North Central College - Naperville, IL

John Rygiewicz: Lessons in Hard Work

Students who choose to work in the maintenance department with John Rygiewicz are expected to put out a lot of energy in all types of weather. And they quickly learn that they are part of a tradition of camaraderie, hard work and pride that complements their transformation into well-rounded young adults. They also learn a work ethic that has long been the hallmark of North Central's maintenance staff.

"Students will tell me it's the hardest job they've ever had," says Rygiewicz, the College's head groundskeeper, known as "JR" to his staff. "They're challenged by working outside in all weather—these aren't desk jobs where you can study at the same time."

Pride in beautifying the campus is the first reason students offer for liking their jobs. "Our work makes the campus a better place," says Spencer VanHerik '11, a broadcast communication major. "During Homecoming Week, we wanted the campus looking its best when alumni came back to their school."

Other students earn the trust of Rygiewicz to work independently. The past two summers, Andrew Sauer '11 has been in charge of maintaining Zimmerman Field for baseball camps and tournaments. "Last summer, John definitely gave me more responsibility for getting my work done on my own," says Sauer, a sport management major.

While gaining respect for the people who perform maintenance on campus, students also become part of an extended family. "We pull together and help each other out," says Rygiewicz. "I've helped students move into apartments and even loaned them a little money."

Jonathan Shanower '85, an attorney in Aurora, IL, recalls the lessons he learned from Rygiewicz. "JR and (his former boss) Cliff Holdeman stressed the importance of doing a job right," he says. "JR wanted you to take pride in what you were doing because the groundskeeping jobs were visible to students, faculty, staff and the entire Naperville community."