WC Continuing Educ coordinator's love of learning results in diverse job history.
From superintendent of schools to welding, from milking cows to transporting prisoners – Terry Pilgrim has done it all.
Pilgrim’s job experience is so lengthy and diversified his resume is seven pages long and includes a laundry list of his education endeavors including two master’s degrees, educational administration certifications, welding certifications and a TCLEOSE license officially ranking him as an officer of the law.
“When I went back for my second master’s I thought, ‘I miss this,’” he said. “The stress was great.”
Pilgrim is currently employed by Weatherford College as the coordinator in charge of industrial programs within the Workforce and Continuing Education program. He oversees the welding, HVAC and electrical programs as wells as equine classes.
Originally from Mineral Wells, Pilgrim’s working days began at the ripe old age of 11 mowing lawns.
“When you got old enough, and 12 was the magic age for some reason, you found a job,” he said. “And if you didn’t find a job, Daddy found a job for you. You would much rather you find it than him find it.”
At 12, he picked peaches for 25 cents a bushel which totaled about $1.25 an hour. He then upgraded to work as a carpenter’s helper for $3.75 an hour before spending a summer working at McMurry Ranch north of Palo Pinto.
“I went there with a green horse, and I was a green kid, and we both grew up that summer,” Pilgrim said. “It was quite an experience.”
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At 14, he spent his weekends working the sale barn in Mineral Wells, a job he continued as needed through college. At 17 he went to work for a pipeline company during any and all school breaks. He held that job for six years and left as the highest paid temporary employee the company had ever had and an open job offer if he wanted to come back on full-time.
While attending Tarleton State University, Pilgrim spent a semester as a towel boy in the gym as part of a work-study program. During his sophomore and junior years he milked cows.
“My spring semester of my sophomore year I carried 21 hours and milked cows twice a day,” Pilgrim said. “I had no time for anything else. I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and was off to milk the cows by 4. I was at school by 8 a.m. and home by 4 p.m. to milk the cows again.”
During summers, he worked 80 hours a week in his menagerie of jobs.
“I had to make the money,” he said. “If I was driving, I was putting gas in my pickup. If I was spending money, I had to be making money.”
After earning his bachelor’s in agriculture education, Pilgrim found a job as an ag teacher in Perrin-Whitt ISD, only 15 miles from home. As soon as he began teaching he knew he wanted to further his own education and started work on his first master’s degree.
“I competed that in two years,” Pilgrim said. “I went as much as I could stand to. Which was none in the spring semester because of all the activities that are ag related. I loaded up on classes when I could.”
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After 16 years teaching in Perrin-Whitt, Pilgrim wanted a change so he left teaching to work as a welder. But it wasn’t long before the urge to teach was nagging at him.
He was hired to teach in the East Texas town of Pineland, and as soon as he took the job he knew he had made the wrong decision. He didn’t like the climate of East Texas and longed to move closer to home. In each job interview he went to he was told that he had too much experience to work as an ag teacher, so back to school he went.
Pilgrim attended Stephen F. Austin University, where he pursued his second masters and earned his principal certification. He spent the summers interviewing for jobs and finally received an offer as a secondary principal in Broaduss, a whole 12 miles from where he lived. It wasn’t home, but it was one step in the right direction.
“I spent six years there and helped build a new secondary campus,” Pilgrim said. “I had a great experience there, but all along the way I was looking and interviewing for principal or superintendent positions closer to home. I kept my education going to become superintendent certified. Along the way it was just building on the masters that I had. I was extremely close to my Ph.D.”
His hard work and patience paid off when he accepted a superintendent position in Evant ISD, back in Central Texas and only about a two-hour drive from home. One of the highlights of his time at Evant was a visit from then-President George W. Bush.
“He was very impressive,” Pilgrim said.
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All was well for two years until a new set of school board members were voted in and decided their vision for the district didn’t include Pilgrim as superintendent.
“They made it inviting for me to leave,” he said. “And the state of Texas decided I had 30 years of experience, which I didn’t, but there are ways to do that, and I retired at age 50.”
Retirement didn’t stop Pilgrim from working. He quickly took a job with Corrections Corporation of America, a pre-release facility that was in Mineral Wells at the time, as an instructor for a GED program. He taught inmates who were on a fourth to sixth grade level. He didn’t find the task challenging enough and asked for a transfer. He then taught a DWI course for inmates in jail for drunk driving charges.
Six months later, Pilgrim took a job driving a dump truck for an oil field service company and then went back into corrections as a jailer with the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Department. He also transported federal prisoners. His work with the inmates inspired him so much he enrolled in the Weatherford College Law Enforcement Academy.
At age 54, Pilgrim was the oldest student in his class by a full decade but that didn’t stop him from constantly outrunning the younger cadets.
After years in education, driving trucks and learning the ropes of law enforcement, Pilgrim took on the most difficult job of his life – a stay-at-home parent.
“I was Mr. Mom,” Pilgrim said. “I worked, maybe three days a week, welding in the morning and was home in the afternoon when the kids got home from school.”
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Pilgrim has two sons from his first marriage and two daughters from his second. The girls were in elementary and high school at the time.
Not one to keep any openings in his schedule, Pilgrim also took up substitute teaching and applied for a full-time job in administration with Mineral Wells ISD. When that didn’t work out he went back to work for an oil field supply service company before working his way back full circle to “Mr. Mom.”
“Along the way I found out Weatherford College needed a welding instructor,” Pilgrim said.
Four years ago, Pilgrim began his new career with WC and quickly advanced to his current coordinator position. His youngest daughter will move out of the house in a few years and that will bring on a new set of changes and maybe even a new career. He leaves his options open.
“I enjoy what I do,” Pilgrim said. “I enjoy being around young people. Who knows what the future is going to bring.”
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