Steve Decker: Custodian of Stone Hall, Every Student’s Friend

Steve Decker: Custodian of Stone Hall, Every Student’s Friend

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.

Steve Decker, beloved Stone custodian
Photo Courtesy of Elina Shapiro

   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.”

Operation Giveback, Students Deliver Final Presentation at Symposium

By Harley Davis, Contributing Writer 

Walking into the Olsen Student Center, the building was buzzing with activity. Students, faculty, and community members all gathered for symposium day, where students would give short presentations of the work completed over the semester. A large number of people filed into CR 123, took a seat, and waited for the culminating presentation of Operation Giveback, a semester-long campaign to bring awareness to poverty in Franklin County.

Stephen Riitano, president of the Student Maine Education Association (MEA), stepped up to the podium and began explaining the impact of Operation Giveback. For this project, UMF’s Student MEA worked throughout the semester to raise awareness of poverty and provide relief for local families.

The campaign kicked-off in January with a panel discussion about poverty in Franklin County and the resources available to its citizens. This event was followed by a clothing drive and a performance by Maine comedian and UMF alum, Bob Marley. The funds raised through Marley’s show went toward Packs for Progress, an initiative which donates backpacks to local students in need.

Operation Giveback officially ended with the symposium presentation, but the effect of the semester-long campaign will continue on for much longer.

For Riitano, organizing Operation Giveback was an educational and eye-opening experience. “I think the biggest thing I have learned is how lucky I am for all the things that I have in my life and all the things I take for granted everyday,” said Riitano. “I learned that no one wants to be in poverty, and education is a way out of poverty.”

Operation Giveback was successful in providing goods to children and adults in the local community. Throughout the semester, the Student MEA was able to donate twenty bags of clothes from its clothing drive, while ticket sales from the Bob Marley performance raised over one thousand dollars. “I think if we helped one person or educated one person, then it was successful,” said Riitano. “I think the local community is growing more and more aware of the growing issues that are taking place outside the walls of campus.”

Moving forward, the Student MEA will continue striving to improve the community through the education of pre-service teachers. As their recent campaign  stressed time and time again, education is vitally important. “We are looking to bring a plethora of resources here to campus for pre-service teachers,” said Riitano. “Through our affiliation through the MEA we have access to many speakers and other helpful resources for professional development, those opportunities are priceless and they start now.”

While next semester will bring new students and new campaigns to clubs on campus, lessons taken from Operation Giveback will continue to inform the work of Student MEA. “My biggest takeaway was learning the impact that a group of like-minded people with a goal can make,” said Riitano. “It takes a village, but that village has to be full of dedicated individuals.”

The Student MEA is working to join with other on-campus clubs to give back to the community. For more information about future events from Student MEA, the club can be reached at