Kevin Hughes could regularly be spotted out and about on campus as he took care of our beautiful grounds (or dressed in a suit using our school colors on Commencement day). He always offered a hello and warm smile to those he passed and has been a fixture on campus for decades. Hughes is among the many university employees who retired on June 30. He took some time in between beautifying campus for Commencement to talk with us about his time at WOU.
Q: How long have you been at the university, and what titles have you had while here?
A: 28 years, 8 months, 12 days! I started on Sept. 18, 1989. I worked as groundskeeper 1, groundskeeper 2, grounds Lead Worker, landscape maintenance supervisor and landscape maintenance coordinator
Q: In addition to your regular job, what other memorable campus activities have you participated in?
A: NAIA Women’s National Basketball Tournament. We were able to help host a women’s basketball team from another state and to help with the tournament. I also worked during Central High School football games at McArthur Field. We’d work the game and feed the referees baked potatoes at half time.
Q: In what ways has working with WOU students made a difference to your career?
A: Working with students. Seeing the growth of practical knowledge of groundskeeping take place in a student’s life is very encouraging. Seeing students take pride in how our campus is viewed by visitors and peers is very satisfying. Basically, they apply their head knowledge to “getting their hands dirty” in order to make campus as beautiful as it is.
Q: What is it about WOU that allowed you to have such a long tenure here?
A: There is something about being a part of a campus community that cares, not only for the success of our students, but also for the staff and faculty. I love my job! To have community members, faculty, staff, students and future students enjoy walking or driving through campus, it doesn’t get any better than that!
Q: What will you miss most about WOU?
A: I will miss 9:30 a.m. break, 12 p.m. lunch and 2:45 p.m. break. I will miss face-to-face conversations with everyone. I will miss Physical Plant (Facilities Services) Christmas Potluck. I will miss the smell of bark dust before Commencement. I will miss working Commencement day!
Q: Please share a favorite memory about your time at WOU.
A: Being the first to paint a Western helmet logo on our varsity football field. Accepting a national award for our campus landscape in St. Louis, Mo., with my wife. Hanging the Christmas lights on the giant sequoia. One year another crew member and I were at the top of the tree waiting to hang the lights. A sudden storm came up, and the top of the tree was swaying back and forth. We both got motion sick, but I had to come down from the tree because I really got sick. During the ice storm of 2008, campus changed completely, and I watched healthy trees split or fall apart. Picking up litter on Monmouth Avenue on Friday afternoons and talking with students, faculty and staff that I have not seen for a while.
Q: What do you envision for your retirement?
A: Being involved in community projects, working with the homeless at Union Gospel Mission in Salem, home projects – lots of them, working on our farm. And maybe, just maybe, having that extra cup of coffee in the morning with my wife!