At an institution as large as the University of Virginia, it’s easy to forget that it consists of many individually moving parts. We may take for granted the roughly 13,500 employees who keep the whole operation humming every day. Who, for instance, keeps all the UTS buses on the road? Who watches what students eat? Who flies critically injured patients to the hospital? We present a cross-section, a few of the small pictures that make up UVA’s big picture.
Behind the Crime Scene
Janice Coles, Detective and Crime Analyst, University Police Department
When she was a little girl, Janice Coles read every Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys book that her neighborhood library had on its shelves. She enjoyed looking for patterns and solving mysteries; she didn’t know it then, but police work would be her calling. “I feel like I was meant to do it,” says Coles. Since 1992, she has served the UVA Police Department as a patrol officer, a detective and now as its first crime analyst.
With a staff of 130, the University’s police department closely resembles a city police force; officers are trained at the same academy and have similar rights and responsibilities. Their jurisdiction includes the UVA hospital, the Grounds and, jointly with Charlottesville police, areas like the Corner, where the University population mingles with the city’s. “UVA has a very open campus—people flow in and out of it easily—so police officers need to be flexible, too,” says Coles.
One of her biggest cases as a detective affected not only UVA but also Albemarle County and the cities of Charlottesville and Waynesboro. For seven years, between 1997 and 2004, a serial rapist had been brutally attacking women in the region. Police determined through DNA that the same person committed all seven assaults, but the case remained unsolved.
Assigned to the multijurisdictional task force investigating the serial rapist, Coles pored over every detail of the case and researched the backgrounds of hundreds of suspects. After a victim came forward with a license plate number that might prove helpful to the investigation, Coles was led to Nathan Antonio Washington—a 40-year-old newspaper carrier and meat cutter with a wife and four children.
Coles put him under surveillance and after closely scrutinizing Washington’s life against every aspect of the case, she became convinced that she had the right man. A straw from a soda purchased at a Charlottesville Burger King provided police with Washington’s DNA.
UVA’s police chief called Coles at home to tell her that it matched DNA from the crime scenes. “I didn’t believe it was over,” says Coles. “It’d become a routine to check for him every day for years.”
Early this year, Washington was sentenced to four life sentences plus 20 years. “Women still come up to me sometimes and say thank you,” say Coles. “They feel safer. That is the most rewarding part of my job.” Her work also earned Coles an Outstanding Contribution Award from UVA’s human resources department.
Behind the Babies
Cindy Harris, Labor and Delivery Nurse
“Where do babies come from?” Most parents will deliver a red-faced answer to this question at some point. “OK, fine,” the precocious child counters, “but who’s there to greet them when they arrive?”
For many, the answer would be Cindy Harris, a labor and delivery nurse at UVA Hospital who will celebrate her 23rd anniversary on the job in December.
How many babies does one see born over nearly a quarter century spent in delivery rooms? “I figure,” Harris says, “that I see about two deliveries per week. You can do the math.” Some quick computing would indicate that Harris has helped welcome around 2,000 newborns into the world.
When asked what has changed the most over the years, she smiles and says, “It amazes me how creative people have gotten with baby names. Some are great,” she says, “but I have to laugh when a new mom turns and asks me, ‘Excuse me, Nurse, how would you spell this name?’”
Another difference is the influence television has, giving a mom-to-be a sometimes unrealistic perception of the delivery process. “It’s not exactly like ER or Grey’s Anatomy,” Harris says. “Lots of women think that they’ll walk in the door and be done in an hour or two, but that’s not really the case. Some labors can take up to three days.”
Though television tends to sensationalize, there’s certainly no lack of drama in labor and delivery. “A few weeks ago,” Harris says, “I had a mom with a really difficult delivery. She had to work really hard. She kept thanking me for coaching her, saying she would have had to have a C-section if it weren’t for me. One of those a year really makes it worth it.”
