ShareThis Page

Greensburg man meets Jay Leno, who's paying his tuition

| Sunday, June 22, 2014, 11:11 p.m.
Rick Morchesky of Greenburg and comedian Jay Leno meet at a West Coast car show. Morchesky is the recipient of the Jay Leno/Popular Mechanics scholarship at McPherson College, which offers the nation's only four-year bachelor's degree in automotive restoration. Morchesky plans to work on high-end antique and specialty vehicles, such as those in Leno's collection.

Even after winning a $20,000 scholarship named after television legend and car collector Jay Leno, Greensburg native Rick Morchesky, 22, didn't expect to meet the former host of “The Tonight Show.”

When the two did bump into each other it was by accident, at a car show in California.

“It was kind of a dream come true, because for any car guy, Jay Leno is kind of the ultimate of car guys,” Morchesky said.

Morchesky has always been a car guy. His parents, Richard and Carrie Morchesky, own Export Fuel Co., and he remembers hanging out in garages and tinkering with cars ever since he was a kid.

“It's always fun to do something your parents are doing,” he said. “When you're a little kid, your dad is really the only guy you know.”

Richard Morchesky, 55, has a collection of vintage muscle cars, including a Chevrolet Camaro, a Ford Mustang and the 1976 Bricklin that was the second car he ever owned. The first was lost in a fire.

He said his son has always shared his hobby.

“He's the old-school gearhead kid. A lot of kids his age are interested in ones they call the ‘tuner cars,' but he's always been more interested in the ‘American muscle cars,' ” he said.

Rick Morchesky never planned to make his hobby a career until his grandfather, Dick Morchesky, spotted a magazine ad for McPherson College in Kansas. McPherson is the nation's only college to offer a four-year program in automotive restoration.

Rick enrolled after graduating from Hempfield Area High School. He has been in the program three years now, and according to one of his professors, quickly impressed the faculty with his dedication.

“He really stood out among his colleagues for his dedication and his passion for automobiles and the quality of his work,” said professor Ed Barr. “It's funny. I can always tell who the really serious ones are on a Friday afternoon with me in the sheet metal lab, trying to improve their skills.”

Morchesky said he is just happy for the chance to learn.

“You learn everything — from paint, upholstery, machinery, to sheet metal,” he said.

Since 1999, the college has awarded one promising student an annual $20,000 Jay Leno/Popular Mechanics scholarship. Most years, at least two or three students are considered for the award, but when Morchesky was nominated, he was an obvious choice, Barr said.

“I remember nominating him, and there wasn't a word from anybody. It was all instantaneous agreement,” Barr said.

Morchesky was later asked to speak on behalf of the school at a car show, where he met Leno, the scholarship's sponsor and namesake. The two talked about McPherson, classic cars and the small race car Morchesky is building out of aluminum for his senior project.

“He was, honestly, one of the nicest guys,” Morchesky said of Leno, who owns about 80 rare, exotic cars, 80 motorcycles and a fire truck, according to media reports.

Morchesky is spending his summer working in a shop in Wisconsin, restoring the sheet metal on vintage Ferraris.

“I've really taken a liking to sheet metal restoration,” he said. “Metal can do basically three things. It can shrink, it can stretch and it can bend. By taking advantage of those combinations, you can reproduce all the curves on the car.”

When he graduates next year, he plans to go wherever he can find work, preferably one of the big auto restoration companies on the West or East coasts.

Barr believes Morchesky will have no trouble putting his skills to work.

“We know when he goes out there, he'll be able to do whatever he wants to do and represent us well,” Barr said.

Jacob Tierney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6646 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.