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Maintaining Kenyon

A behind-the-scenes look at who keeps the campus running

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The walls of Lori Moore’s office in the maintenance building, an unassuming structure behind the Taft Cottages, are splashed with pink and green and covered in a variety of framed Kenyon paraphernalia. A sleek black rocking chair sits beneath the window.

“It’s one like you will never, ever see on campus,” Moore said of her office. “It is pink and lime green, because it is the happy place. When you come in, you smile.”

Moore was born and raised in Gambier. Her father worked at Kenyon for 40 years. At age 19, Moore began a 35-year stint at Kenyon as well, working as a custodian before becoming assistant manager of facility services. 

Photographs and collages dot the wall behind Moore’s desk, many of which she received as recognition for her years of service to Kenyon. Some of the hanging postcards, as well as a bright-pink Elvis car wall mount, were gifts from her father. The rocking chair, which bears Kenyon’s crest, was her father’s retirement gift from the College. The two spent years working together on campus, and his legacy lives on in Moore’s office. “I had a very special bond with my dad … We had Kenyon College in common,” she said.

She praised her “go-to people,” Custodians Rachel Cline and Eric Massa, who make deliveries to and supervise the maintenance of buildings across campus. Moore also works closely with Manager of Facility Services Gary Sweeney, whose path to Kenyon took a different course. Sweeney was hired by the Office of Residential Life at the age of 55, effectively beginning his third career. After shifting between a few roles, he ended up at the maintenance department. 

Moore and Sweeney came to the maintenance department at a time of upheaval. “We were handed a really difficult situation,” Sweeney said. “Most of the work was done on campus at night, when you could get into the offices, so when people came in during the day the offices would be clean and everything would be ready for them.”

Only eight individuals work the night shift now —  lasting from 11 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. —  but they clean several campus buildings during this time. The Wright Center, Peirce Hall, the Bookstore, and the Kenyon Athletic Center all are cleaned during the night shift.

Moore’s day typically begins at 5 a.m., and on some days, she arrives earlier as manager of the night shift. The majority of custodial staff members work between the hours of 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. In her tenure as assistant manager of facility services, Moore has sought to reinstate the night shift — previously put on hiatus to cut costs — to ensure that her staff does not have to “work around” the students and faculty using the spaces.

“We try the best that we can to give the best service to Kenyon,” Moore said. “You have to have a passion for this place, and we both do. And in the hours that we spend here, it shows.”

Lori Moore’s office in the maintenance department | Samantha Stahlman

When students contact maintenance staff, it’s often either for the event management system, through which maintenance aids with set-up, materials, and clean-up of events put on by students and organizations, or for work orders, which allow students to request repairs and upkeep of living spaces. Sometimes, students may place emergency work orders, but if students place these after hours, especially on weekends, Campus Safety can connect them to the appropriate person, whether that is a plumber, electrician, custodian, or exterminator. The most common reason for urgent work orders? “Insects,” Moore said. “Nobody likes spiders and bugs.”

The Maintenance Department receives funds for repairs and replacement, “R&R money,” according to Sweeney. One pressing task for the department is the removal of all carpeting from buildings; carpets can retain allergens even after a thorough cleaning, so many residence halls will have carpet flooring removed in coming years. The department has begun installing fire-proof drapes throughout the First-Year Quad, and fire-proof trash cans, replacing metal cans, have also been introduced in many dorm rooms. 

“It’s a much, much, much bigger project than what Lori and I take care of in our little corner of the world,” Sweeney said. “To have these many buildings and this much ground to take care of and try to keep it as good as we can get it — it’s obviously a full-time job, but it’s more than a full-time job.”

Under the Maintenance umbrella, grounds manager Steve Vaden oversees the work of the College’s nine full-time groundspeople, as well as up to four part-time groundspeople during the summer months. Vaden arrived at Kenyon in 1982, and four years later, he became Grounds Manager — a position he kept until 1998. After an 11-year stint in private landscaping, Vaden returned to his managerial position in 2009. 

In his time at Kenyon — Vaden was hired around the same time that Moore was — he has seen a lot of change on this campus. “My first year as supervisor was the year we opened Olin Library. I saw it built,” Vaden laughed. “I saw it torn down.”

His earlier years at the College saw groundspeople working significant overtime each May in preparation for the Commencement ceremony, ensuring the campus would look its best for graduating seniors and their visiting parents. After becoming manager, Vaden wanted to keep campus at its best year-round. “Campus shouldn’t just look good at Commencement,” Vaden said. “Students are here all the time.”

With some 170 acres of campus to maintain, in addition to the athletic fields and nearby undeveloped land, his days begin promptly at 7:30 a.m. Each groundsperson receives different tasks for the day — lawn mowing, shrub pruning, and weed eating often are involved, especially in the spring and summer months — but groundskeepers also collect trash and litter daily, as well as manage the composting program. 

With its end at 4:30 p.m., each day certainly poses a full slate of challenges. “I’m getting on towards retirement, and I have mixed emotions about it,” Vaden said. “There’s some days that, yes, I’m ready to go, and there’s other days that I think, ‘Man, I’m gonna miss this.’ Kenyon has been good to those of us that’ve stuck it out for a number of years.”

“The Maintenance Department has a history of longevity,” Moore said. “People come, and we stay … All we can do is leave it better than we came to it.” 


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