Tampa, Fla., Local 824 member Chris Fasting celebrates his graduation from Pace University with, from left, stepmother Bonnie, father Fred,
daughters Emily and Katie and wife Lisa. Fasting earned a bachelor’s degree from Pace through NACTEL’s program that helps IBEW members return to school.  

Katie Fasting figured out when she was 4 years old that her mother had a college degree and her father didn’t. 

Tampa, Fla., Local 824 member Chris Fasting works as a cable splicer for Frontier.

“Dad, where is yours?” she said. “Why don’t you have one yet?”

“That’s one of those things that started me thinking,” said Chris Fasting, Katie’s father and member of Tampa, Fla., Local 824. “I thought going back to college would give her the incentive to go to school and study hard and get good grades.

“This was also when a lot of technological change was coming to our industry. The adapt-or-die mentality started kicking in.”

Fasting returned to school five years ago as part of the National Coalition for Telecommunications Education Learning program. Offered through Pace University in New York, the online only curriculum allows IBEW members working in the telecommunications industry a chance to earn an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree without interrupting their careers.

Fasting was one of 11 IBEW members to earn diplomas this year and he did so in impressive fashion, graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in applied information technology.

He credits his wife Lisa for taking on additional responsibilities despite having a full-time job of her own, allowing him more time to concentrate on academics. The couple has two daughters, including Katie, who is now 9.

“At one point, the thought became that if I’m going to do this, I might as well as commit to it 100 percent and not go out with my friends on the weekend,” said Fasting, who works as a cable splicer for Frontier Communications. “That really was something that drove me. If I’m going to put the time into this thing, I might as well do it well.”

Two other things also drove Fasting. One was keeping pace with the rapid change in the telecommunications industry. The other is to transition into a less taxing form of work as he progresses in his career instead of digging holes and running cable.

“I want to be at the forefront in the changes in telecommunications,” he said. 

Fasting is a second-generation IBEW member, following his father Fred into the telecommunications industry. He’s been a leader at Local 824 almost from the time he started nearly 20 years ago working for GTE, serving as vice president, business representative and assistant business manager for various periods. He also has served on several local union committees, most devoted to safety.

“I have known Chris since he began his career in the telecom industry,” said Robert Prunn, a former Local 824 business manager who is now an international representative in the broadcasting and telecommunications department.

“He was immediately interested in helping his union brothers and sisters,” said Prunn, who now is the co-chairman of NACTEL’s board of directors. “I am proud that he continued his education and earned his bachelor’s degree with the highest honors.”  

Other IBEW members earning bachelor’s degree through NACTEL were:

  • Patrick Ian Harrison, Davenport, Iowa, Local 825.
  • Kathleen Hozak, East Windsor, N.J., Local 827.
  • Mark Murphy and Terry Laurence, Middleton, Mass., Local 2321.

Members earning associate degrees were:

  • LaShawn D’Andrea Miller, Chicago Local 21.
  • David Done, Lakewood, N.J., Local 128.
  • Sean Patrick, Emilio Jesus Leonard, Sanan Gomes, East Windsor, N.J., Local 827.
  • Philip Brown, Anchorage, Alaska, Local 1547.

Founded in 1999, NACTEL is a coalition of four of the nation’s leading telecommunications companies – AT&T, Verizon, Frontier and CenturyLink – along with the IBEW and Communications Workers of America, which also has telecommunications workers among its membership. Tuition assistance usually is available from the member’s employer.

“This is a board and an organization that no matter what is going on between the IBEW and the employers, it doesn’t come into that room when we meet,” Prunn said. “This is about getting the best courses and best curriculum we can for the employees and members.

“It is an honor to play a role in providing online telecommunications degree programs to our members.  Seeing our members graduate each year with a degree, knowing the sacrifices they made over the course of several years, is very gratifying.”

Prunn is joined on the NACTEL board by three business managers, including Matt Carroll from Seattle Local 89; Corey Lehman from Fort Wayne, Ind., Local 723; and Steven Murphy from Cranston, R.I., Local 2323.