UT Tyler Office of Marketing and Communications
Faces Behind the Scenes: Building Maintenance – Groundskeeper
July 21, 2011
Media Contact: Hannah Buchanan
Public Affairs Specialist
Marketing and Communications
The University of Texas at Tyler
The University of Texas at Tyler Physical Plant’s building maintenance technicians handle all building maintenance including electrical work, plumbing, carpentry, painting and vehicle servicing.
As the university’s head groundskeeper, Wade Prater proclaims he’s living a nine-year-old boy’s dream.
“I like to tell people that my three main tools are a backhoe, a go-cart and a machete – what more could a boy ask for?” said Prater, who’s served UT Tyler for almost eight years.
Aside from working with landscape architects during construction periods, he oversees both internal and contracted work on all three campuses. Prater’s day typically begins with an inspection of the Tyler campus, which consists of more than 200 acres.
“That usually takes an hour. We try to take care of a lot of the fallen limbs and trees before the public sees them. After that, my to-do list can include plumbing or painting or remodeling rooms – just whatever is asked of me,” he explains. “Generally anytime we have construction on campus, I get to review landscape plans and modify those before they get installed to better fit our needs. Most of the time these guys (landscape architects) do a good job of design, so there’s not much change to put in place.”
Throughout the years he’s served UT Tyler, Prater has seen much change.
“We have enjoyed tremendous growth – construction wise – in the nearly eight years that I’ve been here. And so it’s changed the landscape quite a bit. It’s a big job,” he says.
And with all that responsibility, his role serves an importance in setting the campus’ tone through its appearance.
“If your grounds are not well-maintained, then it doesn’t look like you’re good stewards of the money that’s been allotted to you, and that doesn’t bode well for visitors,” Prater said. “I don’t think parents would be so quick to choose us if we didn’t care for our property.
“It’s a very unusual campus in the fact that there are so many trees and forested areas. We try not to over-manage the trees. We let our trees grow more naturally – it gives you that wooded feel throughout campus,” Prater adds.
Minimal trimming of the trees isn’t just an aesthetic decision, it’s an economic one too, he explains.
“We have so many trees that to manage them in such a fashion would be cost prohibitive,” Prater said. “So it works out for us in that we save money and still have a well managed appearance to the campus. In part of our budget cutting, we’ve also gone from roughly 12 areas where we plant flowers in, to two, in trying to keep up with the tightened economy.”
The main campus’ water irrigation system, with more than 40 irrigation controllers and roughly 6,000 irrigation water heads, also is a constant source of work, especially during summer, Prater added.
“We’re constantly adjusting and managing the irrigation around here so that we’re not wasting water but not losing plant material either,” he said.
As an employee, Prater appreciates the university’s Employee/Dependent Child Scholarships program, which allows dependents of full-time employees to attend UT Tyler on a full-time basis, with covered tuition and fees. He also enjoys working alongside his colleagues.
“My wife Amanda and I look forward to all of our five children attending college here one day. It’s really the big draw for me – the benefit of college for my kids. There’s nothing to complain about working here.
“The guys here – we’ve been together for quite a while now. There’s a certain sense of camaraderie. We’re accustomed to helping each other out, and we all depend on each other,” Prater adds. “Somehow, we keep this thing going.”
One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 80 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of almost 6,500 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.