With experiences this rewarding, Harris finds it hard to imagine herself in any other profession. She weighs other possibilities for a moment, then laughs. “Well, I do really enjoy shopping. Maybe I could work at Belk.”
The department store may have to do without Harris, as she seems to be a born nurse. “My mom, dad, two sisters and my brother have all worked at the hospital at some point. I started volunteering here when I was 14 years old as a candy striper,” she says. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Behind the Buses
Dave Durrer, UTS mechanic
“I don’t mind oil changes, and we do a lot of them,” Dave Durrer says. “But what I really like is a challenge: trying to figure out what’s gone wrong with an engine or an electrical system and coming up with the best way to fix it.” Both his expertise and ingenuity have been tested in the 22 years that he’s been keeping the buses running for the University Transit Service, and he still enjoys coming to work every day at the roomy garage behind Parking and Transportation’s Millmont Street offices. “There’s always something new in this job,” he explains. “That’s what keeps it interesting.”
As maintenance shop foreman, Durrer not only wields a wicked wrench but oversees the work of three other ace mechanics. The requisite qualities in this line of work? “Initiative is first, I’d say,” he comments. “It helps to have people who don’t wait on jobs, but try out things on their own. And patience, too, is necessary.”
Given the grind on gears and the wear on tires produced by stop-and-go travel along the Blue and Orange routes, patience indeed comes in handy. The UTS fleet consists of 32 buses, and there are nearly always four or five in need of repair. Hoisted atop one of the shop’s expensive ton-sustaining lifts, they get turned out safely—but also swiftly enough to serve UVA’s 3 million annual riders. Durrer likes tinkering on them to the accompaniment of Toby Keith or Reba McIntire; the music, he says, helps him concentrate.
UTS gets its vehicles from the four major bus manufacturers: Gillig, Thomas, Blue Bird and Orion. While Durrer tends to favor the Gillig, either its classic Phantom or rider-friendly Low Floor model (“They’re very dependable,” he says), he’s impressed with today’s rigs, even if their computer-heavy components make them trickier to service than their low-tech predecessors. Other transport innovations, such as the bus fleet’s switch to eco-conscious biodiesel fuel, please him. But he’s less than copacetic about Charlottesville’s traffic, a trickle when UTS began its service in 1972 compared with today’s torrent.
A lifelong fan of the marvels of internal combustion, Durrer remains fascinated with all things “engine,” whether it’s the memory of his 1968 GTO, the muscle car of his high school days back in nearby Greene County, or with something bigger. “Airplanes,” he muses. “I guess I’d like to work on them. Talk about a challenge.”
Behind the Sports Jerseys
Kinh Bui, Tailor
Every August, Martin’s Tailoring Centre is flooded with more than 100 new blue-and-white jerseys that belong to the UVA football team. The shop’s owners, Kinh Bui and his wife, Lan Cao, work tirelessly on their Liebersew sewing machines to stitch the numbers and player names onto the uniforms. Their bobbins are full of heavy-duty thread, a nylon-and-cotton blend that Bui tests between his fingers to demonstrate its strength. “We only use three colors of thread: white, orange and blue,” he says, gesturing to the zigzag stitch he uses on the numbers. “Football has running, and players hit players, so there is very much damage. Zigzag is very strong.”
Not only does Bui prepare the jerseys for the coming season but he also repairs the holes and split seams that often result from hard-hitting tackles. After each game, approximately 25 jerseys and eight pairs of pants require mending. “Number 91, Mr. Long, always had many holes. Three to six every time,” says Bui, and he reminisces about the kids who would ask to have their photographs taken with Chris Long’s famous jersey. When asked if he’s ever met the illustrious football player, Kinh Bui chuckles and says, “I met him on the TV.”
The football jerseys hang among the altered formal wear, wedding attire, military uniforms and suit jackets that constitute Bui’s other business. He’s also the tailor for the UVA baseball and basketball teams, and estimates that sports uniforms account for 10 percent of his workload. “Often the teams need rush jobs,” he says. “Drop off at night. Pick up in the morning for away games.”
