Everyday Hero: Archie Nesbitt

Posted: June 24, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

Editor’s note: This Daily Gazette feature profiles key people at Mason who “make it happen.”

Name: Archie Nesbitt

Position at Mason: Grounds shop supervisor

How Long at Mason: 17 years

What He Does: Supervises the university’s grounds and landscaping, including university staff and contractors

A Typical Day: Starts at 6 a.m. with the early morning crew. He drives around the Fairfax Campus first thing to inspect the grounds and see if anything’s amiss, such as fallen trees and branches or dead squirrels that need to be removed (about two or three a week). He uses this time to plan the priorities for the next day. Although he’s a supervisor, he does a lot of hands-on work himself. Quitting time is between 2:30 and 3 p.m.

What He Thinks His Most Important Function Is: “Trying to create an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere. The way the grounds look implies something about the university. A lot of people are just coming through for a day or an event, and they form their whole opinion of the university based on how the grounds look.”

Archie Nesbitt
Photo by Evan Cantwell

How Things Have Changed Since He’s Been Here: “When I first came, I thought the grounds could be improved. It didn’t have enough ‘curbside appeal.’ I thought more could get done than was getting done at the time. It took two weeks to mow the whole campus back then; now we get it done in a week. When I came, the campus ended at Robinson Hall; King Hall was just coming online. Now we have Enterprise Hall, Innovation Hall. Every time a new building goes up, the grounds change. And keeping the grounds looking nice during construction is a challenge.”

Most Memorable Experience at Mason: “We were cutting down dead trees one day around Lot F and a woman who was leading some kids on a nature walk came up to me and said the kids were concerned we were killing squirrels or animals in the woods. So, I stopped and explained to them what we were doing. I later dropped off a birdhouse for them.”

Most Recent Achievements: Being invited to the Board of Visitors’ May meeting to accept its appreciation for having the grounds look so nice; being named the Physical Plant’s June Employee of the Month.

Biggest Challenge: “In the spring, it’s keeping up with the grass. In the winter, it’s snow removal.” He explains that during the winter, all the Physical Plant “shops”—carpenters, electricians, grounds crews—pitch in to help with snow removal.

On Wildlife at Mason: “I’ve seen deer, raccoons, a family of foxes, chipmunks, rabbits, hawks. The only problem with the animals is that the squirrels and raccoons scatter trash around. It’s not my responsibility to pick up the trash, but if you’re mowing in an area where there’s trash, you have to pick it up.”

What He Likes about His Work: “I like working in the field. I get to supervise people. I get to notice the changes throughout the season. There’s a new crop of visitors and students each year, and they have no idea how things have changed. But alumni come back and say how nice it is to observe the changes.”

His Favorite Spot on Campus: The “old” section of the campus—the area from the Finley Building to the Quad. “It always looks well-maintained, and the benches are nice—you can sit there and eat lunch.”

His Favorite Time of Year: From mid-April to the week after graduation—”when the daffodils and tulips are in bloom.”

His Educational Background: He has degrees in agronomics turf science and landscape horticulture from Northern Virginia Community College and Virginia Tech.

His Personal Goal: “I’d like to see the landscaping recognized in some way. I’d like the university to have a reputation of having finely maintained grounds.”

What He Does for Fun: “I’m a Dallas Cowboy fan. I’m also training to run in the Marine Corps Marathon in October through an AIDS marathon training fundraiser. The funds will go to the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, D.C.”

What People Say about Him:

“I receive many phone calls and e-mail expressing the hard work Archie has invested in not only the day-to-day responsibilities of the grounds shop but also the seasonal planting and flow program he has established every year. Most of the time, you can find him on a piece of equipment or working alongside his fellow crew members, who have given him the unofficial title of the hardest working supervisor in the Physical Plant.”

—Jon Lewis, assistant director, operations, Physical Plant

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