Bryan Holderfield is among the most power-hungry employees on campus.
A U. of I. Facilities and Services electrician for 25 years, Holderfield spends a good deal of his time at work thinking about power – and how to deliver it to the employees at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.
Holderfield has been stationed at Beckman for almost his entire campus career.
“The first foreman I worked for brought me up here that first day and I never really went away,” he said. “I’ve been in this building for a very long time.”
Beckman is a dynamic place where groundbreaking computer imaging research is regularly conducted and Holderfield said he is proud to work there.
“It’s really one of the flagship buildings for this university,” he said.
He maintains regular maintenance schedules and is called in to work on most building renovation projects. Work includes room reconfigurations, control room wiring and special research projects, which included wiring up the giant MRI magnet that was installed in February.
“This place changes based on the grant money that comes through here,” he said. “There are constant changes and upgrades.”
The science behind an electrician’s work hasn’t changed much in the quarter-century since Holderfield took the campus job, but the gadgets and technology that are plugged in have.
“There are a lot more things that have been added to the buildings over the years,” he said. “Our industry has had to change as the systems have become more complex.”
Security card readers and buildingwide environmental systems are just a few of the high-tech changes Holderfield has navigated – none of which would work without good old-fashioned electricity.
He said the work also gives him the opportunity to work alongside other specialized professionals and contractors. The Beckman building crew consists of a painter, carpenter and sheet metal worker. A plumber is on call when needed – such as earlier this year when a water pipe burst, flooding a portion of the ground-level floor and below.
“They are really a wonderful group of guys to work with,” he said. “They all know what they’re doing and our response time to the departments and professors is so much better being based here.”
But it’s not always the big projects, or the occasional nighttime emergency call, on which Holderfield focuses his attention. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing a light bulb.
“Around here, if you’re doing something and there’s a lab or classroom need, you drop what you’re doing and tackle it,” he said. “Over the course of 25 years you know what you need to get to right away.”
Before the U. of I. job, Holderfield was a general electrician working out of the local union hall and worked on projects ranging from the Clinton power plant to the Diamond-Star plant in Bloomington.
The opportunity at the U. of I. took him off the road and provided steady nine-to-five work.
“The main reasons were I didn’t have to be out on the road in the elements and I could be home at night,” he said. “This is the best electrician’s job in Champaign County.”
So what does an electrician do to power down?
"I don't relax," he said, noting the responsibilities he has as the president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 601, and as an elder at Trinity Lutheran Church in Urbana. He also manages several rental properties in Mahomet, Ill., and owns a storage facility in Mansfield, Ill.
Holderfield's lifetime hobby has been racing cars, which "I still pursue when I get the opportunity," he said.
He likes racing Midget cars along with his brother, Todd, also an F&S electrician. Bryan Holderfield used to be a driver in his younger days, though now he's content with building and maintaining them for other drivers.
"We both started racing when we were kids, but it's tough to maintain the racing program like I used to," he said.
Bryan Holderfield has been married to his wife, Gayle, for 24 years. They have two daughters, one in college and one in high school.