Bayh College of Education custodian Tom Anderson makes University Hall gleam with his hard work and infectious positivity.
Tom Anderson is considered a champion among his coworkers in the Bayh College of Education.
At 66, he’s been a custodian at State for nearly two decades, but the impact he makes on those around him is timeless. “I’ve been with the university for 17 years. I began in the Statesman Towers location until they were torn down and since University Hall opened in 2009,” Anderson said.
From preparing for a wedding in the atrium of University Hall to missing out on a staff picture day so he can set up a classroom, Anderson takes his job to the next level and puts smiles on his coworkers’ faces throughout the day.
“It never fails — he always stops what he’s doing to greet you,” said Judy Sheese, assistant dean. “He’s such a part of the college.”
Anderson’s role in University Hall goes beyond keeping the floors and rooms clean. This past summer, while the college was looking for a new dean, he was part of the interviewing process, taking a seat among the group of faculty and staff who helped select a new dean of the college.
“Tom was there during my interview, and I remember when I started, he gave me a book of ISU’s history with education and told me, ‘You might want to look over this.’ He even gave some background himself about the College of Education and how important it is to the university,” said Dean Janet Buckenmeyer.
As summer approached, Sheese started forming an idea for a birthday gift for Anderson to surprise him for all the hard work he does around the college. Sheese took a picture of him and created a two-foot cardboard cutout to take him along on the trip. After collecting photos of Anderson at key landmarks on the trip, the result was his birthday present: a scrapbook of pictures called “Tom’s Travels.”
“I thought it would be fun to surprise Tom,” Sheese said. “My family and I took pictures of the cardboard Tom all over South Dakota. He visited the Corn Palace, Wall Drug, the Badlands, Custer State Park, Jewel Cave, Wind Cave and of course, Mount Rushmore.”
When Sheese gave the present to Anderson, he was over the moon about the amount of work and thought put into a gift for him.
“I knew something was up. Judy asked to meet one day, and the faculty and staff sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me and presented me with the book. I was so surprised she felt so highly of me to present me with this birthday gift,” Anderson said.
Sheese explained that she and her coworkers wanted to make the presentation of the gift grand to show how much they care about him and his contribution to the university — and their lives.
“When I first came, he introduced himself and worked really hard to remember my name. That’s just his personality, he’s always staying involved with the college,” said David Higus, coordinator of student teaching at State.
One of Anderson’s goals as a facilities staff member is to maintain a positive atmosphere in University Hall, and he achieves that by getting to know all the Sycamores he can.
“My favorite part about the job is meeting the students and faculty that I serve,” Anderson said. “We are regarded as support staff, so we are excited to support the educational experience and have a pleasing building for them.”
Anderson knows every employee in University Hall, and if one were ever to roam the hallways of the college, they’d most likely see him on the third floor, pushing his equipment cart. And he’d probably greet them with a huge smile and wave.
“If he’s having a bad day, you’d never know it,” Sheese said.
The vigor and determination Anderson has for his job inspires those around him. “It’s not just a job for him, that’s really what he has — a passion for keeping this building as pristine as it is,” Higus said. He sets the bar high, he goes above and beyond for all of us.”
Many times, Anderson is so meticulous about cleaning a room he’ll nearly forget to clock out for the day. “He does what he does because that’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s never asking for anything extra,” Higus said.
Anderson’s positivity in University Hall is echoed in the smiles seen on the faces of its students in the building.
“Our supervisor really encourages us to reach out to students, because it’s important to encourage everyone whenever possible. As a team, we work our hardest to get our job done,” Anderson said. “I want to thank God and our custodial supervisors for doing a great job in encouraging us, training us and their kindness and fairness. Without their encouragement and direction, we wouldn’t be able to achieve what we do.”