On a campus tour hosted by grounds technician, Kevin S. Davis it becomes clear that his passion for planting extends past the gift of a “green thumb”. While he does indeed have a vast knowledge of horticulture, his expertise reaches far beyond gardening. Interestingly, his philosophy about life is relative to all that he believes about flowers and plants.
“Color and impact” are Mr. Davis’s primary focus when he initially envisions the flower beds and planters around the campus of Fayetteville State University. Whether outdoors taking a break or strolling across campus to run an errand, it would be impossible not to notice the “kaleidoscope of colors” carefully created for the pleasure of pedestrians.
Depending upon where a passerby is on campus, petunias, Japanese maples, marigolds, hydrangeas, hibiscuses, sweet potato vines, hollies and many more plants and flowers can be spotted.
“We try to make the campus aesthetically pleasing for everyone, especially the students. It really shows the students we care about them. When you enhance their environment, you enhance their education. The two go hand in hand. You receive an exceptional education here, so why should the beauty of the campus be anything less,” Mr. Davis elaborates.
He continues, “The diversity of color is symbolic of the diversity of the staff, faculty and students on campus. There is not just a difference in race and nationality, but there is also a mix of personalities among everyone. It’s not just the military that has brought so many people to Fayetteville, but the university alone has drawn in people from all over the world.”
Even more, “Southern appeal mixed with modernism” is what Mr. Davis hopes to reflect. The hydrangea bed across from the gazebo in the center of the campus is an example. Designed over three years under the direction of Supervisor of Roads and Grounds, Mr. Alvin Marshall, it consists of hydrangeas that are “Nikko blue” and “Annabelle white”. Mr. Davis says the selection of colors not only represents the school’s colors, but they are also standard for the South.
Mr. Davis came to FSU two years ago when he decided to make a career change. He graduated from Fayetteville Technical Community College in 1986 with an associate’s degree in architectural technology, and he worked in the grocery business for fifteen years. In 2005, he finished the horticultural management program at FTCC—almost twenty years after he graduated the first time.
Explaining how both degrees have been useful in his current position, he says, “I incorporate everything I know about architecture with horticulture. I try to make sure the buildings do not clash with the colors, and I speak with who ever is in charge of the facility. I even speak with the employees who work in the building to get their opinions. We are all one big family, so everyone needs to have some say.”
In fact, the camaraderie shared between his colleagues is vital to Mr. Davis and others in the department. Mr. Marshall says teamwork is the most necessary aspect of the daily operations. Although he supervises a staff of fifteen employees and two temporary workers, he won’t share much about himself. “It’s not about me,” he repeats this small phrase, yet huge reminder.
“Mr. Marshall has been a great person to work with. He has taught me so much about patience and how to work with people,” says Mr. Davis.
For grounds workers, Mr. Reggie McMillan and Mr. Douglas Gibson it’s all about public service as well. Mr. Gibson expresses, “We are here to please the students. We want them to have a very good environment and be proud of this campus. We also want students who visit the campus to be impressed, so that when they leave and go on another college campus tour, they’ll remember FSU.”
He comments further, “We do more than work on grounds. We help visitors by showing them around campus when they’re lost, and you’d be surprised by how much they appreciate you.”
“We also take care of the Greek plots. The students add what they want, but after awhile they don’t have time to take care of them, so we keep them up.”
Mr. McMillan, who jokingly refers to his riding lawn mower as a “yacht”, laughs, “We keep a level of happiness out here, and we have a lot of fun.”
But the jokes are few when the subject changes to the magnificence of the trees on campus. They admire they’re longevity, endurance, and uniqueness. They spew out formal names and characteristics. They estimate the ages and discuss the texture of leaves as though they are instructing a course in Botany 101. And they even stop what they’re doing to take a walk to one of their favorites—the Ginkoba tree that sits between the Chick Building and the Knuckles Science Annex Building.
They stand in admiration emphasizing fun facts about its leaves and how the leaves and fruit that it bears fail to fall to the ground. Bedazzled by its rarity, they both agree, “I’ve never seen another one in Cumberland County.”
Mr. McMillan and Mr. Gibson have both been on staff for six years, and of his time at FSU Mr. Gibson says, “I’ve seen a lot of guys come and go because they couldn’t handle it. It takes a special person for this job. I could’ve been doing a whole lot of other things, but I came here, and I’ve loved it ever since. This is a job where we get to see the after effects. I can look at a finished project, and say, ‘That’s my work’.”