A Huskie You Should Know: Spotlight on Operating Staff

A Huskie you should know: Spotlight on Operating Staff
Featured civil service employees: Merci and Tom Sawyer

Sawyers beautify the castle and remove the occasional unwanted guest

The Sawyers

Merci and Tom Sawyer are building service workers whose designated area is Altgeld Hall. They are married and work two different shifts; T. Sawyer works from 4:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. and M. Sawyer works from 4:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m. This works well for them beause they each work their preferred shift.

Altgeld staff say, “She takes care of Altgeld Hall like it’s her own home and knows the importance of the look of it on the inside and outside, especially to visitors to campus.”

M. Sawyer takes care of the second floor which includes the Division of Finance and Facilities, the Provost office, Student Affairs, five conference rooms, five stairways, bathrooms and the auditorium.

“The biggest job I have is setting up for the events at #200 Auditorium, like weddings, presidential events, lectures, orientation etc. Our job is to maintain our designated area neatly and clean,” said M. Sawyer.

T. Sawyer’s assigned area is the third floor which includes the Office of the President, the Office of General Counsel, Legal Services, the solariums and offices, stairways, washrooms, the Association for Black Culture Centers and Room 315, which is where the Board of Trustees meet. During the week he sets it up differently for receptions, luncheons, and other meetings and events.

Altgeld staff said, “He maintains a huge portion of the outside of the building including snow removal/shoveling.”

“Besides shoveling snow in my thirteen outside entries, I think the hardest part of my job is what we call ‘summer cleanup’,” said T. Sawyer.

This involves cleaning every room, hallway, bathroom, stairwell, etc. from top to bottom washing walls, furniture and carpet and scrubbing and waxing floors.

T. Sawyer said, “Believe me, it takes me from spring to the end of summer to accomplish this.”

Altgeld staff said, “They both take such pride in working in this building and care to all of us that work in this building. And they are a part of our ‘building family’.”

M. Sawyer said, “I am very proud and happy for that, to be considered a part of their ‘building family’.”

T. Sawyer said, “I’m honored I am considered part of the ‘building family’. I didn’t realize I was appreciated that much.”

In the title when I refer to removal of the occasional unwanted guest, I am not talking about the ghost of Altgeld! There has been a different sort lurking in the castle. T. Sawyer tells three stories:      

It was one of the first events I worked which was a wedding in the auditorium at Altgeld. Somebody came and got me and said a bat was flying around in the main entrance. So I went and got my bat net, yes I have a bat net, chased it down to the first floor, trapped it between two sets of double doors, caught it, and took it to the lagoon and let it go.

Another time I was getting the garbage out of one of the middle stairwells. I saw something dark in one of the corners and bent down to pick it up. It was a bat! So I went and got a broom. The bat climbed upon the broom so I walked down the stairwell from the third floor to the first floor with the bat on the broom and let it outside.

I was doing summer cleanup in the President’s office. While wiping down the inside of the sconce I hit something… I reached inside with my hand and pulled out a bat! No, it wasn’t alive. It was perfectly petrified. You can see its teeth and claws and everything. I have it to this day hanging on my bulletin board in my office.

Gladly, these incidences do not occur often. T. Sawyer has been working at NIU for 16 years and M. Sawyer has been working at NIU for 13 years.

T. Sawyer said, “I think it is a privilege to work in Altgeld. I know “the castle’ is a showcase for the university so I take pride in my work and I make it a challenge to myself to keep it the cleanest I can to the best of my ability.”

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