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Practically everywhere you look on campus you can see the handiwork of Dave Tippy, superintendent of grounds, and his team of more than 60 people.
They handle snow and ice removal in inclement weather. They maintain the lawns, landscaping, and recycling facilities, handle concrete repairs and asbestos removal and are involved in a wide variety of campus projects and special events.
“The SIU Carbondale campus is one of the most beautiful in the country and that is primarily due Dave’s expertise and leadership of the PSO Grounds Department,” Brad Dillard, director of Plant and Service Operations, said.
He said Tippy is not only good at making sure he and his crew handle the diverse jobs that lie before them on campus but goes above and beyond to help in a variety of ways.
“Dave is constantly brainstorming ways to make the campus even more attractive and improve its curb appeal,” Dillard said. “He has spearheaded many initiatives in the last few years, including the recycling of our concrete and wood waste products, which result in costs savings to the university as well reducing landfill waste. Dave is a Saluki through and through and proud to put his positive mark on SIU on a daily basis.”
Many people assure the success of the grounds department
Tippy, in turn, praises the people who work for him.
“I’m proud of my department and staff. We’ve done a lot in the last few years. We’re constantly working to do a better job and be more efficient and because of changes we’ve made, we’re succeeding.”
He added that the team effort goes beyond his own employees.
“We also have a lot of good partnerships with people and departments across campus,” he said. “We’ve worked with the Sustainability Office, athletics, agriculture, forestry and other departments, academic groups and student organizations.”
One of the most challenging periods of Tippy’s tenure came during the days following the May 8, 2009, derecho.
“We lost more than 800 trees on the main campus alone. We had a massive cleanup and replanting afterward. We really had our hands full,” Tippy said. “But we’ve put back at least as many trees, if not more; we’ve established a tree inventory and keep it updated. That helped us earn the Tree Campus USA designation.”
Involved in many campus partnerships and projects
In partnership with the forestry and agriculture people on campus, Tippy’s office established an annual Tree Walk event, bringing local schoolchildren to SIU each fall for a tree identification walk around campus along with demonstrations and hands-on learning activities.
About 170 children from Murphysboro’s Carruthers School enjoyed this year’s event on Tuesday.
“It’s really nice working with SIU students, engaging them in projects like that,” Tippy said.
From redoing the Woody Hall Courtyard to doing all of the concrete and landscaping work for Faner, from operating all of the backhoes and heavy equipment to giving craft support, they’ve been involved in projects throughout campus.
They’ve also played a part in helping with the collection of recyclables, in conjunction with campus sustainability initiatives.
The concrete recycling program Tippy initiated recycled 3,000 to 4,000 yards of concrete into usable aggregate material already, and it will resume soon. They’ve also played a big role in everything from football games to graduation to the solar eclipse events.
“There’s no shortage of things to do in this department,” Tippy laughs. “Our laborers and operating engineers are involved in just about any project on campus. We’re there from the planning until the work is done. The goal of this department is to provide a safe, accessible, inviting, attractive environment for students, faculty, staff, visitors and future students.”
Nature is Tippy’s passion
Tippy has long had a bit of wanderlust, enjoying camping and backpacking in 15 or 20 different states when he was younger. He still enjoys traveling when he gets the chance, and said he and his wife “been a little bit of everywhere.”
Though he prefers spending time in the mountains and forests of the country’s national forests, he also enjoys traveling abroad.
The beauty of SIU’s campus played a large role in his decision to pursue his degree in Carbondale. A native of Champaign, Tippy often came down as a child to visit his father’s family, who lived on farmland in the region and he discovered the beauty, hunting, rock climbing, rappelling and more.
After completing his degree in plant and soil science, he and Kay, his wife of 27 years, made Southern Illinois their home. He began working at SIU 11 years ago, initially as assistant superintendent before being promoted to his current job.
The couple has four children, the youngest of whom is currently a student at the SIU School of Medicine.
In addition to his love for SIU and devotion to the university, Tippy said the region is a great place to indulge his passions: turkey hunting, fishing and golf.
“It’s just a whole different world down here,” he said.