Bob Ward is a locksmith in the Planning, Construction and Maintenance Division.
Photo by Bill Wiegand
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Frequently, people seek the expert assistance of locksmiths when they find themselves faced with doors they need help opening. However, doors that refuse to close can be equally perplexing, and when a door somewhere on campus seems determined never to close again, Bob Ward may be the person who solves the predicament. For 23 of his 24 years with the Planning, Construction and Maintenance Division, Ward has been a locksmith, and he spends the majority of his time repairing door-closing mechanisms. As president of Local 431 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Ward is very active in community service. Ward serves on the Campus Charitable Fund Drive committee and as a speaker on behalf of organized labor for the United Way.
Tell me a little bit about what you do.
The locksmith shop is responsible for all the locks, door closers and related hardware all over campus. The locksmith shop sets up all the security systems for campus, keeps key inventories and issues keys. My main area of responsibility is predominantly door closers but I do locksmithing work as well. Usually I’ll get three to four work orders in a morning. Some of them can be very simple little things, others more involved. I may go to a half dozen or a dozen different jobs in one day.
What’s the most challenging part of what you do?
It’s a challenge because of the things that I get to learn and that I have learned over the 24 years that I’ve been here.
Recently, because of the budget crisis, I’ve become a one-man crew. I have to coordinate things that I didn’t before. You want to do the best job that you can in the most cost-efficient manner. The challenging part of that is that I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) about three years ago, so I deal with that on a day-to-day basis.
How does the MS affect you?
There are three different classifications of MS: slow-progressive, fast-progressive and recurrent non-progressive, which is the classification that I’m in. I’ll have symptoms from time to time: migraine headaches, fatigue, joint pain. I’ve lost about 80 percent of the vision in my left eye. I think the hardest thing is the fatigue and the joint pain, which is like rheumatoid arthritis. I may have that for two, three or four weeks at a time ... maybe six months at a time, and then suddenly it goes away. I won’t have it for a while, and then it’s back. There’s no known cause or cure for it.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
The people I work with campuswide. Even though I work specifically for a shop foreman and sub-foreman, I’m given a lot of leeway in how I go about my job. They give me the work orders in the morning and I can pretty well set my own pace and route the work in the fashion and the order that I think is best. So I’ve got a lot of freedom in the job, and that’s what I like about it a lot.
What kinds of activities are you involved in off the job?
I’ve been involved with the Champaign County United Way for probably 25 years as section leader at Planning, Construction and Maintenance and working with the Campus Charitable Fund Drive. I’m also a speaker for the United Way and go to companies in the area delivering presentations with United Way staff members. Community service is a very big part of the AFL-CIO.
I’m also a competitive trap shooter. One year I won the preliminary handicap championship at the state shoot, and I’ve won several smaller titles at different shoots. For the last 15 years, I’ve competed in the Grand American world championships in Dayton, Ohio. People from all over the world come to compete in that.
Not many people know this, but I like to cook. I like to bake breads, fancy desserts and things like that. I was on a quest a few years ago to perfect a dessert that I really like, tiramisu. I went through about eight or 10 recipes finding ingredients I liked and trying to compile them into a recipe of my own. I finally came up with one that I liked, and I always take that when I go to family outings. The last I knew, I had 40-some different cookbooks just on desserts, and I probably own 150 cookbooks altogether.