Beautiful Behrend

Penn State Behrend Maintenance and Operations staff work outdoors to keep the campus beautiful

Penn State Behrend Maintenance and Operations staff work outdoors to keep the campus beautiful.

Credit: Penn State Behrend

By Heather Cass,
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications

I’ve been working at Penn State Behrend for six years now, writing stories for five different print publications, including Behrend Magazine, individual school newsletters, the Behrend Blog, and various other outlets.

I’ve done hundreds of interviews with alumni, students, donors, faculty and staff members, and friends of the college. In every interview, I ask: Why did you choose Behrend? (Because we have all chosen to come to Behrend or support it, in one way or another.)

Nine times out of ten, the person I’m interviewing will mention Behrend’s beautiful campus. It’s not the only reason people choose Behrend, but it sure comes into play.

I’ve often wondered if the members of the college’s Maintenance and Operations (M&O) staff realize how vital their work is. The things they do here—the flowers they plant, the lawns they mow, the athletic fields they groom, the sidewalks they shovel, and the buildings they maintain— are as important to our recruitment efforts as the high school college fairs we attend, the financial aid assistance we provide, and the admissions materials we mail. Dr. Mary-Ellen Madigan, senior director of enrollment management, wholeheartedly agrees.

“We often hear from visitors that they are struck by how beautiful and clean the campus is, inside the buildings and out,” Madigan said. “I think parents see how the college cares for the campus and realize that we will take good care of their students, too. The pride we take in our physical facilities spills over into all that we do here.”

What M&O does here is more than many may realize. The staff includes grounds crew, janitorial staff, and tradespersons, such as carpenters, electricians, locksmiths, and mechanics. In all, about seventy-five staffers are responsible for nearly forty buildings, 850 acres of land, all the athletics fields, and portions of Knowledge Park and Wintergreen Gorge. This is in addition to event set up and tear down (rare is the day that there is not at least one event on campus), moving large items (office furniture, supplies), cleaning classrooms, offices, and restrooms, and, of course, plowing and shoveling all winter long.

A few years ago, I interviewed longtime groundskeeper Patty Blackhurst and asked her if, on a harsh winter day, she ever wished she had a desk job in a nice, warm office. Blackhurst, who retired this summer after twenty-plus years of service, laughed and said,

“Not once. I could never sit at a desk all day. It’s just not for me. I love what I do.”

Lucky for us we have a whole team of M&O staff members who share her view and make Behrend a beautiful place to be year-round.