Student Stories: Pete Surges

Pete Surges

Major: Graphic Design

As a boy, Pete Surges liked to draw—and most of the time, cars were his favorite subject. 

After high school his fascination turned to fixing cars. Surges worked as an auto mechanic for six years until he was diagnosed with pulmonary embolism. 

“This consists of severe blood clotting in my lungs and, due to that, I also had pneumonia and an enlarged heart,” he said. “Being on blood thinners put me at risk, because when working on cars I was always cutting myself. So I was forced to leave the automotive industry. 

“I was a bit confused on what to do as far as a career goes. But after some thought and with advice from my family, I decided why not take the hobby that I love and turn it into a career.” 

Surges tapped into his artistic skills and enrolled in the College of DuPage Graphic Design program, which he felt was the best in the Chicago area. His decision proved to be on target and he has flourished. In 2014, his submission for the Bike the Drive T-shirt competition was selected as the winner, and participants wore that T-shirt during the Chicago race. 

Three weeks after earning his associate degree and certificates, Surges landed a job at Billet Specialties. The company manufactures wheels and accessories for hot rods, street rods and muscle cars, and it has a child company named B-Forged Wheel that trends toward exotic cars. Surges works in the marketing department as the graphic designer. 

“Being in the automotive business is my passion, and combining this with my other passion as an artist and designer is amazing,” he said. “I always remember when I was in the Graphic Design program at COD that every time we had a critique, the students were always saying my work belongs in the automotive field. I can only thank John Callegari, David Chu, Brian Blevins, Jean Ruth and all the other instructors for putting me on the right path.” 

Surges has continued his education in graphic design, photography and videography, skills he uses on the job for advertising and marketing for multiple magazines and social media. As a result, he is currently back at COD pursuing another associate degree, this time in Interactive Media.

He advises other students to not be afraid of the hard work or be intimidated by life’s obstacles.

“The world is full of opportunities. You just have to find the right direction that suits you and go after what you want if you truly want it,” Surges said. “I believe everything happens for a reason, even the choices that we make in life, and that choice to enroll in the Graphic Design program changed things for my life and my family. COD gave new meaning to my life and what I stand for as a person and a student. The teachers in the program helped me set goals and pushed me to meet them over the years.

“This journey has been a blast as my skills and education continue to grow, thanks to College of DuPage. I get to work with a lot of hotrods and muscle cars, and that’s awesome. I stuck with the automotive industry and now I’ve got a job doing what I love to do. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun. I couldn’t wish for anything better.”

Learn more about the Graphic Design program at College of DuPage