Norm Scherza leads a crew of "essential" workers at the Providence
Campus. "When everybody else has the day off, these guys are coming in
at 3 am," the grounds supervisor said on yet another snowy morning.
His team of 12 takes care of winter plowing, summer planting,
landscaping, lawn care and waste management for the Downcity and
Harborside campuses, the whole of Weybosset street from Dorrance up, all
residence halls on and off campus, Abbott Park Place, the Radisson and
Johnson & Wales Inn, and the Equine Center in Rehoboth when needed.
"Fifteen years ago there wasn't even a snowblower. Everything was
done by hand," Scherza laughs. "Johnson & Wales has turned into a
university where before it was a little commuter school. There was no
grounds department." Marc Gracie, executive director of facilities for
the last five years, "basically brought us into this century," he says
in high praise.
Days for Scherza's crew begin around 5:30 am. For three hours, they
pick up around campus, empty waste cans and clean up anything that's
damaged or vandalized. "It's not a fun thing."
Scherza found a way to make work more of a pleasure, once the dirty
work is done. Each member takes ownership of an area of skill and
interest. Everyone has a niche. One is in charge of ordering and
planting bulbs, another trees, another small machinery. "My expertise is
the lawns — mowing," he says. "I measure off everything by the grass
Being responsible for the total appearance of Johnson & Wales is
"high stress," Scherza admits. "Everything you do is on display or
anything you don't do is on display. It's all visible. There's no way to
He has no need to worry. Under Scherza's watch, the campus and it's
many far-flung sites have never looked more beautiful. Providence Campus
President Irving Schneider, PhD, calls him "an unsung hero." Scherza
calls himself "grounds supervisor, psychologist and leader of the band."
"They're a good crew. These guys have enormous jobs," he adds with
pride. "I just try to make it a little more joyful for them to come to
work." When it comes to first and last impressions of JWU, they're
Eaton '08, Denver Campus director of Campus Safety & Security,
believes a successful security program is only as good as the folks that
are a part of it. Among his biggest challenges is to teach students
that safety is everyone's responsibility.
"You have students 18 or 19 years old coming to the campus; they're
experimenting for their first time away from home with a little freedom
... Sometimes it's a culture shock. The last thing they're thinking
about is being a victim of a crime,' he says.
Safety, service and enforcement are his prime focus. He also oversees
crisis management and transportation. The campus community comes first,
property second. "We do everything with student service in mind," Eaton
says. It's all about building relationships.
Five campus security officers wear polo shirts, khakis and duty belts
for a more approachable image. All are on a first name basis with
students. Eaton and his team conduct crime prevention programs inside
and outside the classrooms. Regular workshops in residence halls
reinforce the basics: lock your doors; report suspicious behavior; take
possession of your assets: don't leave your laptop or your password
Text messaging, Facebook and social media add the threat of cyber
bullying and harrassment. They also provide ready vehicles for emergency
communications and crime awareness and prevention. Eaton chairs a
crisis management team building a Web-based system for emergency
Eaton worked on campus with a contract security company for five
years before he was hired by the university to head his department. He'd
just passed a police academy test to be an officer. With coaxing from
dean of students, Jeff Ederer, Eaton entered the criminal justice
program at JWU, earned his bachelor's degree and went on to pursue a
master's in public administration. A request that he teach an intro to
criminal justice class last fall as an adjunct was a game changer. "I
was going to be a cop. With good guidance from Jeff and support from
wife, my life took a 180-degree turn," he says, loving the work.
"I'm able to share that experience with my students uncertain where
they want to go in life — maybe criminal justice is for them," he adds.
If keeping them safe is his biggest accomplishment, his biggest pleasure
is in helping guide their futures.