It takes a village: How groundskeepers maintain Kent State


Groundskeeper Jil Morgan poses with a plow.

Bitter cold, rain, extreme heat and strong winds are all conditions Kent State groundskeeper Andrea Smith has worked in during her time at Kent State. 

“I’ve gone from the extreme of you’re soaking wet, not a dry spot on you, you’re still having to get it done, to freezing, runny nose, cold toes, blowing wind,” Smith said. “…So you just duck your head and you just keep on digging in, if you got to go in and get warm, you gotta get warm, you just handle it.”

Some of the main duties of groundskeepers include maintaining greenspace on campus, plowing and salting roads and parking lots and taking care of plants. 

“We have 950 continuous acres that are maintained and 29 miles of sidewalk, 10 miles of roads and 147 acres of parking lot,” said Rebekkah Berryhill, grounds manager for university facilities management. 

Groundskeeper and Crew Leader Jil Morgan said one of the more challenging aspects of her job is making sure the grounds are as nice as they possibly can be. 

“So for a small staff, just trying to pull that together and hit every area sometimes can be challenging,” Morgan said.

There is often a very large task list for groundskeepers to complete every day, so Smith said making sure everything gets done is her main priority. 

“Keeping up with everything that’s on our list of stuff because our list is pretty mammoth,” Smith said. “I mean, it’s a struggle every day to get at least some of your list done and then you have to remind the person in charge ‘We didn’t finish this first, can we finish this before we jump on anything else?’ or sometimes we have to divide and conquer. It’s a challenge every day.”

Morgan said Berryhill provides many opportunities for groundskeepers to be creative in their work, which both Morgan and Smith appreciate.  

“We get to be very creative,” Morgan said. “Rebekkah lets us design beds, install kind of what we want in the way we want, so that to me is really fun.”

Smith said one of her fondest memories of her time as a groundskeeper was working with former Kent State President Beverly Warren.

“She was really truly a person, like not just an office holder… she was real,” Smith said. “I went to her house three days a week… to take care of the stuff that we put out there at the house… I would have to say that whole presidency with Dr. Warren… you just don’t find that anywhere.”

Berryhill said students, faculty and visitors on campus are their main priority. She said groundskeeper staff are always here to help their community. 

“We don’t just cut grass and they don’t just plow snow, we’re counselors and friends as well,” Berryhill said.

Contact Molly Heideman at [email protected].