Distinguished Staff Award
Jerrett Roberge

Jerrett Roberge

Machinery Mechanic Lead, Facilities Services

Nominated by Alex Hansen, Facilities/Technical Services Manager, Biology Department

Awarded 2018

Dear Distinguished Staff Award Committee:

We are writing you today to nominate Jerrett Roberge, Central Zone Machinery Mechanic Lead, for the Distinguished Staff Award. In his role as shop lead, Jerrett is responsible for maintaining all the pumps, fans, fume hoods, air compressors, dampers and all sorts of other machines which keep our campus buildings running every day.

Mr Roberge has an extraordinarily high skill set. And that’s definitely needed for the job he does. He’s not afraid to jump into jobs that everyone else is afraid to touch. For example, a central focus point in the Physics Astronomy Building is the Foucault Pendulum, a classic demonstration of the physics of the earth’s rotation. When the pendulum was damaged, the repair was not straightforward and required a great deal of research on the design since the company which provided the pendulum 25 years ago had gone out of business. In addition, the work involved coordination with safety officers, building a 3 story scaffolding structure to the top of the pendulum, considerable skill and patience in the repair and realignment of the pendulum, and coordination with building occupants and management, vendors, and other shops as well as with his own staff for the repair. The repair itself required a desire to teach oneself a new and very special skill set and attention to details that few people have. Were it not for his efforts, this architectural centerpiece would remain sadly non-functional, but instead it both teaches and fascinates thousands of students every day.

This is certainly not the first time that Jerrett’s thoughtful problem solving has saved this institution considerable time and money, thereby contributing quietly to our mission. For instance, Jerrett’s work retrofitting problematic chalkboard lifting mechanisms in Physics has saved many man-weeks of labor. The cabling systems were poorly engineered from the day they were installed new in the building and Jerrett essentially redesigned and re-engineered them to eliminate most of the shock loading, cable fatigue and subsequent failures of the board systems.

But perhaps his most important contribution has been a proactive approach to maintaining mechanical systems. Using an automotive analogy, Jerrett is like the mechanic that replaces belts, bearing and seals, changes the oil, aligns the tires and investigates the shimmy in the steering wheel, all to prevent a breakdown or accident from ever occurring. Jerrett does the equivalent of this with our buildings in a way that simply wasn’t being done before. His efforts, along with those of his staff, have done a great deal to minimize the likelihood of unexpected and costly “run to fail” incidents. Rather, Jerrett works with us to find problems before they become critical. He has systematically reviewed operating machinery on campus, diagnosed and repaired nascent maintenance issues, and set up preventative maintenance schedules whereby machinery is routinely evaluated, allowing major repairs to be carefully planned and executed well before outright failures occur. Thus, the potential negative impacts to daily operations have been dramatically reduced in frequency and severity.

For example, during a recent Christmas break, Jerrett undertook an ambitious project to replace the huge bearings that allow Kincaid’s ventilation supply fan to turn- a job large enough that it typically would have been done by an outside contractor. Over three consecutive long days when he surely would rather have been spending time with his family, Jerrett completed this project so that the impacts to research and occupants would be minimized. Furthermore, the work was finished on schedule, and doing it in house saved the University a considerable sum of money. Without his careful planning, this fan could have failed unexpectedly and catastrophically, leaving a major research building largely unusable for an extended period of time.

This sort of maintenance is often thankless work- if you do it well, frankly, people think that the buildings run themselves. But this is a tremendous benefit to occupants, because when they don’t have to think about their buildings, they can instead focus on their science, educating our students, and helping our University succeed in its mission.

In addition to Jerrett’s excellent work at finding ways to extend the life of older buildings, he’s also been at the front of the line when it comes to learning how to handle brand new buildings and systems. From the Molecular Engineering Building’s opening 5 years ago, the NanoEngineering Building opening currently underway, and Life Sciences and CSE2 soon to come, Jerrett has made it a point to learn the ins-and-outs of many sophisticated and complex new building systems. When he comes to an area he doesn’t know, he makes it a point to ask questions and learn until he understands it and can work with it effectively in the future.

And this is no small effort- Jerrett’s shop is responsible for machinery throughout the entire central core of campus, 70 odd buildings and growing, many of them quite old, each filled with it’s own unique array of pumps, fans, HVAC equipment and other machines that make our campus operate. While we as building coordinators see only a small portion of this effort, it’s clear to us what an Herculean undertaking this is and it makes his accomplishments all the more impressive.

Mr. Roberge has been a true joy to work with in his time at the UW and has brought a level of knowledge, skill and leadership that is without parallel. He communicates with colleagues and clients clearly and professionally when coordination, shutdowns and other operational impacts cannot be avoided. He is a soft spoken but strong leader to his staff and provides them support and guidance at all times.

If this University values those who think proactively, work efficiently, and strive for good working relations with all those they work with, we would suggest that they could find few people more deserving of recognition than Mr Roberge, and we would ask that he be given serious consideration as a Distinguished Staff Award recipient.

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