In Working Order
Chuck Williams '72 is Director of Facilities.
When he was a student at Deerfield, Chuck Williams lived on his family’s Old Deerfield farm—and now he works across the street. After college and years in farming and landscaping, he rejoined the Academy in 1996 and rose to director of facilities in 1998. Today, he oversees the entire Physical Plant operation: maintenance and building construction, grounds keeping, custodial services, transportation, shipping, and security.
Many facilities jobs require a “professional engineer”—“P.E.” for short. “I always joke with engineers around here about I’m a ‘P.E.’ too,” Mr. Williams says, “I call it Practical Experience.” Often that’s at least as important, and sometimes it saves the day: Mr. Williams was one of the first people to respond to the fire in Deerfield’s Dining Hall last winter, and his quick actions prevented a much larger blaze. But beyond routine tasks and mercifully infrequent emergencies, he must also oversee the bigger picture, including renovation schedules for existing buildings and construction plans for new ones. He shepherds Academy buildings that span almost 300 years of history: from the 1721 Delano House to the 2006 Koch Center—preserving each for generations to come.
Doing all that requires quite a team. The Physical Plant employs security staff, groundskeepers, custodians, and a bevy of tradesmen: carpenters, plumbers, HVAC experts, and painters are all on staff. Add to that an administrative assistant, an environmental/sustainability coordinator, and five managers and four supervisors who keep the whole team going, and in all, the Physical Plant employs about 70 people. The talent on hand is tremendous: linger for a moment and Ms. Salinetti will cultivate your knowledge of organic flower gardens; Danny Haselton will illuminate you with a lesson on amps, volts, and watts; and John Downie will demonstrate craftsmanship so fine that it makes you wonder whether he’s building houses or sculpting.
Jan Wondoloski’s official title is “manager of facility services” but “Phys Plant Majordomo” might be more apt; the length and range of his 35 years of experience means he is often the bridge between multiple departments on campus. He is the unseen hand behind the success of so many Deerfield events, and if everything appears to be running smoothly, chances are that “Wondo” is involved.
Through it all, Physical Plant staff have that special something that allows them to connect with students in a meaningful way. Christopher Desautels is a custodian in the Reed Arts Center: that’s appropriate, since he’s rumored to occasionally use his break to give a virtuoso performance on one of its pianos. Virtually every student recognizes the duo of Joe Garey and Tim Wondoloski, since they manage the shipping dock where eagerly-awaited care packages and Amazon orders are picked up.
Jodi and J.J. Tanguay work on the grounds crew.
Student-staff relationships strengthen the community and build character, but they also make the campus run more efficiently. Mr. Williams says that he knew some Physical Plant workers when he was a student, but only because he grew up in town. The boys (DA was still all male then) didn’t have much reason to interact with the folks running the place. Times have changed. Today, he says, sports teams paint fences and rake leaves as community service projects, students volunteer as “environmental proctors” to help with energy conservation efforts, and Deerfield’s “DAPP” service program means that virtually every member of the Physical Plant has students working alongside them throughout the year.
“Jodi and I get a lot of interaction with students,” J.J. Tanguay says. These sisters work side-by-side on the grounds crew, and Jodi also serves as Deerfield’s head ski coach. Jodi’s skiers, obligated to do one practice-session worth of community service each term, have chosen to work with their coach on groundskeeping projects. Jodi says she likes having her skiers get a taste of what she and her sister do at Deerfield, and she also likes them to know why she chose her line of work. She wants students to understand why her job involves digging in dirt, shoveling snow, and building fences—tasks they probably don’t envision as part of a potential career; the Tanguays model clear choices about a life well lived.