' Fluid Handling Division. "We don't teach product features and benefits."

He added that the success of the Little Red Schoolhouse's programs is that no commercialism is practiced.

" Students come to learn about proper installation, maintenance and design techniques - they don't come to hear a sales pitch," he said.

Many graduates continue to use the materials and manuals they received in class many years ago to train others in their organizations, Ahlgren said. He estimated that graduates have used Schoolhouse material to educate more than 1 million industry professionals.

In addition to teaching the industry about the latest technologies, several industry innovations originated at the Schoolhouse, he said. Gil Carlson, a former instructor at the Schoolhouse, invented a number of hydronic products and system design concepts still in use today. Among Carlson's and other Bell & Gossett innovations are the SystemSyzer calculator, development of the primary-secondary pumping concept and identification of the "point of no pressure change" in a closed-loop system (or, "pumping away").

The Schoolhouse regularly updates its offerings to stay current. Two courses added to the curriculum in 2004 are Modern Hydronics Basic Seminar and Modern Hydronics Advanced Seminar.

Little Red Schoolhouse classes are filled months in advance and students must be sponsored by an ITT Fluid Handling representative. For more information on the Schoolhouse, call Bell & Gossett at 847/966-3700, or visit www.bellgossett.com.