#unsung heroes

An Instagram project by Matthew Ngai '21 shines a spotlight on Exeter's behind-the-scenes stars.

October 29, 2020

They keep the paths cleared and the lights on. They make the meals, clean the dorms and keep us healthy and safe. They are the unsung heroes of Exeter, and Matthew Ngai ’21 wants to make sure they get some credit.

The senior is using the Academy’s Instagram channel to celebrate the “many employees working in behind-the-scenes capacities who are tasked with keeping this school up and running day after day.”

Matthew pitched the project over the summer so his fellow students “could have a greater appreciation of the privilege that we enjoy and sometimes take for granted. I really believe the school’s employees deserve more recognition and it only feels right to do this project for them.”

Of his first subjects, the staff at Lamont Health and Wellness Center, Matthew wrote: "The health center staff has always worked tirelessly to keep our community safe and well, and the pandemic has only made the job more challenging."

Would you like to nominate someone? Reach out to socialmedia@exeter.edu with recommendations.

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This week, Matthew Ngai ’21 brings us an unsung hero who may be unknown to many of you by name but not in his contribution to campus life: Jim Lombardo, the lead central heating plant technician at PEA. Exeter’s heating plant has six boilers, carrying close to 200,000 gallons of water at a time, and its pipes transport over 742,000 pounds of steam. This is Mr. Lombardo’s 22nd year at the Academy. He started off as a trainee, and has had to learn a lot on the job before working his way up. “The hardest thing was understanding how the systems worked,” he said. “Once you understood them, then it was very easy to program this stuff because you knew what you were trying to do and why you were doing it. It’s all about troubleshooting.” The heating plant plays a crucial role at the school — every hot shower and warm common room can be attributed, directly or indirectly, to it. “A lot of people don’t even know where [the heating plant] is, much less how it works and what goes on. I almost think that it’s human nature for students to come here and not think at all of where their hot water comes from. You turn on the water tap, and the heat’s there. They don’t put a lot of thought into it. It’s just there… until it’s not.” Mr. Lombardo sees the central plant as the “heart” of the Academy, with the way that the pipes leading out of the plant supply heat for the more than 100 buildings across campus. “I guess that would be my wish, for students to be able to see what goes into helping them graduate. Everything on campus is all geared as support towards the students, in one way or another, whether it be IT, or us providing heat, or someone else doing electrical work. … The end product here is graduating kids, and everything else is a support group of some variety.” #unsungheroes #iamExeter

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In today’s edition of our Unsung Heroes series, Matthew Ngai ‘21 features the amazing Mr. Joe Goudreault (photo’d before the pandemic), representing the tireless mailroom team. The PEA post office has always been an integral part of our community, in charge of handling everything from boxes of furniture and room decor at the start of the school year to the endless flow of Amazon Prime packages filled with snacks and day-to-day essentials. But with COVID-19 and a locked-down campus, the mailroom staff has become an even more vital conduit between students and the outside world. “It’s really been a couple of months filled with highs and lows,” Mr. Goudreault said. “The low was when all the students left in March; we missed the daily interaction we were used to getting. On the other hand, the high was when everyone came back, but that has also brought many challenges because of the volume of items coming in.” According to Facilities Management, in the past month, the mailroom has processed more than 6,000 packages. Mr. Goudreault pointed to a new processing system for receiving packages for helping his team cope with the intense workload. “We have this new system, Notifii, that helps us keep things organized and also minimizes unnecessary contact,” he explained. The Notifii system is an electronic software program that keeps track of the storage location of packages and sends out an email notification to students who have an item ready for pickup, thereby managing the flow of people coming to the mailroom each day. Having worked at the Academy for over 15 years, Mr. Goudreault recognizes the significance of his job now more than ever. “Knowing that we are doing the best we can to provide a needed service is what keeps us going.” #unsungheroes #iamExeter

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Here at Exeter, scores of people working in behind-the-scenes capacities keep our school running day after day. In the coming weeks, Matthew Ngai ‘21 will use this account to share posts featuring these unsung heroes to give them the recognition and appreciation they deserve. Fittingly, he starts with the team at Lamont Health and Wellness Center! The health center staff has always worked tirelessly to keep our community safe and well, and the pandemic has only made the job more challenging. “There is a lot of responsibility to ensure the health and wellness of the PEA community during this time, which usually involves a lot of personal protective equipment and testing,” said Christine Arlington, a nurse at the Health Center. Nancy Thompson, the director of nursing, said the school added 20 new staff members for fall term to cope with the heightened demand brought on by the pandemic. “I was very nervous about adequate staffing, training and just being ready to take care of our students in this crazy new world… I also did not anticipate how exhausted I would be,” she confessed. Despite COVID-19 introducing various new challenges, it has brought everyone closer together said Michael Felber, a nurse. “I think it has reminded many people how important community is — how important it is to look out for ourselves and each other.” Newly hired physician assistant Erin Bradley testified to the unified spirit, as well, by speaking about the experience she has had interacting with the students who were required to quarantine due to the single positive case on campus in September. “They were funny, engaging and appreciative. I remember walking away from the quarantine trailer back to the health center thinking how proud I was of all of them. They dealt with a 14-day quarantine with so much grace and courtesy, it just made me feel really lucky to have been involved in their care and to be working here at Exeter.” #unsungheroes

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