“Some people bring immediate comfort to a situation, no matter how bad or good. You just know that things will be OK when they are around.”
From his beginnings in June 1986 as a student assistant, Jim Rankin has risen through 11 different positions at NEOMED to become director of campus operations, a role he has held since December 2015. Jim is now retiring, and his last day will be Friday, January 25. With many thanks for his devoted service, we share Jim’s NEOMED story, in his own words.
It was late spring, 1986. My mom came home from work and asked me if I would be interested in a summer job as a student assistant in the physical plant where she worked. After talking with John Thomas, who was the assistant director at the time, I was very interested. And when I received a message I was elated. I was going to make $3 an hour and couldn’t wait to start. My first summer was spent helping the maintenance repair workers to sweep and clean the underground pipe tunnels, and to paint all the rooftop-mounted exhaust fan housings—not to mention a lot of other mundane tasks.
I must have done something right to set a good impression, since I was asked by another department to fill in temporarily as the mail clerk. That’s where I got to know people around campus really well, seeing them every day. When a temporary position opened up, I went from mail clerk to courier overnight! I had also signed up for classes at Kent State, so for a whole year, I was driving to and from NEOUCOM to Youngstown, Akron, Canton, delivering NEOUCOM mail to our affiliates associated with the University academic programs and such. I got to meet a lot of new people and be out on the road. What could be better?
I kept in mind that $5 an hour wouldn’t sustain me forever. In October 1988, a real, full-time position opened up for a physical plant services worker to help do the menial things a maintenance repair worker didn’t have a lot of time to do. I was tasked to assist with helping do the conference and seminar room set-ups of tables, chairs and what-nots for events, change light bulbs, fill in for absent couriers and a plethora of other duties no one else wanted to do. I was making some real bank now… I was at $6 an hour! And still living at home. I did what any teenage American kid would do, go out and buy a new car.
While recovering from this impulsive car-buying phase, an awesome turn of events was about to take place. As I was carrying out some of my physical plant services worker duties, down the hall walked our department’s administrative coordinator with this very cute girl who was interviewing to be the physical plant office student assistant. A few months later, we began to date. We have now been married for 25 awesome years and have two wonderful children—the best thing to ever happen to me.
In May 1993 I was interviewed and chosen to be the physical plant assistant. My duties now consisted of supervising the courier service, building and room inventory, physical plant services (worker), conference/seminar room set-ups and the daytime cleaning person. I was now in the big leagues and scared out of my mind about this kind of responsibility. I had a lot of responsibility at home, too, as a new husband and father, so I worked hard to provide.
It was in October 1998, when I started a new position as a maintenance repair worker, when I began to see my purpose and my stake in the claim at NEOMED. It was then that my aspirations began to grow as a dedicated employee, and I was hired as supervisor of the grounds in January 2003. Yeah, right in the middle of winter! No better way to learn something than to just jump in with both feet up to your chin! I can say I was put to the test as a supervisor many times over in regards to dealing with employees and work load. I wouldn’t change it for the world. This experience gave me the confidence I needed to be where I am today.
In May of 2005, the University went through a difficult time climbing out of some pretty deep holes. As a result of downsizing, our department inherited the shipping and receiving and mail delivery duties. In May 2005 my title changed to supervisor of physical plant services. I was now responsible not only for the grounds department but also the courier service, mail room and shipping and receiving with having only myself, the mail delivery clerk and the two couriers as staff. We quickly had to make some changes to the way things were done to be able to keep up the pace.
After seven years, the position of interim assistant director opened and I thought to myself, this is the time in my career where I need to pull together all my experience. At this level, you need to be on your “A” game all the time. I was proud of myself at this point for going as far as I thought I was going to go in the department.
My short time in my final position, the director of campus operations since December 2015, can be summed up as a culmination of my past 30 years of service to the University. I have held 11 different positions where I started completely at the bottom and carried out every one of those positions with a purpose of personal and professional growth. It has been my honor and my pleasure to have been part of this awesome university.
I thank all of you whom I have known and worked with. I hope I have instilled the experience, qualities and values I have learned, and I would say this: Keep your head up and your aspirations high.