Everyday Hero: Morgan Vandergrift

Posted: January 20, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jennifer Mitchell

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

Name: Morgan Vandergrift

Title: Facilities Supervisor, Student Union Operations

Years at Mason: 20

What He Does: Oversees all food equipment for the Fairfax, Arlington, and Prince William Campuses. And that means all—everything in the restaurants, cafeterias, and carts are owned by the university and maintained by Vandergrift and his staff—even the cappuccino machines. “People go nuts if the machine is broken and there’s a long line at the Starbucks counter.”

Other Jobs at Mason: Vandergrift started working in General Maintenance, then worked in the paint shop for nine years before returning to General Maintenance to work the midnight shift so he could take classes during the day. After completing his course work in building trades and maintenance, he was hired to work in the Johnson Center before he moved to his current position.

Hardest part of the job: Working nights, weekends, and being on call 24 hours a day. “Sometimes I have to come in at 11 p.m. and work through the next day. I bring my phone on vacation. The tension gets high sometimes, but I have a good staff, and they help keep things under control.” Vandergrift works many hours of overtime, sometimes up to 15 per week during the winter break, when the campus is less populated and it’s easier to do major renovations.

On Not Being Tied to His Desk: “I’m a walking phone directory.” He knows most of his colleagues’ phone numbers by heart because he has to—moving from one building to another and one campus to another doesn’t leave much time for the office Rolodex. He is tied to his cell phone, though, and the university recently issued Nextel two-way phones to employees in his department to facilitate communication with one another. Vandergrift’s Nextel is continually beeping, but that’s okay; he says being able to move around all day is the best part of his job.

Morgan Vandergrift
Photos by Eric Goodman

On Change at Mason: Things were much different when Vandergrift started working at Mason. At that time, there were only trailers and some trees where the Johnson Center now stands. “SUB I was the party place then. They had bands, DJ’s, pizza, and beer—that’s where everyone hung out and partied. And I was 18, so I was partying too!”

On Life outside of Work: Vandergrift tries to spend as much time as possible with his 13-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter, taking them four-wheeling at National Forest (his cell phone doesn’t work there) and swimming at the Freedom Aquatic Center in Manassas, where he also works out at 5:30 a.m. every morning. He and his family also love to vacation at Myrtle Beach and play golf. “Truthfully, though, most of my time is spent here. When the phone rings, my kids say, ‘Don’t go in!’ But the students on campus have to eat, and it’s my job to keep all the equipment working.”

On His Unique Name: The name Morgan is German, from his mother’s side of the family. Vandergrift is a Dutch name, but his middle name comes from the Bible and was his father’s first name—Enoch. “Only a few people know it, but every once in a while, I’ll be walking through the JC and someone will call out, ‘E!'”

Why He Loves His Job: “It’s a fun job, and a good bunch of people [to work with]. There’s a lot of work to be done, and so much of it is behind the scenes. Everyone helps each other out and works together. I couldn’t do it without them.”

What People Are Saying about Him:

“Morgan is a very rare individual in that he truly believes that excellence isn’t good enough. He’s a true asset to our department, and a complete joy to work with.”

—Aaron Hayes, Assistant Director, Building Services, Johnson Center and Student Union Operations

“I’ve worked with Morgan for five years and have enjoyed every minute of our association. He is unfailingly cheerful and helpful. If there is anything negative to say about him, it’s that he is sometimes TOO helpful—he could inadvertently sacrifice his health and his family for Mason if we didn’t stop him! I beg him to turn off his cell phone when he’s on vacation, but 99 percent of the time he won’t. He has put himself on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and I chastise him for it. I want to keep him around as long as possible, for selfish reasons. I hate to think of how this department would cope without him.”

—Sally Mohle, Business Manager, Johnson Center and Student Union Operations

“I have worked with Morgan for almost 21 years at Mason. We came to work here at the same time and I know that I can always count on him. Since he has been with the Johnson Center, I depend on him to help with renovation projects and he has always had a way of making tough situations a lot easier to deal with—and he’s always good for a great laugh.”

—Mike Bowler, Project Manager, Physical Plant

“Morgan has been a vital link in the operations of the Johnson Center and Student Unions for several years now. His energy and positive attitude makes it a joy for people to work with him. I am more than sure that our facilities would not operate as smoothly as they do without his presence.”

—David Atkins, director, Johnson Center and Student Union Operations

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