Seton Hill’s maintenance director loves his job, and now he’s a ‘Maintenance Hero’
The parking lots and roads are clear from snow.
The residence hall showers have hot water.
Students with disabilities have safe ways to traverse campus.
It’s all because Bill Vokes, director of maintenance and grounds, has it under control behind the scenes at Seton Hill University.
“He’ll roll out of bed at 3 a.m. to come to campus and remove snow or fix the waterline break,” said Jennifer Lundy, vice president for finance and administration and chief financial officer.
“He knows every nook and cranny, and there are a lot of very unusual nooks and crannies,” said Beth Kepple, administrative assistant in the office of student affairs.
Vokes’ 50 years of dedication earned him the 2018 Maintenance Hero award last month from American Time, a manufacturer of custom clock, time-keeping and notification systems. Kepple described the 67-year-old man as a “maintenance encyclopedia.”
“The snow removal is fantastic on all of the roads and the sidewalks,” she said. “I can’t wait to get to campus on a bad morning because I know I won’t have any problem getting up the hill.”
Vokes’ staff of 17 keeps Seton Hill’s 212 acres looking pristine. Some are skilled in carpentry, painting and electrical work, while even more keep the boiler room in tiptop shape. Vokes, of Kecksburg, keeps track of them all and can jump in anywhere to help as needed.
“I try to keep everybody happy, especially the students -- they’re No. 1 priority,” he said.
One day last week, he took two phone calls and a knock on his office door within 30 minutes from employees who were being dispatched around campus. Before 10 a.m., he had quite a few crises to attend to -- a bad breaker in a laundry room, clogged toilets, door locks not working and some showers having only cold water.
“That was just this morning,” he said.
Vokes was 17 when he started working in the custodial department at Seton Hill for $1.40 an hour on Oct. 16, 1968. Over the years, he gathered experience working in different trades on campus and spent 27 years keeping the boiler room running. He took over as head of the department in 2004.
It’s not just the work that endears Vokes to his co-workers. He’s a warm, humble guy who greets others with “Hi, friend.”
“That’s just who he is,” said Terri Bassi-Cook, director of counseling, disability and health services. “He’s pleasant, he’s positive. The way his staff works, I think is a reflection of him, too.”
His cramped office is filled with binders and folders lining the shelves, a roll of yellow caution tape and numerous sets of keys. Classic rock plays softly. He’s proud of the framed award hanging on the wall, but he might be prouder of the photographs of his family tacked up on a corkboard.
He and his wife, Judy, will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in March. They have two children, three grandchildren and recently became great-grandparents for the fourth time.
On top of all the day-to-day surprises, Vokes is always on call. He keeps an eye on the budget and completes capital projects, such as a handicapped access ramp and new steps this year. It’s a job that doesn’t come with a lot of recognition. That doesn’t matter to Vokes.
“I love Seton Hill University and I love my job,” he said. “There’s very few people that love their job. I don’t know if I’ll ever retire or not.”