By Elina Shapiro – Contributing Writer
As I turn the corner to approach my room in Stone hall, I hear a cheery voice, saying “Howdy! How are you doing?” and suddenly it doesn’t matter that I was soaked in the rain, freezing from the snow, or just did poorly on an assignment. I am excited because that means I am about to talk to Steve Decker, Stone Hall’s custodian.
Decker, always smiling, is great at giving life advice. “He helped me through a tough time last year when I lived in Stone,” said Kelsey Dunn, a senior Early Childhood Education major at UMF. “He told me a personal story that shaped my decision making and made my life more positive.”
Decker has only worked in Stone, but he spreads enthusiasm around campus. “Last year when I walked up to Stone, he was waving to everyone saying, ‘How are you doing?’ and ‘Have a great day!” said Dunn.
Students are Decker’s favorite part of his job. “You don’t know what they’re going through. You might say, ‘hey, how are you doing?’ and that’s all they need,” said Decker with compassion in his eyes. “Life’s too short to worry about things, you help where you can.”
When I transferred to UMF, I was nervous because I didn’t know anyone. Steve made the transition easier because he was a consistent figure in my life who cared about how my tests went, when I was going to see my family next, and how I was doing overall.
Dunn, also a transfer student, felt similarly. “Having Steve be that friend my first year after transferring was like having someone that I could go to for laughs, someone to get advice and guidance, and someone I could go to if I ever needed,” said Dunn. “To this day, I’m still grateful for all he’s done for me–whether it is stopping me in the hall just to say ‘hi’ or catch up to helping me get my car out of the snow last winter.”
In addition to making a difference by talking with students, Decker also made the Stone lounge much cozier. He and his wife added blankets, stuffed animals, and photos to make the area look more like inviting and help people who were homesick.
“He’s very committed,” said Alyssa Higbie, a junior Elementary Education major at UMF. “He’s made this a home, not a dorm.”
Decker won the “Phil Watts” award twice, once when he first started seven years ago, and again last year. The Phil Watts award is given to UMF custodians based on student votes. Members of the CRC (Campus Residence Council) then tally up the votes. Higbie highlighted that not only Stone Hall residents voted for him, but students all around campus.
Decker goes above and beyond to help students. Last winter, Higbie’s car was stuck in an ice dam, and within the hour, Decker reported to her that he had shoveled her out.
“He does everything–snow blows, sands, cleans the stairs, bathrooms, floors, as well as vacuums, takes the trash out–he goes all over the place,” said Dunn with sparkling eyes. “He’ll do any big thing to little thing. He does it because he wants to make the community great.”
Decker cares about every single person and makes them feel loved. Coming to college is hard, Decker is one of the first reasons I found Farmington and UMF to be another home. Decker not only does his custodian jobs, he is also a wonderful mentor and friend to all students.
“Steve is a memory that will last forever. His personality, care, hard work, honesty, is something that I aspire to be as a teacher and a person in general,” said Dunn. “Steve is invited to my graduation if he’s not already attending.”