William & Mary

John Lindsey keeps things cool (or warm) at W&M

  • 40 years of service
    40 years of service  John Lindsey started working at William & Mary six months after coming home from a Navy deployment in Vietnam.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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Did you hear the one about the 800-amp breaker that flew to a concert at William & Mary in a commercial passenger jet?

Or the one about the chill water pump at then-W&M Hall that went out in the 1990s before an important event, and the man who helped take it apart and put it back together seven times over 24 hours to make sure it would work?

It did then, and it still does today.

The source of those two stories is John Lindsey. They’re the kinds of things one is likely to experience if they’ve worked for 40 years in a university’s facilities management department.

Lindsey is among the 240 employees who will be honored today for their service to the university, starting at five years and feted in five-year increments. The other headliner of the group is Roxie Greene, who has spent 50 years in a variety of food-service positions.

W&M News has updated its story on Greene from five years ago. [See Related links]

As for Lindsey, whose job title is “energy systems specialist,” he’s a Williamsburg native who said he remembers as a kid riding his bike down Route 199 when it was nothing but a dirt road. He came to work at W&M not long after serving 10 months on a ship in Vietnam, where he received two medals, the second for being in a combat zone for more than 30 consecutive days.

He has worked as an HVAC mechanic, leader of an HVAC team and in a couple of supervisory positions. Lindsey said he has witnessed a remarkable transformation of the campus since he first came on board.

“When I first started in the HVAC shop there were three of us, and we took care of the whole campus – ice machines, refrigeration up at the Commons, at the Marketplace, along with all of the animal technology at Millington,” Lindsey said. “But we’ve been converting the campus over to central plants.”

While that has made the job more manageable, the tradeoff has been the sheer exponential expansion of the campus.

“We have a lot more dormitories,” he said. “The Mason School of Business actually has 256 [Variable Air Volume] units in it; that’s quite a few for just one building. The School of Education is relatively new. The Student Recreation Center is new. There’s a new frat complex; we put air conditioning in the common areas of the old frats. Things have changed quite a bit.”

Lindsey said it isn’t the challenge of keeping up with new and ever-changing technology that’s the most satisfying part of his job. It’s the gratitude W&M students – and often their parents – show for the work he does.

“A student will call the office with a problem and they’ll pass it down to us,” Lindsey said. “We’ll take care of it, and we’ll get calls from the students, thanking us. A lot of times, parents will write and say they appreciate the quick response we made to taking care of the matter.”

Back to that story about the concert and the new amp breaker so desperately needed in order for it to take place.

Lindsey said that for some reason, perhaps a clerical snafu, the university wasn’t able to order the part itself. Lindsey phoned a contractor from General Electric, who ordered it.

But the part was housed in California, and only way to get it to Williamsburg in time was to buy an airline ticket for it.

“And for some reason,” Lindsey said, “the breaker literally had to sit in a seat on the plane.”

The contractor drove to Richmond to pick up the item, rushed it back to campus, and it was installed in time for the concert.

While that’s taking the adage that the show must go on to a whole new level, keeping W&M going onward is something Lindsey has helped the university do for 40 years.