Spending precious summer time on campus may not sound like the ideal vacation, but each year the College hosts roughly 20,000 individuals involved with different camps and events throughout the summer months.
Setting up for and catering to the needs of students and staff associated with the camps, which range from football and swimming to the well-known John’s Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY), is, more often than not, a demanding task. F&M’s Department of Facilities and Operations employs students and staff to help activities run smoothly.
Responsibilities of the Conference and Events Crew (C&E), a team of two directors and about 10 conference assistants ranging in age from recent high school graduates to recent college graduates, include managing housing, scheduling events, staffing the Alumni Sports and Fitness Center (ASFC) and Strength Training Center, providing technical support for concerts, and delivering water jugs to sports facilities.
“Once [campers] are here, we do whatever we can to service the groups,” said Stacy Thornwall-Rogers, director of conference services and external events.
Servicing the groups includes fulfilling even the most outlandish requests, such as conducting an impromptu search for cinder blocks. Responding to frequent lockouts, rain or shine, is a part of the C&E crew’s job description as well.
“Everyone has a lot of different wants and needs so you have to try to make sure that you cater to everyone equally,” said Kristin Miller ’13, conference and events co-manager.
Miller also added that difficulty stems from catering to large groups, such as the 600 students present for CTY, at the same time as smaller groups that come and go more frequently.
This year Miller’s job included scheduling for the camps, payroll for C&E, and CTY supervision. She worked closely with her co-manager, Molly Umble, a student at Hendrix College.
“The hours are long, but it’s worth it,” said Marty McGrath, assistant director of facilities and operations services and events management, for whom this past summer marked an ending.
After 29 years of dedication to summer camp setup and coordination, McGrath is retiring from the responsibility, though he is staying on during the school term to work on internal events.
Throughout his years of service, McGrath saw many campers come and go, but has established an especially close bond with staffers of CTY.
CTY has been using the F&M campus for over 30 years, serving as its largest site. This lengthy relationship has given McGrath the opportunity to form friendships with many staff members, some of whom were once campers.
“The consistent thing every year was working with the conference assistants,” McGrath said. “There’s always a freshness to every year.”
“Marty’s a legend in the summer programs, with CTY and everybody,” Thornwall-Rogers said.
Thornwall-Rogers added, sharing many humorous anecdotes, whenever McGrath would leave on vacations, situations of a crisis nature tended to arise by chance. These occasional happenings have not only helped the staff to improve safety protocol, but have also given Thornwall-Rogers the opportunity to handle certain situations in McGrath’s absence, much like she will be doing in coming summers.
When next summer rolls around and camp season begins to gear up, Thornwall-Rogers will not be alone in her ventures, however, having recruited Sharon Gromis, currently an office administrator within the conference and events administration, to assist with financial records and office tasks.
As for McGrath, summers will never be same.
“I don’t really think ahead to if I’m going to miss it,” McGrath said. “I’m hoping to do some fun thing next year to take my mind off [not working with C&E].”
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