Cane Award Winners Proud To Be Unsung Heroes Of Campus
May 22, 2018
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton
Everywhere you look on the Sam Houston State University campus, you see their efforts and hard work paying off. The 26-person crew in Landscape Services start their day before the sun comes up and sometimes it doesn’t end until close to midnight. However, according to Scott Dolezal, director of Building and Landscape Services, they don’t seem to mind.
“We are here to provide excellent service. When people are here on campus, we are ready to maintain it and keep it beautiful,” Dolezal said.
That includes being up for late nights after events, and up early each morning to maintain the more than 300 acres of SHSU’s campus.
This year, the Landscape Services department received the Cane Award for its excellence in service at the 24th Annual Sammy Awards in April. It was a night that these typically unsung heroes around campus humbly enjoyed.
Alex Zavala, a landscape department employee for more than 26 years, explained what he enjoys most about the service they provide.
“To me, it is an honor because every day we come in here and work hard, so to watch our efforts change campus over time is something we take pride in,” Zavala said. “To see trees planted more than 20 years ago grow year after year is rewarding.”
The awards ceremony was a big night for this staff, who typically spend their days in blue jeans. Being recognized made donning formal clothes worth the effort.
“I was proud of all of the folks that work here, not just myself,” said Jerry Watson, Landscape Services supervisor. “I am proud of what Scott put in place and the people who followed his vision and have accomplished it. This award is the accumulation of all that hard work.”
With more than 21,000 students, plus faculty and staff constantly walking in and around the campus, teamwork is important.
“I think it is a testament to our whole group that we always work together to get things done,” Dolezal said. “Awards are nice, but our guys are proud of what we do every day anyway.”
As SHSU continues to grow, so do the efforts of the team. Dolezal says the staff knows that they help provide a positive first impression for those new to campus.
“It used to be we were only busy right before school started or right before graduation,” Dolezal said. “But now it seems like there is something on campus every week. So, we maintain that top level of excellence throughout the year.”
This past academic year there were several weather-related events that interrupted campus life. Although the campus may shut down during inclement weather, the landscaping team is always on-call.
“We have people that have been here a long time and have seen it all: hurricanes; tornados; snow; ice; and drought. When there is an ice storm, we go in to ice mode. When there is a hurricane, you go into that protocol,” said Evan Anderson, SHSU Arborist. “Even with the recent rain storms this week we had a tree fall down. We just clean it up and put campus back together safely. It is all just part of the process.”
There are a lot of things that go unnoticed as well, but no detail slips past Dolezal’s crew.
“I think sometimes people don’t really realize what we do. We are a full-service irrigation crew, a full-service tree operation, a pest and disease management company, and now, we are more than 90 percent zero waste as well,” Dolezal said. “We want to be more sustainable while maintaining an attractive campus. To be truly sustainable, you need to mimic your local environment.”
The conservation movement is important to the department. They have begun to bring in more native plants and trees from the surrounding areas in an effort to beautify the campus and keep plants alive longer.
Additionally, there are more than 2,500 trees on campus providing relief from the Texas heat. They also provide a bit of nostalgia and hope to anyone who has seen them grow over the years.
“It is part of the job to watch the campus grow and it brings a feeling of accomplishment,” Anderson said. “If you plant a tree, you want it to grow, or you haven’t done your job. I think it is the same with the school. Everyone wants it to grow and evolve.”
When asked about the best compliment he’s received about campus, Dolezal remained humble and mentioned the pride in his team.
“When people feel like they need to come tell me how good of a job somebody did or they saw someone stop to do something a little extra, I think that is what I enjoy the most,” Dolezal said.
It is no surprise that he also has the same amount of pride in every part of campus.
“I don’t really have a favorite spot on campus," Dolezal said. "We have 344 acres that we maintain and each of those areas are special in their own way.”
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