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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Shining the spotlight on teamwork

A Q & A with Supervisor of Grounds and Vehicles Dennis Finn

Published: October 30, 2009
Section: Features

AVOIDInG THE LIMELIGHT: Supervisor of Grounds and Vehicles Dennis Finn is quick to acknowledge all of the hard work of the staff in facilities. “We’re a team here,” he says. <br /><i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot</i>

AVOIDInG THE LIMELIGHT: Supervisor of Grounds and Vehicles Dennis Finn is quick to acknowledge all of the hard work of the staff in facilities. “We’re a team here,” he says.
PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

The day Supervisor of Grounds and Vehicles Dennis Finn was awarded the 2004 Lou Ennis Staff Award, President Jehuda Reinharz made a speech to honor his accomplishments. Reinharz told the story of an email that had been sent that day to the Office of Facilities Services; an email on which the president had been copied. Reinharz continued by telling the audience how he’d seen Finn’s response only moments later.

Looking back on this day now, Finn refuses to take the credit for this quick response.

“So I was the big hero,” Finn says. “Well, behind that was that Marie, the support secretary [in facilities] called me [to inform me of the email]. So I [took care of it] and like I said, I was the ‘hero,’ but it’s that kind of support and teamwork that did it and that’s the way we are here.”

As supervisor of grounds and vehicles, Finn supervises contractors and in-house staff at Brandeis to oversee decisions regarding landscaping, snow plowing, roads and walkways, facilities vehicle maintenance, trash pickup and recycling.

He also purchases all the equipment and supplies used in all the above operations. As vehicle supervisor, he also deals with filing insurance claims when a Brandeis vehicle is involved in an accident.

Admittedly uncomfortable in the limelight, Finn prefers to applaud the work of his team of workers and express his gratitude for their support.

A Walpole, Mass. native, Finn lives in Foxborough with his wife and has two adult sons.

Finn sat down with The Hoot to discuss his work, his gratitude for the strong team behind him and how he gets around campus in an unorthodox way.

Questions & Answers

The Brandeis Hoot: So how long have you worked at Brandeis?

Dennis Finn: I started in 1999; September of ‘99.

BH: Where did you work before Brandeis?

DF: Before that I was in charge of the grounds at a Polaroid plant in Norwood, Mass.

BH: So what kind of work do you do in facilities?

DF: My official title is supervisor of grounds and vehicles. I have a crew of eight grounds people and one mechanic. We meet in the morning. I give people their assignments [and] I go about helping them get started. Then the day just takes off; it’s so hard to describe.

It’s a wild ride all day long, it really is. There’s just always a lot to do and it’s hard to keep up with it all.

BH: What’s the most rewarding and frustrating aspect of your job?

DF: I’d say the most rewarding is two things, really. One is just having a chance to help people that come to you for help; I get a lot of requests from different groups.

The other thing is, I am a horticulturist and a landscaper. So… if you do something to the landscape and it works out well, that gives me a lot of satisfaction.

[One frustrating part of the work] is losing track of commitments and things you agreed to do. Sometimes there are just a lot of balls to keep in the air.

Try as I might to write everything down and remember all the requests we get, there are times that things get forgotten, and then I have let someone down. This is very frustrating.

BH: You received the 2004 Lou Ennis Staff Award. How did it feel to have your work recognized in this way?

DF: I’ll be honest, it’s very uncomfortable for me…I don’t enjoy being in the limelight. I really would rather kind of fly under the radar

BH: You must interact a lot with students, right? Do you get a lot of positive feedback?

DF: Yes, that’s a really enjoyable part; I really enjoy working with the students. It’s just a very exciting thing because they’re always pretty psyched about everything they’re doing. And it’s an opportunity to help people out that need some help.

They’re always very grateful for anything we do. But you’ve got to remember that it’s part of my job; that’s what I’m here for.

What I try to explain to people, is [that] I’m out front a lot – with students, professors [and] other staff people – just because of the position that I’m in.

There are a lot of people that aren’t in those sorts of positions, but they work just as hard, if not harder than I do. And I just feel a little uncomfortable about getting recognition when they don’t get it because they’re not in that sort of position.

BH: In keeping with the theme of this “Making a Difference” series, who has made a difference for you during your time at Brandeis?

DF: Most certainly my boss, [Director of Facilities] Pete Baker, has been a big influence on me; [he] has really helped me a lot. [Vice President of Campus Operations] Mark Collins [has also helped me a lot].

BH: I hear you get around campus in a pretty environmentally friendly way.

DF: Yes, I [bike around campus]. It’s [because] I can’t find any place to park a vehicle; I can get places much quicker [on a bike] than driving that loop road and I can get right to the door that I want to go. And it’s just so much better for me as a grounds person.

BH: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

DF: We’re a team here, we really are. We really work together, and it’s not one person that does it all and is responsible for it all. It’s really the teamwork that makes everything work.

And these people here in the office help me. I think that’s one of the things I most enjoy about working here – that sense of teamwork and getting to work with so many different people [and] all the different areas of the whole university.

We all work together, we all try to help each other out, and that’s what really makes a difference. And like I said, sometimes I seem to be more on the front end of that, but it’s only because of the support behind me that I’m able to do stuff like that.