Thinking about the people we don’t A parting thank you to Physical Plant, Xavier’s unsung heroes

By: Nick Bergeman ~Staff Columnist~

Students certainly do not appreciate the faculty and staff of their university enough, and I am just as guilty as everyone else in that regard. However, let’s look at this for a moment.

Professors deserve more thanks and appreciation than many students give them, especially those who go above and beyond for students. Administrators should get a little more thanks for keeping the university running. If you ran down the extensive list of people who work at the university and think about all the ways that these fellow hard-working human beings go unappreciated, you would certainly think about being a little more polite, I’m sure.

1If you went down the list in your mind, what are the chances that you thought of Physical Plant? In my four years at Xavier, I am seriously disappointed in how little appreciation I have shown our fantastic Physical Plant staff.

How often have we students walked by an operations and maintenance staff member and not greeted them or thanked them for their work? Just because it is their job to fix the electricity, take out the trash, mow the lawn, landscape or clean bathrooms does not mean that we should not thank them or at least greet them.

In four years, I have never thought that our carpets were not clean enough. There are no bathrooms on campus that I would avoid because they aren’t clean. Our campus has beautiful trees and immaculate lawns. No trash can stays filled for long. Even if our power goes out on a weekend, you can guarantee it will be back up within a couple of hours.

Every building on campus stands strong and firm with smooth walls and comfortable air. Xavier University owes as much of a debt to physical plant as we do to professors with tenure. Our school would not continue without the dozens of staff members that keep it running. It is as much their school as it is ours.

Every graduating senior wants to appreciate the people who made their experience a positive one, and I want to thank Physical Plant. I lived in Brockman Hall my first year and in Fenwick Hall my second year, so I have a particular gratitude to the staff of those two buildings. However, I have to thank the entire staff who have maintained the school throughout. I have a couple of memories that I would like to share that stick in my mind and represent the reason I have such love for Physical Plant.

While I lived in Fenwick, I think I saw Mr. Jerry Vierling every day, and I doubt he ever failed to share a friendly greeting if we walked by each other or shared the elevator. Though we never had a substantive conversation, the simple shared kindness will always stick in my mind.

Nick Bergeman is a staff columnist at the Newswire. He is a senior Digital Innovation Film & Television and English double major from Detroit.

There was a stretch when I would assist Andrew Utz, Newswire Distribution Manager, in delivering the paper early Wednesday mornings. One day, I dropped off a stack in the Buenger Hall lobby and went to the drinking fountain for a moment as two Physical Plant employees entered. They did not see me drop it off but must have been able to tell that the paper was new. As I exited, I watched both of them grab a copy with excitement and put it under their arms as they walked to their destination. I immediately texted Editor-in-Chief Tatum Hunter to inform her of what I just witnessed. I knew at least two people who cared about the Newswire.

This fall, I was walking across the front of Alter Hall to class and saw a young gentleman working on some landscaping. We made eye contact, and he enthusiastically greeted me and asked how I was. I greeted him back and made some comment about how school was getting me down. As I walked by, he told me to stay in school and persevere, so I could do great things and wouldn’t end up like him.

As I walked away, that struck me deep in the heart. He doesn’t know me, and I don’t know him, but that man wants the best for me and for the rest of the students. That statement still makes me feel both profoundly sad and loved. I will carry it with me for the rest of my life. Sir, I don’t know who you are or if you will ever read this, but I want to be the kind of man that you are.

I hope I leave some sort of legacy, but mine will likely be quiet. However, I whisper my deepest gratitude as loudly as this paper will allow me to Physical Plant. We have been able to succeed because of you.