In a perfect world, an event like Commencement actually wouldn't change much for many people. The campus would always look the way we want, buildings would always be equally clean for regular use and special events and everyone could just do what they normally do. But this isn't a perfect world and I've spent the past week learning about all the things that happen to prepare our campus for Commencement.
Some of the things Facility Services has done is because it is Commencement, others are because it needs to be done and others are done because we feel a need to make things better than normal.
I should start by mentioning Final Fling, for that's the lead-in to Commencement. Last week on Friday and Saturday, plans were put into motion for all the Final Fling activities to begin. This year they had 4 inflatables in the quad. We originally planned to have several in the parking lot (so we emptied the lot, cleaned it and relined it), but it was too windy to use sandbags to secure the inflatables. Several of us helped move picnic tables out where they were desired, setup for a water game, etc., while we had a student worker mowing the quad and lots of COSA and other activity students setting up a variety of games. I returned later in the afternoon to see lots of students appearing to have a very good time. We even cut some firewood so they could have a big bonfire next to the west events lot.
Moving on to Commencement…
Every year at this time, the inside of Closson Center is transformed from a place of athletic activity to one of academic achievement. What I mean is all the mats, nets, goals, balls and other athletic items are set aside for the time being. The bleachers are pushed back some 20 feet from where they normally sit and are fully extended. After the center court floor is covered, early 2000 chairs are setup for graduates, faculty and guests. A stage is constructed on the south end of center court for a podium, speakers, administrators and board members, as well as a place for graduates to receive their diplomas. Finally, greenery and stone is used around the base of the stage to decorate and make the stage look nice. Oh, and don't forget the ramps to make the stage accessible for all.
People like Scott Farnsworth, Bob Kelly, Rob Washburn, Daryl Parkes, Matt Mamminga and Nathan Craig all work to clean, prepare, construct, etc. the space for Commencement day. I'm really impressed by , and proud of, their hard work.
I should elaborate a bit on the setup of the chairs. I glossed over it a bit too hastily above. Bob Kelly has an eye for detail and really wants everything just so. With plenty of help, to be sure, he lays out string lines to make sure each chair has its place, with plenty of leg room for those using the chairs, as well as aisle space. You'll see from the photos that it is all laid out very precisely, then all chairs are put exactly in their place. Bob knows how many chairs go in what sections and what it will all look like in the end. It's quite a process to watch.
But then other things are one-time events (hopefully). The cement stairs leading down to Closson, both at the main entry and the east entry close to Hampton Center, were in disrepair. Dennis Core and Brad Walderbach have worked to repair those and even extended that repair work to the patio off the main entry. It makes a difference to take care of our old stuff, even if it is trying to fall apart (perhaps because it is trying to fall apart). And hopefully we saved someone from accidental injury because we took time to repair the cement.
Greg Williams also took the time to change a light bulb in Closson Center over center court. It's more impressive than it sounds. Not only did he have to change the entire ballast because it had gone bad, but these lights are ridiculously high up in the air. We brought in an old lift that can reach that high, and put Greg really high (at least 30 feet, perhaps more) up in the air so he could do that job.
But, because it is Commencement, it is also the weekend the Board of Trustees meets, which means our guest houses will be well utilized. Unfortunately, one of them has had some storm water drainage problems and with all the recent rain, it flooded. Kay Briggs, Stephanie Farrell and several others (I apologize to the others, I didn't get a list of names who helped) have spent one or more days there moving furniture, mopping, shampooing carpets, cleaning the basement bathroom, and any other cleanup necessary to make this house right for our guests this weekend. Further, Rolan Gilpatrick, Ron Lancaster and possibly others (again, I didn't get a list so I apologize if I missed someone) diagnosed the problem to broken foundation drain pipes and tree roots inside, and fixed it. I'm told that foundation drain, a 4" pipe, ran solid for about 3 hours to drain all the backed up water.
Then there is all the stuff that happened because we want the campus to look its absolute best. Admissions sent some folks over Wednesday to spend time string trimming and really working up the central campus area. Others have spent time string trimming the other parts of campus, including our regular student workers. We've had lots of mowers going, from small push mowers to our largest turf mowers with extremely wide decks. All of that to try and get as much grass cut as is possible.
I mentioned lots of names here and I know I left some out. I apologize, each person who has contributed to the effort deserves to be mentioned by name. Everyone in Facility Services has dedicated time this week to doing everything we can do to get the campus ready for this weekend.
And Monday, we'll undo all that hard work, packing up 2000 chairs to be shipped back from whence they came. Bleachers will return to their normal position. And on top of all that, residence halls will now be empty and summer camps will begin by midweek.
I'm very proud of Facility Services for the work done so far, and for what I know is coming. Check out the photos in the slideshows below.