By Madison Lecowitch Contributing Writer
Every morning at 7 a.m. Tim Burnell, the custodian of Purington Hall, begins his tasks for the day by dusting, vacuuming and cleaning bathrooms. On snowy winter days, you can find him outside shoveling sidewalks and throwing sand on the ground, making sure nobody falls. Burnell loves cleaning, but to him, the best part of his job is the relationships that he has built with students.
Burnell, age 57, has worked as the custodian of Purington Hall for eight years. Prior to his years working as a custodian, Burnell spent many years working on another passion of his.
“After high school I went to vocational school for welding, and I was a welder for 28 years,” Burnell said. “I worked in the shipyards, construction sites and I spent almost 24 years in the paper mill as a pipefitter.”
Burnell’s switch from welding to custodial work was due to wanting more time with his family: “I [left] the paper mill mostly because my son was young, and it seemed to be the right thing to do,” said Burnell, “When I worked in the paper mill, I had to work a lot of long hours and you never knew when you were coming home, and that was very hard on the family.”
Burnell finds the best part of his job to be the students that he builds relationships with: “There’s no question that the most enjoyable part of the job is meeting the students” said Burnell, but “being able to be here for the students and getting to know them,” is also important to him.
Josh Beckett, a senior and C.A. in Purington, has known Burnell for many years. “This is my third year living in Purington Hall,” said Beckett, “Tim is always available helping residents with whatever they need.”
Jocea Jordan, a freshman living in Purington, remembers when she met Burnell on move-in day: “He was walking around the halls checking if anyone needed help with moving stuff,” Jordan said, “even though I live six hours from home, I was comforted in the fact that I knew someone would be there to help me out if I ever needed anything.”
Burnell loves his job, but sometimes being the custodian of Purington can become a little redundant. “[During] the summers I will say, definitely when the students leave, the fun goes away,” said Burnell, “we have a lot of projects going on, and it’s almost like your constantly cleaning and cleaning and doing that process over and over again.”
Burnell always gets excited when the first day of the new school year arrives. “Freshman move-in day is about as good as it gets,” said Burnell, “it’s just enjoyable to see the new students coming in and helping them get set up in their rooms, and meeting their parents. When everybody moves back in August, it’s like everything starts to come back to life again.”
Burnell has always strived to be the best in anything he does, and it shows in his work at UMF. “When I’m here, my office door is open, and I’m not gonna hide in my office. I totally enjoy helping the students, it’s what drives me,” Burnell said, “being competitive, I want to have the cleanest building on campus, that’s my goal.”
Burnell is proud of his work in Purington Hall, and hopes to be here for at least another eight years. “The cliche is you find something you like, you’ll never work a day in your life. You know I always kind of chuckled at that, but it’s very true because I enjoy being here and doing what I do,” said Burnell, “it’s really not work to me here.”