Bui has been working six-day weeks since he bought the shop in the Meadowbrook Shopping Center nine years ago, just two years after he emigrated from Vietnam in 1997. His wife had lived in Charlottesville for several years before she returned to Saigon to marry Bui, her childhood sweetheart, and bring him back with her to Virginia.
“Charlottesville is very peaceful,” says Bui, when asked about his adopted home. “Lot of beautiful views. The people are very friendly.” Though it’s a half a world away, Bui’s hometown of Saigon shares a few similarities with Charlottesville. “Everywhere people love sports. In Vietnam, it’s soccer. I was a goalkeeper at the university in Saigon,” he says.
Turning back to his sewing machine, he presses the foot pedal and pushes a jersey’s nylon mesh beneath the plunging needle. Stitch by stitch, Bui zigzags his way into the new season.
Behind the President
Lois Lovern, Administrative Assistant, Office of the President
One day in 1968, Lois Lovern stood watching as Vietnam War protesters marched in a circle, barricading Cabell Hall. She had critical papers that had to get to a fourth-floor office, so the secretary gamely joined the marchers before stealing inside. “Could you imagine someone from the Cavalier Daily happening along and snapping a picture of me?” she laughs now.
A decade before, Lovern had become administrative assistant to Physics Department chair Jesse Beams. The University at that time was “all male, all white, coats and ties, and nearly everyone born in the U.S.A.,” she recalls. Fifty years later, Lovern is an administrative assistant to UVA President John T. Casteen III and the look of the place has changed, but not the spirit: “Our students are still very smart,” she says. “And they certainly turn out well.”
Arriving at 8:30 a.m. in her Madison Hall office, Lovern concentrates on travel arrangements for Casteen, currently globe-trotting for the capital campaign. “I love constructing the schedule. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” she says. “I’ll wonder about each city he’ll visit: ‘What would I like to do there?’ It’s fun for this armchair traveler to learn about these places.”
Helping Casteen with his correspondence also requires strongly identifying with her boss, of whose prose voice, her office mates say, she has become an expert mimic. Having served three University presidents, she’s developed other indispensable qualities. “You have to be mindful of what’s confidential,” Lovern says. “Also, sometimes you have to bite your tongue. You have to be aware of your constituency.” Being persnickety is a plus. “At a staff retreat, we took the Myers-Briggs personality test, and I scored off the scale for thriving on detail,” she remembers. “I was upset because no one else was off the scale about anything, but the trait does come in handy.” It is Lovern, for instance, who every year polishes the mace and makes sure it’s in the hands of the marshal at Final Exercises.
Having been a friendly face in the Office of the President for 34 years, Lovern continues to take pleasure in her duties. One such mandate—unofficial, of course—is that she serve as a kind of institutional memory. “People call me up and say, ‘Do you remember so and so?’ I may not at first, but I always try my best.”
Behind the Exhibits
Mercy Quintos Procaccini, Exhibits Coordinator, Special Collections Library
Her office in Alderman Library is a bibliophile’s dream, crowded with a 1,200-volume Civil War-era collection from a prominent Virginia family. Perched on her desk is a figurine of Edgar Allan Poe. He’s there to prod her, because even while “On the Map,” a display of historic cartography now fills the Special Collections exhibit space, Mercy Quintos Procaccini (Col ’94) is already preparing for next year’s bicentennial of Poe’s birth. “One real challenge of the job is that there’s always more to show and say than we ever can. But the great joy of this position is the sheer variety of its challenges,” says Quintos Procaccini, a 19th century American history major.
Balancing historical accuracy and aesthetic appeal, the exhibits she presents are both time and labor intensive. “We typically plan about two years out, although much of the work is concentrated in the seven or so months immediately before opening,” she explains. “An entire team is involved, from exhibit curators, designers and installers to library staff working in Special Collections or Web development or digital services to faculty serving as advisers. It can take nearly 20 people.”
