Ask an Antelope: Landscape assistant keeps campus ‘Purdy’

Gary Purdy joined UNK Facilities Management and Planning after a 22-year career in the linen and uniform rental industry. Over the past four-plus years, he advanced from custodian to groundskeeper to interim grounds supervisor to landscape assistant. In his current role, he helps maintain the beautiful grounds on the east side of campus.

The Mitchell, South Dakota, native was a substitute teacher in Omaha before he and wife Jill moved to Kearney in 1994. She’s the director of the UNK Finance Office.

Why did you decide to work at UNK?
Jill has worked at UNK for 29 years and when I needed a change from what I had been doing, she said, “You just need to come work at UNK.” She usually doesn’t steer me wrong, so I thought I’d better give it a go. And the rest is history.

Tell me about your job:
My current job obviously varies by season, but it certainly is not just mowing grass in the summer and moving snow in the winter. The entire grounds crew does a wide variety of tasks throughout the year. We pick up trash, maintain flower beds, trim hedges and trees, edge sidewalks, rake leaves, repair equipment, maintain the irrigation systems, do chemical applications and perform other tasks as needed. We are also always willing to help other departments when called upon and annually help with setting up the large tents and putting up flags for events. I have mainly been responsible for taking care of the southeast portion of the main campus. That area roughly extends from the Fine Arts Building to the “front door.”

What do you listen to when you’re working?
I am lucky enough to be able to wear headphones while performing several of my tasks. I listen to a wide variety of music depending on my mood or the season. But you will usually find me listening to a history podcast. My favorites are “We Have Ways of Making You Talk” and “History That Doesn’t Suck.”

What do you love most about UNK?
Getting to see and interact with a wide variety of people from day to day. Whether it’s a short conversation with a staff or faculty member or giving a wave and getting a smile from a student or visitor, I’m just happy to be doing my part as a member of the Loper community. Oh, and I can’t forget about getting to have lunch with Jill almost every day.

Share a fun fact about yourself:
I feed several of the “Loper Cats” (a feral cat population) every day.

“Ask an Antelope” is a Q&A series highlighting UNK faculty and staff and their impact on the campus and community.