Unsung Heroes of QU

By Shane McAdams

Who on the campus of QU goes without the recognition that they deserve? Is it the president, teachers, the students, or someone else entirely? While all of the previously mentioned people are a great part of what makes QU the school that it is, the ones who deserve the credit for keeping this institution running are the ones behind the scenes. The ones who work day in and day out with no award ceremonies, trophies, or banquets. The facilities, housekeeping, and maintenance staff here on campus are the ones who keep the wheels rolling. They work all year round to keep QU running.

However, the crew that keeps the campus running often goes unnoticed, when they play a huge part in the day to day life on campus. They do much more than just mow the lawns. Maintenance and grounds have a hand on almost everything you do on campus. They play a part in everything you do from the sidewalks you walk on, the buildings you live in and go to class, the water you use to shower, and the lights in your room.

 One of the most overlooked group of people that is constantly on campus keeping things in clean working order is the housekeeping staff. Laura Henninger is the Housekeeping Supervisor on campus and has been working  on campus for 15 years. She is the one who is in charge of coordinating all the cleaning staff, to make sure the campus is clean and presentable. 

“ The hardest part is really just staying on top of everything, you know with the floors and everything in the winter time. We do our best, we have 13 housekeepers, four at night and the rest are during the day, two at North campus, we have all that to do to… We have people who come in at 2 a.m. to do the cafeteria floor and then he works in Helein till 10:30… we really have people working round the clock on campus all day. We also have staff that is in charge of cleaning the gym after games and events,” Henninger said.

Another thing that the QU maintenance and grounds plays a huge part in  on campus is the mail. When a student goes to pick up their mail, they go to the mail room below the cafeteria where their mailbox is. However, this is not the location where mail is delivered to on campus. When a student is sent a package, the packages and mail is actually delivered to the maintenance building across the street from main campus on 20thstreet.

the front of the building where packages are delivered 

The mail is then transported from that building to the student mail room where it is sorted and then delivered to student mailboxes. Any kind of big package or box that is too big for a mail box is sent there before the mail room.

packages inside the maintenance building waiting to be transported to the student mail room 

It’s not just student mail that arrives at the maintenance building either. When professors order things for their classes it is also delivered to the maintenance building. 

“All the mail is delivered here, you know like big packages and bulks of paper, you never really know what you’re going to get here. Sometimes we get live animals, like frogs and other animals for when the professors have dissections for class, so we have to deliver that stuff right away,” Henninger said

With many of the housekeepers working early mornings and late evenings to keep campus clean, it gives some perspective to how hard they work. However, that is simply one part of the crew that keeps Quincy University running. The maintenance and grounds crews work just as hard for the students at QU. 

No matter the season or time of year, the QU maintenance and grounds workers are always busy. However, many of the jobs that fall under the maintenance and grounds umbrella are constantly changing with the seasons. During the beginning of the semester it’s not uncommon to see and encounter the grounds workers outside early in the morning mowing and edging lawns. While during the fall they are constantly blowing leaves and clearing sidewalks. During the winter, they work around the clock at times constantly plowing andshoveling snow as well as salting sidewalks and parking lots.

When the seasons change from summer to fall, the changing of the leaves is something that many students look forward to seeing. But what happens when the leaves fall to the ground? The QU grounds keepers are there with leaf blowers to deal with them and keep sidewalks and campus clean. This may appear to be a simple task, but just on the main campus of Quincy University there are over 140 trees that shed leaves every year. This means millions of leaves and that grounds crews are constantly roaming campus blowing leaves as they go from job to job.

During the winter months campus grounds crews regularly have to brave the cold to plow snow. This is no easy task. Grounds crews are responsible for plowing, shoveling, and salting all of the surfaces around campus. This includes all the sidewalks, stairs, and parking lots. What makes this task even more challenging is the fact that grounds is short on vehicles. Three weeks ago one of the new trucks that the grounds crew received over the summer was hit in a collision at the intersection of 18thand Chestnut.

Freshly plowed and salted sidewalk in front of the Student Living Center and Willer dorms. 

This had a major influence during the big snow storm that produced blizzard conditions the Monday after thanksgiving. Campus grounds was missing one of their big trucks to plow the school in the aftermath of the storm. This was a major blow to grounds crews and it meant that it took them even longer to plow and clear the school of snowand ice. Mike Foster is the Grounds Manager  and is responsible for coordinating grounds and maintenance workers on campus. 

Equipment in the maintenance garage including one of the new trucks (identical to the one that was hit in the collision) outfitted with a snow plow.

“It was really a big loss to us at grounds because it’s one of our brand new vehicles, and it was also one of two trucks that we have to plow snow. With that truck being in the shop and only having one truck it took us twice as long to plow and get the streets and parking lots clear to where you could drive,” Foster said. 

One of the trucks in the maintenance and grounds fleet of vehicles. This truck in particular has over 254,000 miles on it. It’s affectionately called “the beater truck” yet still runs perfectly.

Grounds and maintenance has changed a lot over the years. From the jobs they have to do, to the number of staff they have. A lot has changed over the years. 

“When I first started here 12 years ago, we had 52 guys that worked with us on maintenance and grounds. We had two of everything you know, two electricians, two carpenters, and on down the line. Now we only have 11 people working on both maintenance and grounds. That’s part of the reason that the response time is so long for things on campus. We basically have to prioritize who complains the most about issues and everything else gets put onthe back burner,” Foster said.

Quincy University maintenance crew working in the wood shop using a table saw to fabricate pieces for a job on campus.

With all the tasks that come with maintaining a 147-year-old campus, there is never a shortage of jobs that need  attention. When you compound all the tasks that maintenance and grounds in responsible for it adds up to a substantial list. 

“If I had to give a straight number of how many people we would need, I’d probably double how many people we have now. I’d say we should have at least 20-22 people on our staff. I feel like our customer response time would be much better. How it is now you just have to handle things as they come up and you never really get caught up until the year is over. We just have to handle the major things, get caught up during the summer, and then it starts all over again. It’s really a shame because the students pay a lot of money to have these things done,” Foster said.

With maintenance, housekeeping, and grounds doing so much around campus; the question arises, what can we do for them? 

“We used to be a part of the community, now we just feel like outcasts because we wear a different uniform that says National on it. We just want to be part of the community again. I feel like people who even knew us before the management company took over treat us differently,” Foster said.  

Henninger also commented on the issue. 

“People don’t understand how much we have to do for our jobs, people start to think that we jump at their beckon call, we have so many things to do that we can’t always jump to get things done for them right when they want it done. Really we just want people to understand how much we do around campus,”  said Henninger.

With QU maintenance, grounds, and housekeeping doing so much behind the scenes to keep this campus looking and functioning the way it does, it’s amazing to think that these people do all this work for us the students with next to no appreciation.

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The store room in the maintenance building where bulk supplies are stored like de-icing salt and other bulk goods. 
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