Email to the campus community from Interim Chancellor Berman
February 9, 2010
Faculty, Staff and Students:
I want to thank the many people at UIS who went above and beyond the call of duty last week when the blizzard hit not only central Illinois, but much of the Midwest. I have heard a few stories that perhaps you have not heard, and I’d like to share them.
It is ironic that even though we closed the university last Wednesday, not everything was closed because we have to carry on essential services. Thanks, first of all, to our police officers, who have this amazing attitude that they have to get to work no matter what. And they do. I suspect that most of the rest of us almost take that for granted, but we shouldn’t.
We have 1,100 students living on campus, and for some of them, the only place they have to eat during the day is in the Food Emporium. Brian Patton and the Food Service staff had ten people here by 9 a.m. Wednesday to serve breakfast to the UIS students. Some food service workers took taxis to get here; they were that dedicated to taking care of our students. The Food Emporium was open until 6 p.m., then Food Services opened the Founders Hall grill, which was open until midnight.
One of the biggest adventures that I heard about occurred with WUIS. Sean Crawford, news director, came to work Tuesday with blankets and a food supply, knowing it could be a long night. It was. He got a few hours of sleep on his office floor, but answered the continuously ringing phone in the evening and wee early morning hours with cancellations. Even when there a power outage, he continued to broadcast to an Internet audience. He left the station shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday.
Because of a rural electric outage that wasn’t repaired until Wednesday afternoon and the failure of the backup generator, Greg Manfroi, the chief broadcast engineer at WUIS, contended with driving to Mechanicsburg to the WUIS tower on two occasions trying to solve problems, because we also supply the tower for National Weather Service, Illinois State Police and IEMA. Tuesday night, IEMA considered bringing a generator, but felt that after dark wasn’t a good time to do any electrical work. Greg then had to trek through that blowing heavy snow about a quarter of a mile to get to the transmitter, because the lane to the site was closed. Not only that, but his vehicle was damaged by hitting some snow and he called for a tow to help liberate his vehicle. Later, he was alerted by a neighbor that a tow truck had come and taken away his SUV, without telling Greg, who was then stuck at the tower site. Station GM Bill Wheelhouse was able to go pick him up early Wednesday afternoon, a few hours later, after the road has been plowed. Wheelhouse also reported that the HD signals for the station would be down for about a week as a result of the outage.
Back on campus, meanwhile, Brian Beckerman is the grounds sub-foreman in charge of snow removal. Brian and his family live outside Petersburg, so instead of running the risk of not being able to make it back to work on Tuesday because of the ice problem Monday, Brian chose to sleep in his office the next two nights, Monday and Tuesday. It’s an understatement to say that our entire removal crew was very dedicated to clearing the streets, sidewalks and parking lots – with 13 inches of drifting snow and ice on the campus. In addition to getting ready for UIS to reopen Thursday, Sangamon Auditorium had a “Get the Led Out” concert on Thursday evening, which meant accommodating hundreds of additional patrons on campus, which further complicating the grounds workers’ challenge on what became a bone-chilling day.
I frankly don’t know how they clear all that blowing snow – but I know that most of us just kind of expect that we’ll have a path to our parking places and then to our buildings. And we did. So I’d like to give a major salute to Brian Beckerman and his grounds department personnel for their commitment to UIS.
The trouble with writing this thank-you note is that I’ve probably missed some other heroic stories of dedication. I apologize in advance for that. But I’d still appreciate hearing more stories if you have them. Let me know, please, so that we can keep the big story going.
More Storm Stories:
Terry Pryor, Mailing Equipment Operator, Expeditor II in the Campus Services department, baked cupcakes for the grounds workers to show her appreciation for their work.
From Todd Rotroff, Network Specialist Coordinator, ITS:
“Good Morning Harry,
The campus helpdesk was able to maintain normal business hours (til midnight on Tuesday night) due to the dedicated efforts of our student employees. Early on Tuesday I told all my off campus students to stay home for safety reasons and switched workforce to on-campus student employees only. It’s not a heroic story, just a source of pride in our unit that when much of the rest of campus was shutting down we were still answering questions like we always do.”
From Timothy W. Robert:
“Thank you for sharing these stories, it is in times like this that the dedication of the staff and faculty of our University really shines through.
On a similar note I would like to mention how the students living on campus helped to dig each other’s cars out in the days after the blizzard. It really is a testement to the growing on-campus community to see students, who may only have met in passing before that day, taking time to help their neighbors reclaim their cars from mother nature.”