November 8, 2004
“This is the way we do it at Bowdoin”
“This is the way we do it at Bowdoin”
When I think of Dave D’Angelo, these words ring over and over again in my head. Every day that I knew Dave, he calmly and patiently -- and maybe sometimes not so calmly and patiently -- reminded me with these very words that Bowdoin is a remarkable place with its own very special traditions, personality, and spirit.
We come together today as the Bowdoin community should to honor a man who meant so much to each of us personally -- and to this College -- because this is the way we do it at Bowdoin. We come together today not out of obligation or because it is the right thing to do. No, we gather today because the Bowdoin family understands that we were graced on this campus by a wonderful soul, a colleague and friend taken from us too soon. We come to grieve and to heal and to support one another.
We look around this Chapel and we see Dave’s family, his colleagues from Facilities, former Bowdoin presidents, members of our Board of Trustees, members of our faculty, the staff and students, Brunswick community members, all of whom have come here to remember Dave and to reaffirm what this great college meant to him and what it means to all of us.
Our world today is not always a kind place. It does not always reflect the values and principles of respect, tolerance, fairness, understanding, and compassion that we all believe it should. At Bowdoin, we try every day to ensure that our community stands for what we believe is right and just. We work hard at it, not just for ourselves, not just for the benefit of a Bowdoin Bubble insulated from reality. We do it because we are confident of our place and our responsibility in this world. And it is because each and every one of us works so hard to achieve a real community of reason, respect, and compassion, that the loss of someone so good, so sensitive, and so caring as Dave D’Angelo is so intensely difficult for us to absorb and comprehend.
All we can do is gather here today, as a grieving community, to remember Dave, to heal together with our memories and to share a deep commitment to the future in Dave’s memory, tradition, and honor.
Many will speak to you today about the fabulous work that Dave did with Bob and Blythe Edwards in the 1990’s – the impressive construction and renovation of so many important buildings. For me, there is enormous pride in Dave’s work on this very chapel and on Kanbar Hall, both completed this fall. It makes me feel so good that Dave was honored for this work a few weeks ago. I still remember that big smile on his mustached face as I spoke about him at the dedications, bragging about how Dave brought these complex projects to magnificent completion “on time and on budget.”
But let me also talk about Dave as a leader and a colleague. Dave understood how to be an effective leader. And he understood what it means to be in the service business. Facilities at Bowdoin is much more than constructing and renovating buildings. Facilities is about cleaning our dorms and offices, cutting the grass, trimming the trees, keeping the Bowdoin fleet moving, buying the fuel oil, fixing broken windows, keeping the shops running, plowing the snow, picking up the leaves, setting up chairs for Commencement in the pouring rain, and on and on.
Dave understood (as many of the rest of us also understand) that we are, in some ways, in the hospitality business, and that it is our responsibility to do the best job possible for our customers. Now, I don’t mean for our students only. I mean for the faculty, the athletic department, the IT department, the library, and on and on.
Each of us at Bowdoin is patient and understanding, UNTIL something we care about is broken or isn’t cleaned on time. College is about education, not maintenance or construction or consumerism, but without the care and attention of our women and men in Facilities, the core mission of this or any college simply cannot be realized.
As leader of Facilities, Dave told me that he understood that his job was to make everyone at Bowdoin happy and to create a level of success within Facilities that would make the entire campus proud. His mission for Facilities is set forth in your program, and Dave believed it and lived it.
The other day, Don Borkowski told me that he had recently advised Dave that it just isn’t possible to please everyone – he suggested that Dave acknowledge that fact and relax a bit. Well, Don does please all of us and so did Dave. As I have walked around campus this past year -- a wide variety of people -- from Craig Bradley to Jeff Ward, from Sherrie Bergman to Katy Kline, from Halliday Douglas to Derrick Wong, from Suzanne Lovett and Barbara Held to David Page and Mark Wethli -- everyone has complimented the efforts of our Facilities Department. Dave knew that by setting high standards -- by working to please us all -- he was establishing an example for his staff, who, in turn, through their very visible efforts were setting equally high standards for us all.
Each of us values certain qualities in the people we work with. For me, the most important of these are enthusiasm and a desire to be excellent. I enjoy and respect straight shooters -- people who work hard but who also have some fun in the process. About three weeks ago, Dave came back from vacation (I think he spent it with his brother here in Maine). It was early one Monday morning and I was not so enthusiastic as I began my week. Dave came running across the quad to stop me near the flagpole.
“Barry,” he asked. “What are you worried about in Facilities? I just got back – what can I do?”
Now, I’m thinking: “Relax, its Monday morning at 8.” But I say, “Dave I’ve heard rumors that we have a big problem on the cost of our new dorms and that you guys are managing me a bit until you figure it out.”
“Oh,” says Dave, “this is a big problem!”
(With his enthusiasm came an understanding that there are no small problems for Dave, so over time I learned, or tried to learn, not to overreact).
Well, a few days go by, and he calls.
“No problem. This is the number. We are on budget. Not to worry. We handled it.”
Dave never tried to minimize a problem or make it disappear. He was always on it -- always ready to find a solution and always ready to work to find the RIGHT solution. And, he always, always told me the way it really is. Dave was incredibly enthusiastic and fun and devoted -- a great colleague and a person I considered a friend.
Finally, let me say a word to our staff here at Bowdoin and particularly the Facilities staff. Dave respected and loved you. He believed, as I do, that Bowdoin has the most talented and devoted staff -- men and women who care passionately about each other and this college. You are people who are committed to doing the best job possible because you care about what you do and about the quality of your work. I know you miss Dave. I can tell you that there was no better, more enthusiastic advocate for you and what you mean to this College than David D’Angelo.
To Alicia, Elizabeth, Nicole and Tony, you are part of the Bowdoin family and always will be. We are here for you and will be here for you always. Please remember that you have a loving and caring extended family in Brunswick, a family that is ready to reach out and to be here for you now and forever.
Dave, I will miss you, but I will always remember and honor your guiding words:
“This is the way we do it at Bowdoin.”