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On the Job: Jerry Cook

Jerry Cook
Photo by
L. Brian Stauffer

Jerry Cook, facility manager for the department of physics, finds no two days on the job are alike. Routine maintenance, ongoing construction projects and unexpected repairs fill his days. In his spare time, he loves to officiate softball, basketball and volleyball.

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INSIDE ILLINOIS, Dec. 2, 2010  |  Robert Kisting, News Bureau Intern

What is your job?

I am the liaison for the department on maintenance and construction projects with Facilities & Services and contractors. I’m also the inventory manager for the department and the Materials Research Lab and I supervise the helium liquefier facility. 

What does a typical day look like?

The department currently has four buildings in our control, Aeronautical Lab A, Engineering Sciences Building (floors two-six), Nuclear Physics Lab (on Stadium Drive) and Loomis Lab.

My day starts with my morning walk to my office from my parking lot, B-1. The Aeronautical Lab A sits to the south of where I park. I normally walk around this facility looking for problems or anything broken and then proceed to Loomis Lab looking for obvious maintenance issues. My typical day starts with submitting work orders for burnt out lights, verifying hot/cold requests and filling key orders submitted during the evening. 

I am currently monitoring four projects that are in progress within our facilities.  We are rehabbing our former library space in Loomis Lab, replacing the air-handling unit in Engineering Sciences Building and planning for two small lab remodels scheduled to start early in December. My day is never the same from one day to the next.

How long have you been working here?

I’ve been with the university 11 1/2 years – four of them with the department of physics. During my first 7 1/2 years I worked in the storeroom at Facilities and Services. 

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Union City, Mich. just south of Battle Creek, the cereal capital of the world.

Tell us about your educational background.

I went to college for a couple years at Kellogg Community College, located in Battle Creek, Mich., In 1983, I joined the Air Force where I served for 5 1/2 years as a fireman and instructor. My first duty station was Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, and my second tour brought me to Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul.

What other jobs have you held?

I’ve worked in a factory (building cabinets), retail sales, corrections officer and farming. So I’ve done a little bit of everything. I have a lot of life experience.

What do you like most about your current position?

The interaction with people  – from the research staff to the support staff, civil service staff members and the maintenance and construction staff from F&S. They make my job enjoyable.

I also find it very rewarding to participate in a project from the planning stage, to the construction phase, to the final product.

I also enjoy working with our helium liquefier technician, Kenny Roemer, on improving our helium gas recovery process. We currently recover gas from Loomis, Materials Research Lab, Superconductivity Center and Engineering Sciences Building for reprocessing in our liquefier facility. Through recovery system repairs and upgrades, we have increased our recovery rate by 40 percent. 

And what are some of the most challenging aspects of your job?

Communicating to staff members on how the maintenance process works and the timeline on when their issue should be resolved. I also find it hard to be in multiple places at any given time. As a facility manager, I’m out and about in my facilities checking on maintenance and construction issues.

During the day, I have staff members stop by with facility issues that they need resolved. I am very fortunate to work in a small office with three outstanding people: Darren (Wright), Denise (Donnelly) and Colleen (Lynch). While I am away from my desk they will filter facility requests, take notes when needed and call me on items that need my immediate attention. I am not sure how I could do my job on a daily basis without their support.

Reducing energy cost has been a high priority for the department and campus over the last several years. The department of physics was fortunate enough to be chosen by the retro commissioning team from F&S to evaluate our energy consumption. I met with the retro team, reviewed scheduling of our air-handling units as well as maintenance issues with our mechanicals. After the total evaluation and repairs to our systems, we showed a 19 percent energy savings from the previous year.  

I should also add that I’m not keen on e-mail. I prefer face-to-face communication.

Outside of work, what do you enjoy?

I love to officiate. I am currently registered to officiate softball (slow pitch), high school basketball and high school volleyball. 

I also have a daughter and son, ages 25 and 23.  Both got married this past summer – 89 days apart!  You could say both weddings consumed our summer. 

My wife, Regina, and I also are avid Fighting Illini fans. 


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