Long-time UAH Facilities and Operations employees, Tom Estes and Ravi Seth retire this semester

tom ravi

Ravi Seth (left), and Tom Estes retired last week with more than 25 years of combined service to UAH.

Michael Mercier | UAH

In 1991 the Internet was made available for unrestricted commercial use, eggs were 85 cents a dozen, the most popular movie was Thelma and Louise, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Cabbage Patch dolls reigned as top toys, and Ravi Seth began working on the campus of The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

Tom Estes joined the UAH Facilities and Operations staff 13 years later as director of Mechanical and Electrical Maintenance. Last week, Seth and Estes retired with more than 25 years of combined service to the university.

"Tom and Ravi are great communicators, leaders, and motivators, who lead by example. Throughout their entire career, both said they wanted to leave the university better than they found it. And that's exactly what they did-they left a positive, indelible mark on our campus," said F. Mark Cowherd, executive director of Facilities at the Physical Plant.

"I came to UAH in 1991 as a contracted director from Aramark Facilities Management Services. At that time, custodial management was outsourced to Aramark Facility Services. In October 2005 we brought these services in-house to UAH, and I was hired as director of Custodial Operations," Seth said.

Both men acknowledge their jobs have changed tremendously over the years.

"I've gotten to know more people at the university. Consequently, I've been able to build bridges and relationships which has helped us improve our service and our service partnerships," Estes noted. "Our department has also been progressively more involved in the expansion of campus facilities, which has helped to foster rewarding campus programs," Estes said.

Seth noted the biggest change in his job over the years has been a sharp increase in responsibility. "When I started in 1992, custodial services consisted of 22 employees who were responsible for 750,000 square feet. Now our 70 employees clean about 2.5 million square feet of space," he said.

As employees of the university's physical plant, Estes and Seth, along with their crew members and superiors have demanding departmental jobs with wide-ranging responsibilities for operating and maintaining the real property and infrastructure of UAH. And, as serious as those responsibilities are the two guys are quick to point out that the UAH Physical Plant is "blessed with a staff rich in good humor."

"There are many funny things that happen here in the Physical Plant. Since there are so many instances to share, I'll just say that anyone working here must take care when going on vacation and then returning to their office," Estes said. "It may happen that all office content is 'rearranged,' and banners, posters, and ribbons are placed in the office with multiple 'good humor' slogans and comments."

Seth's more humorous moments come in the form of requests for a specific action by various departments on campus. He especially remembers a telephone call he received about five years ago. "A building manager preferred to funnel maintenance requests through me. When there was a delay fixing the air conditioning in his building (due to a delay in receiving parts), he said he would just have to go to the president for help. I said, 'Well, I don't know if the president knows how to fix air conditioning.' I think maybe I thought it was funnier than he did."

Then, there are the rewarding moments of the job.

"The most rewarding part of this job has been to have the opportunity to make a difference, by supporting people that we care about," Estes said. "We feel that we've always tried to provide help and support to students. We try to promptly and dependably provide auxiliary electrical power for student events such as career fairs, and science competitions. And, we were able to provide brief support for students who built a satellite on campus and launched it, with NASA's support, from Wallops Island, Va."

"Working at UAH has been rewarding because of the many wonderful people who work with me, and who I've grown to love," Seth reflected. "I've lived all over the world, but working at UAH and raising my children here has made Huntsville my home."

Both men offer "friendly" recommendations for their successors. "I recommend my successor have a great sense of humor, and patience - keeping a copy of The Serenity Prayer is a plus," said Estes.

"The best advice I could offer my successor is to be a people person," said Seth. "You either love them or you lose them… give respect to the people we serve-the students, faculty, staff, and guests of UAH. As the director of Custodial Services, he or she should also give respect and encouragement to the custodial staff because their work is never done!"

Estes plans to "spend a lot of time walking, riding bicycles, and playing tennis with my sweet wife. We also plan to spend as much time as possible in Destin, Fla., or Gulf Shores, Ala."

"I don't have any definite plans for retirement other than staying healthy and spending lots of time with my beautiful wife," said Seth. "Our immediate plans include a trip to Italy, Australia and to Washington, D.C., for our son's wedding. We are also eagerly hoping for grandchildren soon. And, I will miss being a part of the UAH family," Seth added.



Joyce Anderson-Maples