Every student on the Hill knows Joe Plado, the loquacious campus safety officer with a perpetual smile — often seen chatting with students during sporting events. But few people know his fascinating life story, or of the many hobbies he pursues in his free time.
Born in Sicily, Plado has lived in four countries and speaks three languages. At a young age he moved to France; soon thereafter, his family moved to Montreal before finally settling in Central New York.
For most of his adult life, Plado has owned a barbershop. His first interaction with Hamilton, in fact, was with the students and professors who came to his Utica salon for a trim. He remembers one student — Rob Kantrowitz ’82, now a math professor on the Hill — who always came for haircuts. “When I used to see him, I used to see lots of red hair,” Plado recalls. “And he had a huge beard. ‘Trim my hair Joey,’ he’d say, ‘and my beard too!’ And I used to say to him, ‘Man, that’s like four haircuts!’”
After a 32-year run, Plado sold his hair salon in 2006 and turned his full attention to Hamilton, where he increased his duties as campus safety officer from part time to full time. While he still cuts students’ hair, he’s also famous for what he grows: tomatoes, peppers and lots of beans. He also bottles his own wine, primarily reds. And as if that weren’t enough, he’s a competent auto mechanic and accomplished fisherman.
Last spring Plado, in his 11th year on the Hill, was one of three recipients of the Tobin Employee Award for service to Hamilton. He was surprised because, he says, “I just enjoy doing my job.” Make that jobs.