The work is complex. “I’d have to say that planning the exhibitions for the opening of the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections in fall 2004 was the most challenging so far,” she says. “It meant planning three simultaneous exhibitions—from ‘American Journeys’ and its 300 highlights from Special Collections to ‘Declaring Independence to Flowerdew Hundred.’”
The library’s mainstay exhibit, “Declaring Independence,” showcases the Albert H. Small Declaration of Independence Collection, which features one of only 25 extant broadsides published on July 5, 1776, as well as letters and documents representing all 56 signers. “We had to come up with a custom, high-security display case to house the Declaration of Independence broadside, and produce the documentary film that plays in the exhibition. Plus, every exhibition has its own related brochures and publications,” she says.
“Flowerdew Hundred,” a tour of one the earliest James River plantations, shows the library’s proclivity for exhibits that make the most of Commonwealth resources, while “The Firebird and the Factory: Modern Russian Children’s Books” reveals the range that Quintos Procaccini aims to achieve.
Now eight years on the job, Quintos Procaccini says she is passionate about making literary and cultural heritage relevant, especially in the digital age. “There’s just something incredibly exciting about sharing the experience of original artifacts,” she says. “Again and again at these exhibits, people have ‘Aha!’ moments of realization, of seeing the past from a fresh perspective.”
Along with the Poe commemoration, she’s gearing up for another 2009 exhibit showcasing Old Cabell Hall, Cocke Hall and Rouss Hall—buildings by the Beaux Arts architectural firm McKim, Mead and White. It’s the kind of display she relishes, one that “makes the most of Special Collections, draws connections between various disciplines and places history in context in ways that can really engage viewers.”
Behind the Emergency
Kim Welliver, Pegasus Pilot
During his 12-hour shifts with UVA’s Pegasus medical transport, Kim Welliver wears a flight suit, keeps his helmet within reach and watches the sky. As pilot of the Pegasus helicopter, he must be prepared to fly a mission at a moment’s notice, whether there is a traffic accident in West Virginia, a tractor rollover in North Carolina, or a stroke in Washington, D.C. “We are an ambulance in the sky rather than on wheels,” explains Welliver. “We can land in a field or on a road, and we can travel in a straight line, as the crow flies, anywhere we go.”
The Pegasus helicopter, an Augusta 109E, is painted blue and orange and carries the image of the mythological winged horse on its side. In the rear, a small compartment is crowded with seats for the two-person medical crew and a litter for the patient, as well as an impressive array of medical equipment, including a defibrillator and an EKG machine.
In the cockpit, the seats face a panel of glowing instruments that allow the pilots to orient themselves and keep an eye on the weather. Using instruments alone, they can fly blind through dense cloud cover. The helicopter is equipped with night vision goggles, but there are weather conditions that make flight impossible, such as electrical storms. For that reason, while he is waiting to be called on a mission, Welliver constantly monitors satellite images of weather systems in the eastern U.S. “We check and double check because once we are in the air, we can’t just pull over,” he says. With its powerful twin engines, Pegasus cruises at 175 miles an hour—fast even for a helicopter.
Pegasus has been transporting patients to UVA Hospital since 1984, but Welliver has been flying Pegasus only since 2004. He first spent 25 years as a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army, and the skills that made him a good soldier have translated to his work in emergency medical services. “It’s important to be cool under pressure, fulfill the purpose of the mission and not be distracted from it,” he says. “My job is to fly safely and if I get caught up in the human drama, I won’t perform as well.”
Welliver loves to fly, and his favorite part of the job is sharing that passion with others. “The patients I remember best are the people for whom the ride in the helicopter is the first time they’ve flown,” he says. “The wonder of it elevates their mind from their personal situation. They are sick or injured, in a bad spot, but for a moment they can forget it and just feel awestruck.”
