By Shannah Cotton, Staff Reporter
Tim Burnell, a custodian in Purington Hall, is spreading positive vibes through the dormitory floors with his flush-faced grin and friendly attitude. He never forgets a name and Burnell is known to wipe snow off students’ cars in the winter months.
Burnell, a native resident of Farmington, has worked at UMF for 2 ½ years. “It’s a fun job. I really enjoy cleaning, the schedule, and the flexibility,” said Burnell, motioning with his hands as he spoke, one arm landing on his office desk in emphasis. “The best part of the job really is the students and getting to know them.”
One student impressed by Burnell is Holly Legere, a sophomore at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF), who lives in Purington Hall. “The custodian I had last year in Scott was nice, but in Purington our custodian is fantastic. Tim will have a conversation with you, while at the same time, if it’s early or you’re busy he won’t be pushy about it either,” said Legere,” I think he’s just really good at reading people.”
Burnell leaned back in his chair, both hands on his jeans, “I’m just trying to provide the best service that I can. My motto is ‘more work, less talk’ but I’ll talk all day long,” he said with a chuckle, clearly enjoying the chance to talk about his experience.
Purington resident Matt Buckley chatted with Burnell about hunting and fishing on their first meeting last year. Since then a friendship has grown. “Tim actually cares about the people that live here,” said Matt Buckley, senior at UMF. “I was really sick and Tim heard, came in on his day off, and dropped off some medicine.”
He went on to describe one of his favorite parts of working at UMF. “The most fun day of the year is freshmen move-in day. I try to get up and go into as many rooms and introduce myself,” said Burnell, his outgoing personality shining through once again.
After receiving a degree in welding technology from Eastern Maine Vocational, Burnell worked as a welder in the paper industry, filled with 26 years of hard work and long hours. “I just wanted something different. I’m 52, I have a 12 year old son, and I want to be around for him” said Burnell, a picture of his son sitting upon his desk, also mentioning, “My wife is a teacher,” with a smile on his face. His wife also lived in Purington when she herself was a student at UMF.
Burnell’s glance fell on the newspaper clipping tacked onto the wall above his desk; his hands followed his gaze and reached up to take the paper down. “I happened to see this in a paper once and I thought to myself ‘that’s the kind of custodian I want to be,’” said Burnell. The first lines reading as follows: “Mine is the gritty work that often goes unnoticed. But I take pride in all that I accomplish with my hands and skill.” It is evident that Burnell’s pride is found in the purest way possible: hard work that deserves to be recognized.
Kevin Lind, a junior at UMF, met Burnell his freshman year when he first moved into Purington in the fall of 2010. “He’s a really likeable guy and he knows almost everyone on a first name basis. Every morning when I’m walking to class he’ll stop and have a short conversation with me about something.” said Lind.
When it comes to remembering names, Burnell attributes his keen memory to the 10 years he coached football in Farmington.