How Tufts Works: Mechanically inclined

Finding the Facilities Services office in 520 Boston Ave. was nothing short of a major discovery. On top of the fact that the entire facade of the building has been stripped away, the interior is an active construction zone.

After spending an embarrassingly long time searching, I finally arrived at the Facilities office to meet Kenneth Person, director of building operations. Kenneth seemed perfectly comfortable amidst the chaos around him.

That’s probably because he has had a long and fruitful career in mechanical engineering and facilities management. But even before formal training and fieldwork, Kenneth says he was always mechanically inclined. He was the type of kid who would “break things to fix them.”

Growing up, Kenneth experienced hardships associated with being a student at recently-integrated inner city public schools. On top of the fact that teachers chronically underestimated him, school environments were often not conducive to his success.

However, with the help of his mother fighting on his behalf, Kenneth was able to excel both socially and academically in high school. At the age of 16, he graduated as the write-in class president with an academic scholarship to Boston University.

After finishing college with a degree in mechanical engineering, Kenneth spent the next few years building propulsion systems for aircraft and submarines. Then, as the plant manager for Worcester Public Schools for 16 years, he was in charge of running the facilities of the entire school district. Microbursts displacing school roofs and exploding boilers are just some of the crises that he had to handle in his time working for the city.

In the second part of his career, Kenneth traveled throughout the country to implement computerized systems of preventative maintenance. After working for various universities, Chicago Public Schools and Harvard Medical School, Kenneth landed at Tufts.

Kenneth lights up when talking about the state-of-the-art preventative maintenance system that he has helped to implement here. According to him, though, the level of skill and pride his colleagues bring to their jobs is what makes working at Tufts special.

“We have some of the best tradesmen in the business,” he said.

Although Kenneth spends the vast majority of his time at work, he dedicates every Wednesday evening to singing in his local church’s choir. On top of the two singing groups he is already in, Kenneth expressed his disappointment that his height barred him from participating in the children’s choir as well.

Besides his weekly forays with notes and pitch, though, Kenneth’s top concern on a daily basis is ensuring the safety and well-being of the Tufts student body.

“I really care about everyone’s safety,” he said.

This simple statement inspires a great deal of gratitude within me. In a time when schools are increasingly unsafe, it is heartwarming to know that there exists a cadre of people who are primarily concerned with our well-being.