I was enjoying my daily walk on the campus of SIUC today, as I reflected on the beginning of another academic year. I remembered when my buddy, Steve and I would enjoy a breakfast before class, at the Woody Hall cafeteria in 1980. Our good friend, Thelma, was the supervisor of the eatery and always brightened our day! When I am low on inspiration…SIUC’s campus always fills me back up! As I walk the campus I am returned to my youth. I recall being so happy to be a part of the University Family. I was a Building Custodian, which was a custodial crew leader, and I had the best job that I had ever had! I was an active member of a school that I had admired from my youth in Eldorado, Illinois. Steve and I were taking a course entitled Understanding Data Processing. We studied the ENIAC-computer and data input by punch cards. My first university professor told me that I had a significant aptitude for the subject matter and encouraged me to continue my university studies. MJ and I had been able to sell our trailer and buy a little house in Elkville, Illinois and a new two door LTD car. When I drove the new car to my mom and step-dad’s home I felt like I was driving a Lincoln Continental I was so proud to be in the ‘game of adulthood’ with a new beautiful wife and the means to support her! I had a beautiful pastoral scene painting for my mom that I had purchased at Down’s Furniture store in Elkville. I thought that it was the most lovely painting that I had ever laid my eyes upon….
People took an interest in me at SIUC. I felt valued and wanted and appreciated…and I wanted to give back what I was feeling! I had friends that had already achieved success…and when I began at SIUC I discovered the I had found my home. A colleague told me that he had spoken to all of the Building Services foreman and that they too a person spoke highly of me. I had not heard anything like this in my life. I was touched and inspired. I wondered how I could return their confidence in my work. I saw our new chancellor near the student center yesterday and he was in a suit on a 90 degree plus day. He was speaking on his phone and had his umbrella at his side. I thought that this man will return us to our former greatness!
I could not fathom that the assistant director of the Physical Plant and the superintendent of building services were offering me the position of assistant superintendent of building services. I deemed that job…unattainable for me! It was a bit like a dream that I was not prepared for. I was 29 years old…but I thought that I was 50! I was afraid…but I took the job for fear that once the door of opportunity was shut…it would not be reopened. My supreme honor was to be cared for and supported by the Building Service Workers and Building Custodians, later called Sub-foreman, and the Building Services foreman…as well as being greeted all over town by our wonderful student staff!
I think about chancellors a lot, because I was friends of several of them. I understood, first hand, how hard their job was and how valuable a good leader was to our campus.
I had the blessing of being able to help others during my career. I was honored to be a part of diversifying the housekeeping department and increasing the levels of minorities and women in all levels of our organization. A great thrill of mine was to offer jobs to both the physically and intellectually challenged. You see the positions in Building Services were not just ‘make-do’ jobs…they were career opportunities! To see the looks of pure excitement and joy at being hired into an organization that had a future for them…was the epitome of my time at SIUC!
I photographed the new Saluki statue on the Saluki Alumni Plaza, today. It was inspiring! We may have been knocked down…but we are back on our feet!