The unsung heroes of Kent State University

David Busch

As I ran in the back halls of the Student Center to get to my locker and go to work, I ran into a custodian holding out a piece of candy for me. “It’s Halloween,” she said. I grabbed it and said thanks. Before I knew it, I was in my work clothes, working and thinking no more of that simple act of kindness – ironically, I was eating the piece of candy I was just given.

After work, I returned to the locker room and changed to go to class. I saw another custodian cleaning the mirrors, the sinks, and emptying the trash. We exchanged simple pleasantries – how our days were going and the beautiful fall weather – and, again, I was off to my class, lacking awareness of the work people do on our campus.

As I meandered through campus, I observed the landscaper plant perennials and edge the small plot he was working in. He was in a state of concentration, even contemplation as if he was creating a great piece of artwork. Before I entered my class at Kent Hall, I watched as another university landscaper blew the leaves into large piles, saving and protecting the grass for another year. As I turned to enter class at Kent Hall, I passed the maintenance worker. He had a beard like Ulysses S. Grant, hands worn as if he just fought a noble battle.

After class, my energy was low from learning about the great myths of the Bible. I decided a warm cup of coffee on a cool day would delight my soul and fuel the rest of my day. I went to the Student Center and bought a small coffee from the Market. As I paid for my coffee, the clerk at the register made a joke about the new Michael Jackson movie. Although tired, he enlightened my spirit with that simple joke. He had a grand smile on his face as I walked away, sipping my coffee.

At work the next day, I had a simple conversation with the janitor who cleans the kitchen floors on the second floor. He works a tiring shift, 4 p.m. to midnight, yet he still finds peace and enjoyment in his work. He even finds time to enhance his studied and intelligent mind. Attached to his garbage can is a bag of books, which he reads as he meditatively cleans the floor every night.

Each day at Kent State, hundreds of workers keep the restrooms clean and well-stocked, the floors swept, the classrooms organized and our campus green and welcoming. There are the brave workers who clean up the puke in the residence halls. There are the patient and understanding workers who pick up the crumpled up paper left by the frustrated student writing an essay at the library. There are the artistic and quiet workers who keep the trees of Tree City healthy. And there are the honest and straightforward workers who keep the university fine-tuned, whether it is the electricity or the heating. There are even students who are part of this staff as well, who are just as important in the preservation of Kent State.

Kent State students can study in a clean environment at the library, are kept warm during wintertime and have lush green grass to relax on during spring. The custodians, the landscapers, and the maintenance workers provide these comforts to us as students. They don’t seek glory; they’re just doing their jobs. They’re heroes – the unsung heroes of Kent State. Their work is part of our education. Each task, each small act of labor creates a calm and encouraging learning environment. I’m learning to appreciate this. Are you?

David Busch is a junior history and psychology major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].