Old Memories on a Campus Stroll

We were enjoying a terrific Thanksgiving dinner at Kokopelli restaurant in Marion, Illinois.  The food was delicious…and they had wonderful, Dirty Martinis, that were, poured, by a bartender who knows the nuances of a, fine drink.

I noticed that someone had messaged me…and when I looked, I was so pleased to see that my former colleague and friend, Mark Wetstein, had asked if I would like to join him for a stroll around the SIU campus on Saturday.

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I was delighted that Mark had reached out to me and wanted to spend sometime, walking and reminiscing about our, employment, at SIUC.

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Mark and I, first met, when he was the associate director of Shryock Auditorium and I was the assistant superintendent of Building Services.  I noted, quickly, what a professionalism that he exhibited and his, tremendous work ethic.  Mark worked around the clock.

For a few years, during the 25 years that we have known each other, we were both members of the Civil Service Council.  At one time, Mark was the vice president of the group and I was the president…and, just, prior to my retirement…he was the president and I was the vice president.

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We spoke of the wonders of retirement and how much we enjoyed it…and many of the interesting occurrences that we had experienced during our SIU careers.

Southern Illinois University has been the beneficiary of dedicated professionals, like Mark, and has not always know how to best utilize their strengths and, sadly, at times, taken them for granted…when they needed them desperately.

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It was pleasant and rewarding to reflect with my friend on the glories of our campus and to speak with a colleague that loves our school.

SIUC is a beautiful and serene and majestic location.  There are so many, brilliant ideas that are awaiting a leader to have the courage and foresight…to implement.

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Many, wrong turns have been made in the steering of the great ship of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  The first, Chappaquiddick type, wrong turn that we made was the giving away of many of our associate degree programs in the 1990’s…when they were the most popular courses at SIUC.  The vision of, leaders at that time, was to create a…second University of Illinois.  The mission of SIUC and the vision of it’s formation is totally different than U of I.  Our campus enrollment dropped, precipitously, at that time…and it has never recovered; but rather continues to careens off of the, winding and narrow cliffs of Monte Carlo!

Many years ago, Physical Plant administration, thought that they were spending the State’s money effectively when they hired consultants to evaluate the Building Services operations.  Now, these, (experts), did not know anything regarding our housekeeping operation…and they did not see the need to ask anyone’s opinion regarding what could make our, cleaning business better.  The day that the, several thousand dollar plan for cleaning our campus, was revealed and was to be implemented, was my first day as foreman in the department.  I, quickly, noticed that the, area assignments for my staffs, in all of the custodial areas that I was responsible for, were either much to large or…extremely small.  When I asked our, new, assistant superintendent, what I should do…he responded that I should remake the areas to fit my crews.  In other words…the costly housekeeping plan…was useless.

The day that I became the superintendent of the department…I threw all of the, Georgia Plan, in the trash…and my entire staff…rejoiced!

Mr. O’Hara, the superintendent of Building Services at the time of the, high dollar consultants visit, said that for the price of a cup of coffee…Physical Plant and University administration could receive all of the ideas and information that the required to facilitate the improvement of the department.

And, so it goes.  We abdicate our, profitable and high sought after and students standing in line for…classes…to obtain our dream of academic nirvana.  We seek leaders from across the country…who have the expertise and the credentials and curriculum vitae…that our school requires…when there are leaders in our midst…that would love to be asked….

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