Everyday Hero: Ronald Lim

Posted: August 5, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Colleen Kearney Rich

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

Name: Ronald L. Lim

Years at Mason: 15

Current Position: Manager of Recycling/Waste Management

What He Really Does: Lim manages three crews who pick up the recycling material and trash throughout campus. His recycling/waste management team is composed of three classified staff members, a number of wages employees, and 12 “clients.” Lim uses the term “clients” to describe the handicapped, challenged, or disabled individuals who work on his crews. “The terminology in the field is always changing,” he says. “I prefer to just think of them as my clients.”

First Job at Mason: Lim first came to Mason in 1989 as the head of one of the recycling crews. At the time, he was working for Northern Virginia Training Center (NVTC), located close to the Fairfax Campus on Braddock Road. One of his crews still comes from NVTC. The other two come from Job Discovery Inc. in Fairfax.

What He Likes Best about His Job: His clients. “My people make me look good. These guys don’t miss work,” he says, “and they are always very enthusiastic about the job.” One of the clients has worked for Lim for 15 years. “They have job security, they are getting decent money, and they get to be out and about with everyone else.” All the crews come with supervisors.

On His Goals for the Crews: To keep the campus clean—as if by magic. “I don’t want us to be obtrusive. I would rather people just notice that the recycling containers are empty or the parking lot is clean.”

Ronald Lim
Photos by Evan Cantwell

On His “Advertising” Campaigns: You may have seen Lim’s recycling posters. They feature sports photos and catchy lines. “My favorite was the one with the wrestler,” says Lim. “It said, ‘Don’t litter or I’ll break your arm.'” Lim creates the posters with the help of Jeff O’Bier, director of media in Intercollegiate Athletics. They have a new batch coming out in time for the fall semester. It is a light-hearted attempt to tackle a serious subject. “We live in a very affluent area,” he says. “It is very much a throwaway society. We try to make it easy for people [to recycle]. Sometimes people would rather just throw something away than take a couple more steps over to one of the recycling cans.”

On Getting Rich in Recycling: “It has never been a money-making venture,” he says. “We do get revenue from it, but it doesn’t make a profit.” For one thing, the operation takes a lot of losses through the year. Recycling receptacles, which cost more than $100 each, have a tendency to disappear. “I understand the big cans fit a quarter keg perfectly,” says Lim. “Then, when it snows, people will rip off the lids to shovel snow. Or sometimes they are used as sleds.”

What He Does for Fun: Since 1990, Lim has coached crew at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. “I really enjoy working with young people,” he says. “And I’ve been doing it so long that some of the kids are now young adults with families. They are sending me wedding pictures and baby pictures. It’s pretty great.” In the summer, he also coaches the Northern Virginia Rowing Club, and his men’s team has won a couple of medals. “It is a mixed group. I have a variety of ages, from people in their mid-20s to those in their 60s, rowing for me.”

Where You Can Find Him: Most weekdays, Lim eats lunch with his crews in Student Union I. When not on campus or on the Occoquan River with one of his rowing teams, Lim likes to work out. He lives in Lake Ridge with his cat, Homer, and recently bought a 2002 Corvette.

What People Say about Him:

“I’ve known Ron for about five years, and I can honestly say that he is one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met in terms of providing a clean environment. Not only is he committed to George Mason in this capacity, but he also talks openly about recycling globally. His enthusiasm is infectious and has made me and others in Intercollegiate Athletics more conscious of this most important endeavor.”

—Jeff O’Bier, Director of Media, Intercollegiate Athletics

“Prior to accepting the position at Mason as recycling manager, Ron worked with Northern Virginia Training Center and was on loan to Mason for three to four years supervising the recycling center job site. He taught the developmentally delayed adults how to perform physical tasks related to recycling. Ron is clearly the ‘link’ in the chain that holds everything together. He is, in my opinion, irreplaceable. The Physical Plant is fortunate to have retained him in the organization this long.”

—Paul Kashmer, assistant director of administration/personnel, Physical Plant

“I have known Ron for five years and cannot say enough about his efforts coordinating the university’s waste and recycling program. Ron is a very patient and understanding individual, which allows him to work with such a diverse group of individuals—and keep all three campuses looking great!”

—Jon M. Lewis, assistant director of operations, Physical Plant

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