Forty-one years ago tomorrow I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime. I had interviewed for the position of Building Service Worker I, which is a janitor, and had some hope that I might be chosen for a vacant position. I had interviewed with Building Services Superintendent, George O’Hara, and had felt good about our meeting. During the interview Mr. O’Hara had asked me what shift I would prefer to work as he had several 11:00 – 7:00 work shifts and two, 5:00 – 1:00 shifts to fill. Immediately I deducted that the 5 – 1 shift must be 5:00 A:M: to 1:00P:M: and that the department probably had difficulty in filling such an early shift. Therefore I happily announced that I would love the early morning shift as I enjoyed getting up before the crack of dawn and heading to work! George hung his head and began placing my files from Personnel back in their folder and sadly announced that he was sorry as the day-shift positions all went to the senior employees and that all new employees were hired on either evenings, 5:00 P:M: – 1:00 A:M: or 11:00 P:M: – 7:00 A:M:. I began to cough and, stutter…a bit, and proclaimed that there was only on thing that I enjoyed better than working early in the morning…and that was working…late at night!
And, so, George hired me on October 10, 1978. I began in Thalman Hall on Greek Row on the campus of SIUC. I knew during the first week that I was there…that God had opened a carer opportunity for me! As I watched supervisors and managers and administrators, through the years, I noticed who was effective and who was not. Those supervisors that felt that the more hands on supervision and criticism of their staff that they could produce…the better the operation flowed….were counterproductive in their desire for excellence. My supervisor, Don Stonum, was a broad strokes type of leader. He outlined for me what he expected and I proceeded to exceed his expectations. I saw little of him….and he was happy and I was ecstatic! Don, as well as my foreman, Jim Walls, would regularly reinforce me with positive comments regarding my work and encouragement that I could go far in the department!
I observed the quiet and solid leadership of superintendent O’Hara. One evening he came for a tour of the Engineering and Technology building, that I was responsible for the cleaning thereof. To me…this was like President Carter, coming to grade my housekeeping prowess! Now, I had been extremely short of staffing for some time and the building, with my best efforts, was lacking in cleanliness…yet the superintendent told me what a good job that I was doing and how he appreciated my efforts. I was not only humbled…but I re-doubled my efforts to return the area to its former pristine condition!
When I entered management and ultimately management/administration…I had a tool that served me well through the 25 years that I was honored to be a leader in Building Services. Each time that I made a decision regarding one of my colleagues….I asked myself how that I would feel if that same decision was being made by one of my leaders for me?
‘A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. Proverbs 25:11. KJV
When I became a supervisor of others…and then a manager of others…I had been humbled by many cruel words and actions towards me. I lived what it was like to be the ‘goat’ or the laughingstock or the person who was ridiculed and made fun of. I determined that if I ever had the chance to lead others….I would treat them like I wanted to be treated. I determined that the doorkeeper job that I had been entrusted with would be a door of opportunity of all! All ethnicities were welcome…all physically and intellectually challenged seekers were welcome….Gay and Lesbian seekers were welcome…..
My friend of many years…chancellor Jo Ann Argersinger…said of me…that I had created a house for all peoples….and I was humbled and tears came to my eyes…as I knew that I was not worthy of such a high commendation….but I tried.
Leadership is really the heart of the gospel of Christ.
‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. ‘ John 13:34. NIV