The Unsung Heroes That Shape Mary Baldwin’s Grounds

The spring season asks a lot of MBU’s small grounds team, but they’re up to the challenge of moving heaven and earth ahead of important University events.

The grounds and maintenance crew at Mary Baldwin has worked alongside local landscaping companies to bring new life to MBU’s historic campus in Staunton. Shenandoah Green and Virginia Landscape Co. have contributed to many updates including planting trees, filling flowerbeds, and reinvigorating hedges around campus. MBU’s crew, composed of only four men who oversee the school’s nearly 70 acres, are responsible now for the upkeep and maintenance of the new plants.

The beauty of Mary Baldwin’s campus owes a lot to this small team – consisting of Brian Whetzel, Jeff Bennett, Preston Rohr, and Tommy Fisher – for managing a wide variety of tasks. They collect trash, respond to facility requests, and maintain landscaping elements across campus.

The work is challenging but fulfilling, and the team takes pride in their accomplishments.

“I can tell you about pretty much every plant or tree here,” said Bennet, a 30-year veteran of MBU’s grounds crew. “We appreciate Shenandoah Green and Virginia Landscape’s help in expanding our collection.”

They’re a close-knit bunch, and you can tell their camaraderie by their jokes and jabs during our brief photo session on a sunny April morning that called for mulch, mulch, and more mulch. Rohr and Fisher seemed especially fond of whipping the groundskeeping Gator around campus to gather yet more mulch to beautify the campus.

Rohr, the youngest member (though he’s worked at MBU for a decade), and Fisher agree that spring is their busiest season, including both spring planting and preparing for Commencement events. Fisher joined the grounds crew in just the last few years, but has been connected to MBU through his wife, who worked in Hunt Dining Hall for decades. He’s recognizable for his white beard and gregarious attitude.

Whetzel now leads grounds and landscaping at Mary Baldwin, coming from a similar management position with the city of Harrisonburg. 

These men might be responsible for the upkeep, but every member of the MBU community is a steward of this campus. The crew unanimously urges everyone not to litter and to pick up any trash they see. Especially given the hill’s windy nature, refuse can end up in unexpected places.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone walking with a fast food cup in their hands and said to myself ‘I’ll be picking that up in a half-hour,’” said Whetzel. Fisher agreed, “We’ve got trash cans at just about every corner and landing on this campus, so I just can’t wrap my head around it.”

The grounds crew has devoted more than 50 collective years of service to MBU, and always appreciates when they receive a greeting or message of thanks from passersby.

“It means a lot to have people see our work and, especially during Commencement, to know that our grounds will welcome students and families for a really special day in their lives,” said Bennett.

Are you interested in joining the MBU grounds team and contributing to the upkeep of this historic campus? Do you know someone who might be?

MBU is always accepting applications and resumes, which can be submitted in person, via email, or mail to MBU’s Facilities Office or MBU Human Resources.