DOUGLAS — In late August, the Douglas campus of Eastern Wyoming College kicked off a program unlike any other in the entirety of Wyoming. Starting this fall semester, the college will be treading in new waters, becoming the first in the state and one of only a handful in the entire nation to offer a gunsmithing program.
Gunsmithing is something EWC has been interested in adding to its curriculum since the arrival of President Dr. Lesley Travers in 2017. The college attempted to bring the unique program to its Douglas campus one year later in 2018, but found the task of locating a capable instructor to lead and develop the program difficult.
Then they found Glen Morovits, who had been teaching gunsmithing at Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado for a number of years and was the right man to build EWC’s budding program. Considering Morovits has family residing in the Black Hills of South Dakota, moving to Douglas meant being much closer to his children and grandchildren.
Between building custom guns, his own education and instructing at Trinidad, Morovits brings 40 years of gunsmithing experience to EWC. His goal is to keep the art alive in modern times.
“It’s a dying art,” he said. “I want to pass on the information I’ve gained through the last 40 years in the industry and keep gunsmithing and custom gun making alive and growing. That is what the industry needs.”
He says the draw of gunsmithing for him is the artistic value the craft brings in a multitude of areas.
“There’s a broad variety of tools that can be very useful to make a functioning piece of artwork. Gun making to me is the challenge to hone skills to the level where people look at it and say, ‘You did that?’”
The inevitable decline of technical learning opportunities in high schools around the nation threatens the further loss of very useful skills for some students upon entering the real world after graduation. Morovits says this is why programs like gunsmithing are so important to keep around.
“To me, keeping those disciplines alive is huge,” he said. “People say it’s a dying art to some degree. There is always a demand for handmade items. Knowledge of using your hands can carry over to other fields.”
With only approximately six schools teaching the trade in the entire country, Morovits is looking forward to building a new program from the ground up. It is the only of its kind in Wyoming, giving gunsmithing entrepreneurs who reside in the Cowboy State a more affordable and nearby option to earn their education. Those who complete the program will receive their associates of applied science, a two-year degree.
Douglas resident Matthew Hoffman enrolled in the program in hopes to gain the necessary skills to build up his own business down the road. He works at the Rec Center as a custodian at night, opening up his days to take classes. An avid waterfowl dog trainer, his interest lies within developing a dummy launcher that doesn’t give operators blisters, prevents injuries to their thumbs and is quickly reloaded.
Morovits – the sole instructor – takes a hands-on approach to his instruction, meaning the course could only accommodate a maximum of 15 students. The college could bring in an adjunct professor starting next year, but nothing has been set in stone, officials said.
Since students will be bringing guns to school, each was required to submit three letters of reference, along with a 1,000-word essay describing past experiences and future dreams. Then, each had to pass a background check.
With gunsmithing not being a traditional education course, students are likely to vary wildly in age – from retirement age down to those who just graduated high school – and those with varying future career paths.
Dorry Cooper of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, just graduated high school last year and came to EWC due to a lack of gunsmithing in his home state.
“It’s a neat hobby to get into and possibly make a career out of,” Cooper said. “I looked at Trinidad, but my principal showed me the course here and I saw the instructor was from Trinidad. This is cheaper and closer to home.”
Riverton native Garrett Pearson also recently graduated high school, arriving in Douglas with a lifelong passion for gunsmithing.
“Gunsmithing has always been something that has hit home with me,” he said. “My father owned a shooting range, so this came naturally.”
Pearson chose EWC due to its close proximity to home, he noted. Morovits said he appreciates the Douglas community and EWC faculty for their acceptance of the program, going as far as to say many at the college are excited for gunsmithing to be a part of the college’s offerings.
He even has folks inquiring about the potential to add community education courses during the summer months, which he hopes to make a reality.
“There is a lot of demand locally for community ed classes where the local community is eligible to come in and take a portion of the program,” the instructor noted. “Keep your eyes open for that starting next summer.”