Question: Is there any employee on campus who doesn’t know Jim Doolen?
Answer: Well, perhaps not by name, but certainly by sight.
Jim’s varied job responsibilities as a grounds service worker and his outgoing personality combine to make him one of the most recognized faces on the Hill.
Jim came to Hamilton in September 1983 after a friend who worked here told him that the College was hiring. Originally a member of the custodial staff, assigned to the Bristol Center and Burke Library, Jim joined the grounds crew in 1987.
Jim’s regular duties can include moving furniture, making deliveries to offices and policing the grounds, but at this time of year snow removal and salting steps often take up most of his day. Jim and the other grounds service workers get their assignments at 7 each morning.
Every couple of months, it’s Jim’s turn to spend a week doing the daily campus trash run. Driving a pickup truck from building to building, he picks up the bagged trash and recyclables that the custodians have placed at the curb. When the truck’s bed is full, Jim drives to the North Lot recycling yard and empties it all; he’ll make between 15 and 25 trips there each day. Jim likes this assignment. “At the end of the day, you’re tired. Some of those bags are very heavy,” he says. “It’s a steady, steady job, but you feel good doing it. It gets your blood flowing, and it keeps you young.”
But what Jim likes most about his job is visiting the offices. “I know everybody, mostly by name,” he says. “I enjoy the offices and the people, the ladies mostly. They’ve always been super to me.” Jim takes a lot of pride in not having to be told exactly what to do each time. “When I get a work order, I know what to do: where to pick up the boxes, where to deliver them. I don’t have to bother the girls.”
It was a visit to the Admission Office that provided Jim with one of his most memorable experiences on the Hill. For a time, he went there early every morning to pick up or deliver mail and boxes. One day Jim hid in a double-door closet when he saw Shirley Croop, operations manager at the time, approaching. Jim threw open the doors and started singing lines from a pop song to her. Not skipping a beat, Shirley chuckled and sang back to him. Every so often, Jim repeated the trick, and he never ruffled Shirley. “It was cute; we had fun.”
Jim grew up on Frankfort Hill and in Utica with 15 older siblings. (A younger brother died in infancy.) He’s lived in Westmoreland for the past 11 years. The father of three grown children, Jim has seven grandchildren, ranging in age from 8 to 21. Jim enjoys spending time with his family, tending to his beagles and working around the house. He also likes to go out on Saturday nights. “I love to dance,” he says with a smile.
Jim says that he might retire within the next few years and relocate to northern Florida. “But I’m not quite ready yet,” he says. “I feel young still.” And I wouldn’t be surprised if Jim postpones retirement either. After all, this is someone who summed up how he feels about working at Hamilton with these words: “It’s not an employment; it’s an enjoyment.”
Next time you see Jim, stop and say hi. And if you haven’t met him yet, by all means, introduce yourself — you’ll be glad you did.