Ask Jerry Minler how long he’s been at Western and the answer you’ll likely get is, “More than 30 years.” It’s actually been more than 40. But that number is a little daunting.
“I came to Western in 1974; that sounds scary, when I think about it,” said Minler, Director (Building Services), who will retire Nov. 12 after four decades of service.
Growing up near Woodstock, Minler graduated from Ryerson University. He lived and worked in the Toronto area for a few years, but when the time came to start a family, he moved back down the 401. He saw a job posting at Western in the paper, applied and hasn’t left since.
When he first arrived, Minler worked under the associate director of the Physical Plant as an operations analyst, eventually becoming the supervisor of caretaking operations in academic buildings on campus.
He said campus today would be almost unrecognizable to the young Industrial Engineering graduate who came here shortly after the construction of Western’s Brutalist buildings, among them the D.B. Weldon Library and the Social Science Centre. New building additions meant new responsibilities, so, over the years, Minler’s role at Western evolved. Often, it presented opportunities and challenges that reflected those of the postsecondary environment as a whole, he said.
“I was here in the Bob Rae days and the Mike Harris days,” Minler noted, with a nod to Ontario’s Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments of the 1990s, years that saw funding cuts many have since credited for the initial decline of Ontario’s education infrastructure.
“Cutbacks reduced the number of building managers we had. At one time, just on the academic (caretaking) side, we had about 170 staff members and we worked that down to 89. That was the lowest number I had, and that was hard. The level of service changed drastically,” he continued.
Some campus community members may remember a time when caretaking staff didn’t empty office garbage bins. They would vacuum and then ask individuals to empty their own bins into a central location. Caretaking staff also closed 80 washrooms on campus during this time. Minler admitted some of the closures weren’t a big deal as, at one point in time, students, staff and faculty all had separate washrooms.
Out of these cutbacks, however, came innovation that continues today.
“We got some funding back, eventually, and put some services back. But we left the central waste containers,” he added. “That was at the forefront of when we started recycling across campus.”
He might not want to take it, but Minler and his team deserve credit for spearheading some of Western’s biggest recycling and green initiatives. The products his staff use now – in academic buildings and residences across campus – are either made of post-consumer recycled materials or are eco-friendly and recyclable in their own right.
“It just made sense; I hate seeing things go into the waste bin. Even at home, my wife and I might throw away six to 10 garbage bags a year. Everything else, we recycle,” Minler said.
In 2008, with the construction of the Claudette MacKay-Lassonde Pavilion, campus’ first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified building, caretaking service committed to the use of environmentally preferred cleaning products. Soon afterward, the rest of the buildings on campus were being scoured with green-friendly supplies.
With the prospect of retirement ahead, Minler looks forward to staying active and spending time with family.
“I’m a bit of an exercise fanatic. Our Global Corporate Challenge team did quite well; I like being out and meeting the people, and our staff quite a bit, seeing how things are going, and I do that walking,” he explained.
Minler is also a member of an indoor soccer club, runs daily and has recently taken up cycling. In the winter months, he plans to cross-country ski and snowshoe. But right now, his immediate plan is to spend time with his five grandchildren – and to visit the three who live in Nova Scotia.
“It will be one of the first things I do when I retire. We get down there probably just once a year and, when I’m there, I’m usually thinking about work, so the trip is shorter. I’ll be able to do that now and relax a bit more,” Minler said.
As for leaving Western, he will miss the variety his job brought to his life and the people he worked with every day.
“Nothing is perfect, but things don’t bother me a lot. I enjoyed working well with different people. I’ve been lucky. I’ve had good leaders and my support staff is tremendous; the building managers and caretaking staff is great. My work is accomplished through them,” he said. “I enjoy it; I still enjoy it.”