If it has a motor and it can break, Bill Taylor has probably fixed it.
For the past 29 years, Taylor has responded to problems big and small while working in mechanical services at Drexel. Through many changings of the guard, Taylor has remained. Now the executive director of mechanical services and maintenance in University Facilities, Taylor may know Drexel’s campus better — and may have dealt with more campus disasters — than anyone else.
“When people call us, they’re not calling us to ask us how we’re doing, or if we’re having a good day,” Taylor said. “They’re calling because the trash can’s overflowing.”
There was the snowy Friday evening in 1984 when he saw what he thought was a plume of smoke rising from Hagerty Library. It was actually steam erupting from a ruptured pipe, but he still spent his Friday evening on the roof, fixing the pipe as the snow fell. There were the floods — the basement of the Korman Center, the basement at Hagerty, the ground floor of the Creese Student Center. (“You can’t even believe what you’re looking at,” he said.) There was the time he and most of Drexel’s maintenance and engineering staff had to round up as many people as they could to help students and families carry furniture down nine flights of stairs when Kelly Hall lost all power on move-out day, rendering the elevators useless.
And there were the long-ago days when the wall-mounted ventilators that once provided heating and cooling would freeze overnight, pouring water onto floors and leaving buildings cold all day.
“Those were the worst days,” Taylor said.
Since he started at Drexel in 1984 as a utilities assistant manager, he has stayed and worked his way up the ladder as mechanical systems have become computerized and as a brief outsourcing of facilities management in the mid-1990s resulted in a near-total turnover of managers. He’s one of two people at the University still able to program the earliest mechanical computer systems installed at Drexel, and he has more institutional memory than any other Facilities manager.
“In that way, I’m the living dictionary of all that stuff,” Taylor said.
Taylor now oversees all the mechanical systems — “anything with a motor on it” except for automotive machinery, he said — on Drexel’s campus, including heating and air-conditioning systems, as well as maintenance activities including painting, plumbing, carpentry and electrical work. He’s a big reason Drexel generally keeps its energy consumption below that of its peers, according to Bob Francis, vice president for University Facilities.
Though a lot can, and will, go wrong when you’re in charge of mechanics in more than 60 buildings on a 109-acre campus, Taylor emphasizes that he loves the job.
For one thing, his work at Drexel helped him find his wife.
It wasn’t long after he started when a woman named Lyn Boocock started calling his office frequently and complaining that her supervisor’s office was too hot. Taylor suspected that her boss asked her to call on his behalf because she would be, well, persuasive.
“She had this great English accent,” Taylor said. She would call about once a week. Before long, they started dating and got married. (Lyn no longer works at Drexel.)
And aside from that perk, Taylor said he gets a special kind of fulfillment from solving problems for people. That’s the case even on days like the one when he had to help grumpy families move their students out with no elevators.
“As much as they were frustrated,” Taylor said, “you do feel like you actually did something good.”