Chris Lexow initially went to college to study architecture.
“I quickly realized that I was a hands-on learner and enjoyed fixing things,” he said. “The heating/ ventilation/air conditioning/ refrigeration industry is where I could do this while providing a great life for me and my family.”
Lexow worked his way up through the industry. His first job was sweeping the shop floor and running parts. From there, he moved his way through residential and commercial work before moving into industrial service.
“I continued my education through the 20 years I was in the field. I ended my career as a service manager at several of the largest mechanical contractors in the Chicago area,” he said. “Through this entire process, I always made it a point to work with and teach the younger apprentices that their characters, work ethic and ambition were often more important than their technical skills.”
Teaching happened by accident. One of Lexow’s apprentices called and suggested that he contact Bob Clark, Assistant Professor, HVACR, at College of DuPage. Lexow did and was hooked after Clark shared his vision of the program.
“This is by far the best part of the industry that I have been involved in,” he said. “It is fun to be part of something larger than myself. There is so much that I bring into my classes that can’t be taught out of a book. I have a very good understanding of the industry and what contractors are looking for in an employee. These ‘soft skills’ are just as important as learning the curriculum in the book, and knowing them will give students an advantage when starting their careers.
“I also hope that students can learn from my mistakes, because I am not afraid to tell them the stories of things I have done wrong. Everybody must check their pride at the door. My career was possible because I exhibited tremendous work ethic, ambition and attitude. These are the things one cannot teach and is something I burn into my students’ heads.”
Lexow enjoys getting to know his students and seeing their progress from the time they enroll until they land jobs.
“I tell all of my students that I don’t want to be just a teacher to them, I want to be a mentor,” he said. “This is a relationship that lasts far beyond the walls of the College after they graduate. I am always available for advice, which is why all of my students have my cell phone number. It is great to watch them continue to grow as technicians after they graduate.”