St. John’s College gets many visitors every year, from prospective students to tourists who are looking around Annapolis. What they see varies, but none of them miss how beautiful the campus is. It is only possible because there is hard work and sincere care from staff members in Buildings & Grounds. J. R. Pappas is the director of Buildings & Grounds. He has been working at St. John’s College since 2013. As director, he oversees and coordinates the day-to-day operation of the three departments within Buildings & Grounds: CET, Grounds, and Building maintenance with about 25 employees total. He does a lot of project management for campus improvements and works closely with the Business Office.
As a former student assistant at Building & Grounds, I always have appreciated his care for improving our campus environment and his great leadership. One time, I took out all the flowers thinking that they were weeds. I felt so bad, but rather than scolding, he told me how he made a similar mistake when he was early on in his career. Today, I am going to ask him a few questions to share with all of you how amazing he is.
Q: What led you to the field?
A: It has been a pretty “organic” path that led me to facilities management. I have prior experience in sales and project/operations management in the commercial contracting sector, but I did not enter the workforce with the notion I would be in my current role. Working at St. John’s in this capacity has been a great opportunity for me to grow professionally. I never anticipated I would be working in a campus-type environment but it has been a great experience.
Q: What are the priorities you think about when you make changes on campus?
A: Making sure to have changes that will positively impact student experience is a big priority. Sometimes this could mean something as complex and expensive as a new HVAC system, or something as simple as a new foosball table for the dorms. Many of our costlier projects involve building systems that are not necessarily visible, so we make sure we balance these with changes that make a visible impact.
Q: Among the projects you have done so far at St. John’s College, what is the most memorable one?
A: Renovating the planetarium area two years ago is one of my favorite projects (and one of my first big ones). Prior to its current configuration, the path leading through had steps which limited access for people with mobility issues. It was also rather unsightly. With the renovation, we got to improve both access and appearance.
Q: Do you have a personal leadership philosophy?
A: I value collaboration and do my best to empower people to make good decisions.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I enjoy doing projects around the house and cooking and spending time with my family. I also coach my daughter’s lacrosse team which I totally enjoy!