It Takes a Pioneer
It happens hundreds of times each day. A professor flips on a light switch at the beginning of a class. A student grabs a quick bite to eat in Campus Center or Dewey’s Book & Bean. A staff member sorts through a stack of mail in an office. While these are moments that students, faculty and staff may take for granted in the course of a busy day, they are also the same moments that help keep the MNU community operating.
What does it really take to run a campus of nearly 2,100 students, faculty and staff?
While the answer varies, there are a few common themes: a servant’s heart and a passion for Christian higher education. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt if you happen to have experience as a certified electrician, professional chef or U.S. mail carrier.
A familiar face at MNU, Charles Ablard has served as MNU’s postmaster for 21 years. From the full-service post office on the main campus, Ablard manages the processing of all student, faculty and staff mail, ensuring that packages, bills and letters (yes, letters) are sent and received on a daily basis.
He’s also been a part of significant changes over the years. During his tenure he has managed the automation of MNU’s mail. Twenty years ago, most of the mail processed at MNU was delivered on just one campus. Today, MNU’s post office coordinates two daily deliveries between the main campus and Olathe’s Santa Fe Commons office/classroom complex while also overseeing weekly deliveries to MNU’s Liberty, Mo., location. The growth of online ordering has also significantly increased the amount of packages that the campus post office sends and receives.
“Most students are happy when they come by because they’re getting mail,” Ablard shares, “and alumni come by and still remember their original mailbox.”
In the midst of overseeing four student workers and up to four volunteers each day, Ablard says that it’s the Christian atmosphere that means the most to him at MNU.
“You really appreciate it when you’ve worked other places,” says Ablard, who also served more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy before coming to MNU.
Food Service Director Steven Richmond has one of the busiest jobs on campus. Overseeing three meals a day at Campus Center, along with four additional retail locations—Dewey’s Book & Bean, Land Café, Cook Center concessions and the Santa Fe Commons snack bar—means no two days are the same.
Whether it’s arriving at 5 a.m. on Monday to do a complete inventory for the week or serving 525 plated, three-course meals for President’s Honors, Richmond’s experience helps him take it all in stride. After completing chef’s school, he held roles at hotels, restaurants, resorts, universities and in corporate food service management.
In his three years at MNU, Richmond has already made significant food service changes.
“Approximately 95-98 percent of what we serve is made from scratch,” he shares.
The Campus Center dining hall is now open throughout the day instead of only at specific times. Richmond sees his role as an important part of creating community.
“We work with mostly the same audience each day, which gives us the opportunity to really get to know people and build sincere relationships,” he says.
How about the answer to everyone’s burning question: the most popular item at Campus Center? “It’s definitely still spicy chicken,” Richmond shares.
Richmond is quick to give credit to his entire food service team. Many of his staff have been at MNU for more than 10 years because they love what they do. He’s quick to note that, “It’s the work of these great employees who make this happen every single day.”
You may have to look up to actually find Tom McNaney. As MNU’s only licensed electrician, McNaney is responsible for everything from resetting circuits in the dorms—think a microwave, curling iron and computer all plugged into the same power strip—to literally keeping the street lights on. He has served in this role for 10 years and has a big place in his heart for Christian higher education.
“A Christian college made a difference in my life and changed the direction of where I was headed,” McNaney shares. “It’s about creating an environment that changes lives—this is why I find my job fun.”
McNaney’s heart for students is evident. He prioritizes any request that comes in from the dorms or affects student life.
His skill set allows Facility Services to handle many significant projects in house rather than spending funds to pay an outside electrician. McNaney has assisted in the complete remodel of dorm bathrooms in Stockton, Rice, Lanpher and Snowbarger and has helped rewire the nursing simulation lab in Cook Center during a prior renovation.
Charles, Steven and Tom are three of the dedicated people who keep the lights on, stomachs full and hearts connected at MNU. It really does take a village of purposeful and passionate servants to help run our Pioneer community.
Leave a Comment! To leave a comment for Tom, Steven or Charles, visit www.mnu.edu/accent.