Staying to take care of an empty, historic building at UO Portland

John Woelfe, left, and John Roper at the White Stag Block at UO Portland

Editor’s note: Beyond the Call is a new section in Around the O Workplace that highlights the exceptional work of UO employees during COVID-19. Each story features an interview with one employee, in his or her own words, with light editing for clarity and length only.

John Woelfe
Facility Services Manager at University of Oregon Portland

How long have you worked at UO?

I'm going on 13 years.

Tell us about your work:

I take care of the university’s assets in Portland, mainly the White Stag building. I look after the safety, comfort and security of the people and students that work here and monitor all the systems. It's a pretty endless list but anything that has to do with the building and its operations falls on my shoulders.

What does your workday look like during COVID-19?

I get here at 6 a.m., a little bit later than I normally do. I check all the building systems to make sure that everything's running right, check the temperature and check for building damage from the previous night. During that time, I also handle all the mail and the packages that come in and make sure that people are getting the bills, the checks and things of that nature. I usually get one or two requests a week for people that need something from their office, and they tell me what they need so I can leave it at the front desk.

When this first started John Roper and I went around and we tried to collect all the plants that we knew of. I think we got about 99 percent of plants out of the offices and most of them are still alive, which is pretty nice.

I think what's really changed is there's nobody around. It’s very lonely. There's myself, my assistant John Roper, and we have one or two security guards here and that's about it. It’s usually quite an active building. There would usually be between 300 and 400 students and about 100 faculty members you'd interact with throughout the building. Now, I spend my time on Zoom meetings, but basically we're just keeping the building together and trying to complete some projects that are a lot easier to do when nobody's around.

What is keeping you motivated during this challenging time?

I think preserving the university’s asset here is what facility people do. So, what's kind of motivated me is trying to save enough money through energy savings and stuff like that to hopefully pay for some maintenance and repairs on the building. I think I'm achieving that, and I guess that keeps me motivated because this is such a nice building. I've been here since we opened so this has been kind of my second home as far as getting to know the inner workings of a building.

John is a Facility Services Manager at UO Portland.

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