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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Old Dominion University's “Heroes” Held Snow Storm’s Effects at Bay

Old Dominion's payroll was due last Wednesday. But so was abundant snow and ice that closed campus for two days.

As winter's wrath blew toward Hampton Roads, payroll manager Gloria Boone and her team knew they had a mission - pay ODU's people on time.

"There was no room to not get paid," she said. "It was not an option."

So Boone and three staff members worked late Tuesday and spent the night at the SpringHill Suites on Hampton Boulevard, assuring they could meet the deadline for Friday's payday.

By 6 p.m. Wednesday, deposits were on the way to every employee's account "regardless of Mother Nature," Boone said.

That defiant attitude was on display across University departments during recent storm events that grounded much of the rest of Hampton Roads.

With nearly 5,000 residential students on campus, it required a near-Herculean effort, by hundreds of ODU employees, to ensure the community's needs were met.

"Dedicated staff members throughout Old Dominion University go above and beyond when asked to help during challenging times, and these snowstorms were no exception," said Chief Operating Officer David F. Harnage. "They're all heroes in my view, and I'm proud to call them colleagues."


Late Wednesday, while sidelined on Interstate 64 in Newport News, support services manager Harvey Logan knew he, Roy Henderson and Thomas Lambert also had a critical job to complete.

Falling snow was rapidly rendering ODU's streets and sidewalks treacherous as the men who were hauling 30,000 pounds of rock salt from Richmond - because a scheduled delivery never arrived - sat roadside in a disabled truck.

Logan, though, was calm. Determined, but calm.

"The university was depending on this mission to be accomplished," said Logan, who has worked at ODU for 40 years. "I knew we needed that salt so everybody could be safe. If I had to bring it back bag by bag, it was going to get back here."

Logan had already made it to campus in his own full truck. So, after phoning to arrange for roadside help, he trucked back through the storm to ensure his crew's safety and to orchestrate the transfer of salt, with a pallet jack, to a new vehicle.

At 4 a.m., they arrived on campus - 17 hours after they left for Richmond.

By 6 a.m., they joined 200 others from facilities management - many of whom were picked up from home in University vans - to begin clearing ODU's steps and walkways.

"We had some real heroes in that snow storm," said Dillard George, director of facilities management.

Logan said he was just doing his job.

"You could have punctured any of our fingertips," he continued, "and we would have bled blue."

In fact, there were many heroes at ODU last week, because a "closed" campus is never really closed.

Students must be fed and kept safe. Libraries must be available for study; recreation facilities open for leisure; and arenas operating for weekday basketball games.


If a skeleton crew at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, and an Aramark chef, needed to sleep on arena couches Wednesday night to be ready to feed the ODU and Rice women's squads prior to their 11 a.m. game Thursday, so be it.

"It was total team collaboration," said Mike Fryling, general manager of the convocation center. "We utilized our full-time staff in roles they normally don't do to produce the event."

The Ted's marketing coordinator ran one web-camera; the events director another. The ticket manager manned the public-address microphone for the announced crowd of 1,533.

"We had a full (scorer) table crew, because it's an NCAA game and you've got to have all the parts in place," said Rick French, ODU's associate athletic director for operations. "I definitely felt everybody came through. And we got the win, so it was even better."


Meanwhile, at ODU's SRC it was hard to tell Thursday and Friday were snow days.

The center's "winter response crew," which is comprised of students living within walkable distance and available to work during weather events, staffed the building's abbreviated Thursday hours and worked as usual on Friday - 6 a.m. to midnight.

Nearly 3,000 people used the facility during those two days, said Bridget Nemeth, director of recreation and wellness.

"Thanks obviously goes to our student staff," she said. "They delivered great service to the campus community."


The Webb Center, too, was its usual hub of activity during and after the storm.

Manager Shannon Sauerwald said the goal of snow-management efforts was to have the center and dining services open and accessible by 7 a.m. daily, for use by students and essential staff.

"The recent storms created challenges - snow and ice coupled with high winds - that were overcome by our dedicated and talented staff who are committed to doing whatever it takes to get the job done," Sauerwald said.

Accommodations, including hot meals and beverages and a place to warm up, were also provided for the safety of Webb Center and Monarch Dining Services employees, she added.

"Working together is easy when the team knows how much they are cared for and appreciated each and every day," Sauerwald said. "It makes working hard for us easy."

Monarch Dining had a team of 265 employees, serving more than 27,000 meals at 10 dining locations to students, police officers, housekeeping, facilities and maintenance staff throughout the recent weather events.

"Many employees volunteered to spend the night in local hotels, away from their families, demonstrating their commitment to service and ensuring they would be in place the following day," said Kimberly Daniels, marketing manager for Monarch Dining Services.


At Perry Library, the Learning Commons was open during each snow day, as students' work assignments weren't going to complete themselves.

Acting head librarian George Fowler said at least one security officer and whatever staff could make it in for duty - sometimes only Learning Commons operations manager Kathryn Boone - ensured uninterrupted access to the facility.

"The partnership between the libraries and Information Technology Services continued to benefit students by keeping the Learning Commons open every day during the snow storms the past two weeks, even when the University was closed," Fowler said. "I am very appreciative of our staff' and students' dedication and willingness to serve."


Public safety responsibilities never cease - regardless of weather conditions.

Rhonda Harris, assistant vice president and ODU Chief of Police, said officers adjusted to a 12-hour work day in anticipation of the storm, and other steps were taken to ensure the safety of officers as well as the campus community.

"Arrangements were made for them to sleep in the local SpringHill Suites to ensure adequate staffing levels on campus, and just as importantly, to limit the risk to the officers by decreasing the number of trips back and forth to their homes during the days when the roadways were most hazardous," Harris said.

Jared Hoernig, ODU's associate director of emergency management, said the entire ODU community came together to maintain services for residential students, while returning the university to normal operations as quickly as possible.

The facilities management, transportation and parking services departments worked tirelessly to push snow on campus roads, parking lots and sidewalks, Hoernig said, adding that ODU Police provided stranded motorist assistance and maintained round-the-clock campus safety and security. In addition, the University partnered with the City of Norfolk and other Hampton Roads colleges and universities to request support and share information on a regular basis.

"Thanks to whole community planning, coordination and communication, we worked as an efficient team to get the job done," Hoernig said.

The difficult weather has continued this week in Hampton Roads, forcing an early school closure Thursday evening.

Old Dominion University President John R. Broderick said this winter's weather reminds him of his native New England. He said it also is a compelling example of why ODU is such a special place.

"Two large snowstorms didn't stop our dedicated employees from working their hardest on behalf of this University. I thank every staff member who served, and I urge everyone in the campus community to do the same."

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