In some interpretations of Greek mythology, Pegasus carried Perseus to save Andromeda from being devoured by a dragon. During a typical shift, the Pegasus helicopter will carry Welliver and the medical crew on two to three life-saving missions. If there are similarities that could be drawn between ancient and modern-day heroes, Welliver isn’t one to notice. “Every kid wants to be able to fly. I’m just lucky that I get to,” he says.
Behind the Menus
Paula Caravati, Nutritionist
“Americans think of foods dichotomously: either good or bad,” says Paula Caravati, the nutritionist for UVA’s Dining Services. “But to me, it’s all good. It’s just a matter of moderation.”
No food prude, Caravati has introduced baba ghanoush, sushi and fruit smoothies, but hardly bans french fries. Celebrating food-as-fuel and food-as-fun at Newcomb, Runk and O-Hill dining halls, she helps her demographic avoid the “freshman fifteen,” offers nutritional counseling to all meal-plan enrollees, and writes fact-filled pamphlets that underscore her proud claim: “This is not your mother’s meal plan. We have a lot more choices. I love food. I’m from New York City. I’m Italian American. I travel a lot. And so I know a thing or two about menus.”
After earning a Ph.D. in nutrition from Virginia Tech, Caravati managed the dietary needs of cancer patients in a Medical College of Virginia outreach program. She saw clients in private practice in Richmond, planned menus for nursing homes, and, 14 years ago, began working at the University. Dining options at that time were limited and “old-fashioned—pot pies, comfort foods, a lot of fat,” she says. While attempting to expand the recipes yet trim the calories, she also advised coach George Welsh and the football team. Lean protein, high fiber and veggies trumped fried foods as she prepared the pregame menus. Today, the dining service’s stations, such as a vegetarian option called The Granary, continue Caravati’s culinary reformation.
Only about 4,000 students signed up for meal plans when Caravati started. Now that number has doubled, a gain she attributes to the greater variety of dining choices. “We have many students … whose tastes are quite sophisticated,” she says. “And we try to keep pace.”
A true food zealot—“Dieticians too often talk about nutrients, when we should also talk about enjoyment,” she says—Caravati is also serious about healthy eating. Mindful of cultural and lifestyle changes that range from “the end of sit-down dinners, super-sized fast food, too much work and too little exercise,” Caravati sees her role as an advocate for dining hall patrons who wish to eat wisely, but also very well.
Behind the Blooms
John Sauer, the Carr’s Hill Gardener
The rise of ground northwest of the Rotunda is known as Carr’s Hill, since 1909 the residence of the president of the University of Virginia. It’s a place of towering trees, border gardens and winding brick paths.
The gardens have evolved over the past century to suit each president’s tastes and needs. For 34 years, this lushly landscaped hilltop has been in the care of one man: John Sauer, the Carr’s Hill Gardener.
Sauer began work at Carr’s Hill in 1974 and says it has been “a learning process ever since.” The University’s fifth first lady, Ann Hereford, gave him his earliest lessons. “She mentored me, taught me sensibilities and techniques. I learned to make bouquets from her, each one a work of art,” he says.
This aesthetic appreciation is obvious in Sauer’s approach to gardening, and his sensibilities can be likened to an impressionist painter, composing art with an emphasis on light and the colors of nature.
“It feels wonderful when the light is just perfect,” Sauer says, standing at the Oval Garden, a place that feels like a haven against the speed of contemporary life. Even so, Carr’s Hill is seldom quiet. In an average year, about 17,000 guests visit the president’s home.
The floral art at Carr’s Hill is always evolving.
“Every season has charm and at the end of one season, we’re ready for the beauty of the next,” he says. “It’s a good feeling to create something that makes people happy. It’s good to feel needed.”
“But I don’t want to romanticize it,” he adds. “Gardening involves a lot of getting down and dirty.”
You might assume that Sauer is weary of gardening at day’s end. “Oh no,” he says, smiling. “It’s not a case of the cobbler’s son going barefoot. I garden at home in Batesville, and my wife is a horticulture teacher and columnist. I consider it a privilege to work here.”