Shop Talk - An Interview with Wayne Beierman

by Chuk Kittredge

When I first asked Wayne if I could interview him, he was hard at work in his office. He had time only to 'pencil me in', as they say, and then it was off to a meeting. A kind and generous man, he offered to take me to the dining hall (after I revealed that I was too destitute to treat). As we tooled around campus in his cherry-red '98 battery-powered golf cart, he was quite the popular fellow, chatting up professors and working folk alike with the same easy charm. Talkative, he often said more than I could get down, much to the chagrin of voracious ears everywhere, I am sure. He also seemed reserved during our conversation, strangely reticent for so educated a man. He had the air of one who has the cares of the world on his soul, of knowing so much more than he would let on. The setting was not conducive to taking notes, as our fellows ate with that certain vigor only Marriott can bestow upon the digestive tract. However, I picked Wayne's brain and my teeth at the same time, with a plethora of interesting results. Here he is, ladies and gentlemen, kids of all ages. Wayne Beierman. In all his glory. Let his record stand, for the sake of posterity.

Wayne Beierman Wayne Beierman

Chuk: So Wayne, when and where were you born?

Wayne: Slayton, MN in 1948.

Chuk: What did you do before you came to Carleton?

Wayne: I was in the Air Force for four years. (This came up later, when Chuk referred to "that old-ass tacky airplane print" on Wayne's office wall. Greg McCracken (a charming, if corpulent gent), who is the maintenance to Wayne's utility, put Wayne's chagrined look to rest by explaining that it was the Spirit of Saint Louis.)

After that, it was ten years in Texas and about 18 more in New Mexico.

Chuk: And what about Texas and New Mexico?

Wayne: In Texas I was going to school, and at the same time I worked for the defense industry, as a defense contractor; and from there, I went to New Mexico, and I worked, um, as a facility engineer. I designed laboratories.

Chuk: So, how long have you been at Carleton?

Wayne: I've been here two years. The labs I designed were where they did background studies; they did AIDS research, we did radio nucleotides, infectious agents, and nerve gas.

Chuk: So you might know something about anthrax?

Wayne: Um, yeah. (pause)

Chuk: Now, where did you go to college?

Wayne: University of Texas at Arlington. Bio was in its infancy, then. I started working in the bio section. I did that for one semester; not like you're doing now.

Chuk: Right.

Some strung-out looking dude: Hey, can I grab a seat?

Wayne: I'll tell you what, I'm having an interview here.

Dude: Oh, sorry. (looking lonely) But there's no other seats...

Chuk: Perhaps the empty table to your left...

Dude: Oh, yeah. Um...

-unconfortable pause as the dude looks at Wayne, Wayne looks at Chuk, and Chuk looks at the dude-

-dude leaves-

Chuk: Right. So, what's your title at Carleton?

Wayne: I'm the Engineering Supervisor on campus. I'm in charge of all utilities, and um, in charge of mechanical and electrical maintenance. That includes the plumbers, the mechanical maintenance guys, the boiler room people, and the electrics.

Chuk: And what are your duties?

Wayne: (lengthy pause) Doing whatever it takes (chuckles). My duties are to, uh, to make sure the existing systems operate, to design, develop new systems, to replace existing ones, um, to look to the future and forecast what we're going to need to do, and then to get the existing ones repaired and brought up to snuff so they support the college. Any time a new building is brought on line (for instance this building), my job would be to make sure that it got tied in to the utilities. That includes electric, water, sewer, all that. And there's got to be adequate ties, you know. But, we do that. Or, I do that. My goal has always been to make sure that the people who come to work here don't have to worry about heating and air conditioning, uh, if that's applicable, and make sure their spaces are usable, comfortable, and friendly.

I've got a real passion for making sure that happens. Uh, to me, if we design a new building, a new space, and its not comfortable, not usable, then we've failed, then we haven't done our work properly. Like I tell everybody, ya know, my job is one of those that, uh, I'm behind the scenes and I like that, but I want to make sure that everything works the way it should so everyone else can do their functions, so you can be a good student, so the academia can teach, and that the support staff can do their work.

Chuk: What are some future plans for Carleton?

Wayne: We actually have a 10-year plan and it encompasses mainly renovations and also some new buildings. We're trying to renovate all of our uh - oh gosh, what was it called when they, uh...

We're trying to renovate our pre-Depression buildings. Couldn't think of the word.

Chuk: (leaning forward) Well, I don't suppose you could let our faithful readers in on any big plans for the future?

Wayne: The plan that's at the forefront now would be, there's been talk of an environmental dorm, and that would be the main thing we're discussing right now and it would be a smaller dorm than we're used to, between 40 and 60 people.

You know, one of them we're going to have to replace within the next ten years is the M and D. The building, the best way to describe it is, um, it actually rains inside the walls...

Chuk: Tell us a funny story about Carleton.

Wayne: I think probably the funniest one I remember was, oh, was when we were dredging the Lakes, a guy went out with his excavator and he actually buried it.

Took a helluva lotta work to get that thing out. I mean, he just really sunk it in the mud.

One time at Carleton here I was putting utilities along Hwy. 19 and in less than five minutes, I was authorized to spend $500,000 on the project, immediately.

Chuk (a little eagerly): Oooh. So, you might say there's a lot money floating around, huh?

Wayne (not at all on Chuk's wavelength): It was a lot of money to spend in one afternoon.

Chuk (lowering his voice): You know, Wayne, you and me, I bet we could find a way to-

Wayne (lost): I've heard that some students don't think so much of the townhouses. I can't see why. I think the townhouses will have at least a 70+ year life span. From a utilities standpoint - I got input from the entire maintenance crew; it's a very simple system, easy to maintain. They'll be around a long time.

Chuk: Huh.

Wayne: When you get a car, they build a million of them, so you expect them to be drivable, but when you get townhomes, you get one apiece, they're all individual, they aren't gonna work perfect right away. That's just the way it works.

Chuk: Right. Any words on the students here at the college?

Wayne: I'm impressed with their breadth of knowledge and their curiosity. And, I understand pranks, 'cuz I think they're fun, and it goes with the age, but vandalism - I just don't think there's a place for it.

Chuk: Any words of wisdom?

Wayne: I'm always more philosophical than anything else, I guess. I think my greatest achievement in college was to graduate in the top 5% of my class. I wanted that A, so I worked to get it. Come here, get an education, go out and change the world, well, just do it. Ya know, leave with big dreams.

Chuk: Well, Wayne, I think that wraps it up.

Wayne: I hope you enjoyed lunch, Charlie.

Chuk: Yes, I did, thank you. I'm quite the cheap date.

Wayne: (garbled).