The unsung heroes of our collective learning space

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The custodians at West Texas A&M University are some of the unsung heroes of our collective learning space; quietly, stoically and proficiently making sure our floors are mopped, our bathrooms sanitary and our hands dry with freshly restocked paper towels. None of us actively try to let their work go unrecognized, and yet still fail to acknowledge it as much as we should. Even the most minute details of the university’s buildings are only clean due to their hard and methodical work.

Larry Williamson, Fine Arts Complex custodian, for instance, had just finished spending 48 hours stripping and waxing the grand lobby floor at the time of our interview. It now has the regal gleam most subconsciously decide it must have, yet never think about how it does.

Williamson comes in to work at 4:30 pm and cleans until 12:30 am. He’s behind the scenes like so many of his fellow custodians. He does his job and leaves, perhaps unnoticed, though his work is always appreciated. But some custodians are not so inconspicuous. Michael Moore, for instance, cleans the engineering building in the early afternoons, which affords him the chance to interact with the students who study there. His presence and impact is strongly felt by everyone, whether it be through his positive interactions with students and staff, or just the clean results of his hard work.

“I clean every classroom… every shop, every lab from the first floor, water fountains, windows, sweep, mop, bathrooms, the little break area, also strip and wax floors… encourage, I guess, the students to do a good job,” Moore said, explaining his routine. “Anything I can do for them, I just let them know that. I know it’s hard going to school… being stressed. So I just try and help them get through it… Let them know that if there’s anything they need, they don’t have to worry about being locked out.”

The work ethic of the custodians interviewed were admirably strong. Each strived to do the best job they could and without regular thanks from most students.

“I’m just trying to get it done, make sure everything’s done here and over at the other buildings I’m at,” said Bill Thurston, a custodian of 20 years. Before he cleaned the halls of this university, he had cleaned the halls of Aramark.

For Moore, this is a part time job. He works the rest of his week at the OSAGE water treatment lab in Amarillo. When asked how each custodian values their job, Larry Williamson, a custodian of 30 years, said, “Just coming to work and being able to work in the quiet.” Before the interview, he had been watching the snow fall through the grand lobby window in a calming, isolated silence.

“I’m a real people person, so I mean, I value it a lot,” Moore said. “It helps me unwind.”

The custodians of our university are an essential part of it, and though the students may know this and even do their best to live out their gratitude, there’s always more the residents of WTAMU can do to brighten a person’s day.

“Be positive towards the custodians. Sometimes… attitudes come into play… That’s why I try and keep it happy, but I mean, we’re all people at the end of the day,” said Moore. “I think a smile goes a long way… Focus on your school and, you know, make as little mess as possible.”


Audio piece by Alyssa Gonzales