Special Report: an Executive Interview with Pete Kornafel, Chairman of the GAAS Scholarship Committee -
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Special Report: an Executive Interview with Pete Kornafel, Chairman of the GAAS Scholarship Committee

Throughout his career, Pete Kornafel has been a passionate advocate for students pursuing careers in the aftermarket industry and he and his wife Lorraine make a ‘hobby’ of funding college scholarships. For that reason, no other aftermarket executive is better suited to the role of chairman of the Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium (GAAS) Scholarship Committee than Pete Kornafel.

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By Amy Antenora

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Named an ‘Outstanding Business Leader’ by Northwood University in 2008, Pete Kornafel, along with his wife Lorraine, have their own special niche carved out of the automotive aftermarket. Kornafel has been involved in the automotive aftermarket for nearly more than four decades, starting out with Ford Motor Co. and eventually moving on to own Hatch Grinding Co., which he and Lorraine grew into a successful business by establishing distribution centers for automotive parts in Denver and Albuquerque, which served more than 100 CARQUEST Auto Parts stores. Since 2001, Kornafel has served as vice chairman of CARQUEST. Throughout his career, Pete has been a passionate advocate for students pursuing careers in the aftermarket industry and he and his wife Lorraine make a ‘hobby’ of funding college scholarships. For that reason, no other aftermarket executive is better suited to the role of chairman of the Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium (GAAS) Scholarship Committee than Pete Kornafel.

GAAS takes place each spring with proceeds going to fund the GAAS Scholarship program. The 2009 GAAS will take place May 6-7 in Chicago. Today, Kornafel shares a little bit more about the scholarship program – how far it’s come, and how much more can be done.

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All funds from the annual Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium (GAAS) go to support a very worthy cause — the GAAS Scholarship fund. The GAAS Scholarship reached a milestone few years back presenting 1,000 scholarships worth more than a million dollars in a 10 year period. What’s the new goal?

GAAS has made more than 1,400 scholarship awards for more than $1.4 million. My goal is to have our GAAS selection committee choose the most deserving candidates for whatever funds are available. I hope we’ll get to GAAS Scholarship number 2,000 in a few more years.

Another of my goals is to solicit collaboration from other people and organizations willing to fund scholarships for aftermarket career candidates. As always, we’ve got more good candidates than funds, and a great process in place to audit and review scholarship applications. I would welcome more organizations into our process.

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Wendy Breslow and the Breslow Foundation Pledge, the Art Fisher Memorial Scholarship Fund and repeated donations from the University of the Aftermarket Foundation, R.L. Polk & Co., ASC Industries and Zurich are outstanding examples. And, we’re having great success working with the state and regional wholesaler associations and with the Association of Diesel Specialists. This year, eight associations are collaborating with GAAS, including NYSAAA (New York) and KIAWA (Kentucky – Indiana) which recently announced their participation.

This is great for the applicants. One application at our website, www.automotivescholarships.com, is all that is required. That application will be considered by every organization where the applicant meets their eligibility requirement. In 2008, 20 applicants received multiple awards.

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Have you found an increase of applications due to the tough economic times? Also, are you seeing a change in the student/applicant profile?

We’ve still got about three weeks to go, but it appears the application count is ahead of last year at this time.

We are seeing more inquiries from candidates who graduated from high school many years ago, but who have lost jobs and are looking for help in training for a new career. Normally, GAAS requires candidates to be within two years of high school graduation. In prior years, we’ve made exceptions to that for candidates with military or religious service. This year, we are welcoming all applicants. The selection committee can review all complete applications and make awards as they see fit.

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What makes an applicant stand out? Is there a certain quality the GAAS Scholarship Selection Committee looks for?

GAAS’ first priority continues to be students clearly training for aftermarket careers as technicians or in any aftermarket role. Our second priority is to sons and daughters of industry families, regardless of their career path.

It is oversimplified, but a COMPLETE application is the first requirement. We require the online application, a short essay on the applicant’s career goals, school transcripts and at least one reference letter. We send an e-mail “jog” at least once a month to each person with an incomplete application. Even with that, each year we have several hundred applications that are incomplete, and those are not reviewed by the committee.

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My observation is that the selection committee is looking at the commitment and enthusiasm of the applicant. Volunteer work, part time jobs, extracurricular activities, Skills USA, all show a lot about each candidate. Reference letters from teachers and employers help the committee judge the applicant, too. And, even a brief essay can be very revealing about a candidate’s goals and dreams. Financial need matters, but this year everyone needs the help…

Can you share with us any success stories?

I’ve had correspondence with a few recipients as they’ve started their careers. I was also very pleased to receive a huge pile of thank you notes, cards and e-mails from almost every one of last year’s recipients. We have a new area on the www.automotivescholarships.com website for scholarship alumni to post their profile and check a box if they’re seeking employment.  

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You have been very vocal about encouraging industry collaboration in this program. How can aftermarket companies and individuals get involved?

Just contact me – [email protected] or 303-763-9004. We can work with donors and other organizations in a wide variety of ways. Here are a few examples…the University of the Aftermarket Foundation, Art Fisher Scholarship Fund, ASC Industries, R.L. Polk & Co., the Udell Family Foundation and Zurich fund awards. They each give our committee their priorities, and the GAAS selection committee chooses the recipients. GAAS handles the follow up with the recipients.

The Breslow Foundation and AAIA’s Leadership Development Network fund awards. They each specify their eligibility requirements, review applicants who meet those requirements and select their own recipients. GAAS does the follow up with the recipients.

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The state and regional associations and the Association of Diesel Specialists each review applicants that meet their qualifications, make their own selections and do their own funding and follow up to make the awards.

And, did I mention we have more deserving applicants than funds?

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