Oct. 26, 2022
Long-serving caretaker takes pride in his work
It happens every year. People return to campus in the fall and there’s always something different: small renovation projects have taken place, larger projects have been completed (all hail the return of the Prairie Chicken!), and of course, the students, faculty and staff are on campus (some returning, some first-timers), all looking a little dazed in those first few weeks.
Isn’t it nice to come across a familiar, smiling face for the reassurance that you’re right where you belong?
Anyone who’s been on the University of Calgary campus for any length of time has more than likely crossed paths with Gary Wright, a caretaker who began his career at UCalgary almost 50 years ago. And for those in the Kinesiology complex, Gary’s been a key member of the support staff from more than a decade.
“Gary Wright is a long-time energetic staff member of the University of Calgary, who started working with us on June 15, 1974. Through his eyes he has seen the growth of the Faculty of Kinesiology where he has worked for most of his years,” says Dr. Raylene Reimer, PhD, kinesiology’s interim dean. “Gary, we thank you for your dedication over all these years.”
Gary comes from a military family, and when his father retired from the Air Force, he took a position at UCalgary in Campus Security. Gary, who was just finishing high school, followed suit and took a weekend job on the caretaking staff at the newly built Mac Hall and in Science A. And that’s when his career at UCalgary began.
He’s moved around the campus a bit and remembers all the buildings in which he’s worked, including a few standouts. He reflects on the changing face of the university; he recalls working in the Olympic Oval during the 1988 Winter Olympics, when he was called to help out with caretaking of the facility during its global debut. Little did he know he’d return to Kinesiology and the Oval as his permanent assignment.
“It’s interesting to get to know these people, the students and the athletes and coaches,” he says. And each year he looks forward to seeing the newest undergrads and the returning students. “It’s nice to see the students every day,” he says. “They’re always pleasant.”
For Gord Peavy, interim manager of operations for the Faculty of Kinesiology, having an employee like Gary lifts the entire team. When he began his duties in February, he says Gary stood out right off the bat. “He’s the hardest worker we have here. We’re lucky to have a worker like Gary.”
“He leads by example,” says Peavy. “He goes above and beyond, does everything that’s asked of him and sometimes comes in and asks to do more.”
The most difficult time in his years at UCalgary? Gary doesn’t skip a beat. “The pandemic. I was away from campus for six months. I painted my entire house, even the ceilings.”
Peavy can understand Gary’s frustration with being away that long, especially after such a long career at UCalgary. “The university fosters community. It makes people want to work here and develops relationships among employees.”
Gary says it’s that sense of community, along with the work ethic he learned from his father, that keeps him on the job. “I’ve got the mentality that you’ve got to work like your life depends on it,” he says.
“It’s the perfect place to work. I couldn’t work in a better place. You’re looked after.”
And the job? “It’s fun.”