The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Frank Perry

 Frank Perry
Photo by John Schreiber, The Daily Campus
Frank Perry

Frank Perry (Photo by John Schreiber, The Daily Campus)

 

At about ten in the morning, the basement of Hughes-Trigg is quiet. The last few students have taken their breakfast to go, and the cashiers chat among themselves. Frank Perry, a custodial worker in the student center, sits quietly watching the news and eating a breakfast sandwich.

Elvira Jones, a cashier in the Varsity, has worked with Perry for ten years.

“Frank is a real sweetheart,” she said. “He’s a perfect gentleman.”

As lunch approaches, students will fill up Hughes-Trigg to eat, congregate and relax between classes.

“That’s when I’m the busiest,” Perry said. “I’ve gotta make sure I do some policing of the trash to make sure it won’t get piled up later.”

When third-year student Michelle Wigianto is asked where to find Perry, she says, “I just saw him.” She looks around, trying to remember where he went. “Can you hear the wheels downstairs? That’s him.” Those are the wheels of the trashcan he pushes around Hughes-Trigg.

Perry does more than simply pick up trash. Underclassmen copy editing in the Daily Campus office say they look forward to Perry’s polite conversation while he makes his rounds in the newsroom.

Headphones — usually a sign that someone isn’t open to conversation — quickly leave his ears as he opens himself up to talk to students, faculty and staff whenever they approach him.

But Perry is modest. When asked about his job, he smiles and says, “I pretty much just clean up after you guys.”

Perry is just one of many custodial workers on campus, but his constant smile and friendly manner make him stand out to several of those who spend time in Hughes Trigg.

“Frank is just incredibly friendly and cheerful,” said Rebecca Rosfeld, a student who works at the Mane Desk on the first floor. “He comes by here every afternoon, pleasant as ever. Just brightens people’s day.”

Perry, hesitant to take even a minute’s break to talk with a reporter, wheels his trashcan into the men’s bathroom on the second floor. He breaks the ice in this unusual interview setting.

“You know, I’m really prepared for this stuff,” he says. “Every year somebody wants to talk to me about something.”

It’s true. With Hughes-Trigg as the meeting place for literally hundreds of organizations, Perry said he notices just about everything.

Perry has been helping maintain Hughes Trigg for twenty years this April. He was born in Dallas and worked in local elementary schools before coming to SMU. He was recruited through a training program and started as a university employee.

He is now an employee of Aramark, a company with which SMU has a contract to outsource some janitorial and food service work.

“The benefits are about the same,” Perry says from inside a stall he is cleaning. A toilet flushes and he reemerges. “I sort of regret not having that free tuition, though.”

The switch to Aramark isn’t the only thing that has changed. Perry has seen substantial changes to the student center since he arrived, including the new Java City expansion, which he says is, “pretty neat.”

Perry has seen other changes over the past two decades. “I’ve noticed a lot more minority enrollment each year,” he said.

After hearing some statistics about the decreased enrollment among some minorities in the past couple of years, Perry says, “It’s a shame. SMU just has those stereotypes that keep people away.”

When asked about some of his favorite students, Perry carries on his work but his smile fades.

“I mean, they all graduate after three or four years, so I have to break in new ones all the time,” he said. “I miss them. They graduate and I don’t see them for years, if I see them again at all.”

But Perry quickly returns to his jolly demeanor, whistling as he pushes the trashcan out of the bathroom.

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