Emory Report
January 18, 2005
Volume 58, Number 15


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January 18, 2005
Cain is able

BY eric rangus

March 31, 2004, started just like any other morning on the Oxford campus. At 10 a.m., Todd Cain, Oxford’s facilities manager, sat down for a routine meeting about the upcoming Commencement ceremonies when he received a radio call from co-worker Michael Browning in the grounds shop.

Smoke was billowing out a window in Branham Hall, one of Oxford’s residence halls. Cain left the meeting and ran over to help. Several of his Facilities Management (FM) co-workers were already there working to get fire extinguishers into the building. Cain was told that another FM employee, Drake Sammons, was in Branham, possibly trapped on the other side of the fire.

When Cain finally got inside and up to the second floor, he found it filled with smoke. He dropped to the floor, crawled down the hall, and when he reached the far stairwell he found Drake, who was fine. He had been carrying up fire extinguishers. Battling the smoke, they found the room where the fire had started and emptied one of the extinguishers into it. The flames died down, but soon burst up again.

By that time, the fire department had arrived and begun to extinguish the blaze. But the quick work by Cain and his co-workers (as well as by the Oxford Police Department and Employee Health Department) considerably lessened what could have been a catastrophe. No one was injured, and most of the damage came from smoke. The fire had been restricted to the one room.

That fire, the worst anyone can remember on Oxford’s campus, was a lot more than Cain expected last January when he moved to Oxford after five years on the Atlanta campus. “I was only supposed to be here three or four months,” Cain said.

His prime responsibility had been to lead the effort to combine the campus’s two maintenance departments—one for residence halls and the other for academic spaces—into one entity. After that was accomplished, FM planned to take over administration of those services (Oxford had not previously been affiliated with Atlanta-based FM) and establish a new zone on the campus. A new supervisory position separate from Cain’s work was to be created.

“I liked the campus and the people and their approach toward things,” he said. “So when the job was posted,
I applied for it and was hired at the first of May.”

The Oxford FM zone is different than its brethren on the Atlanta campus, where employees concentrate on specific trades such as carpentry or electrical work. Because of the campus’ small size, Oxford’s eight-person FM staff must be versatile. They are responsible for everything—grounds, staging, maintenance—save custodial work, which is subcontracted out.

“Everybody has welcomed me with open arms,” Cain said. “It’s been really pleasant to work with people who care so much about this place. They are multitalented individuals. Several have dedicated their lives to Oxford; they’ve been here since just about out of high school. They took care of it when there wasn’t any money available to take care of it. Their work ethic is just great; I just couldn’t ask for a better crew.”

Cain is the first FM supervisor on the Oxford campus, and while the objective of his first year was to smoothly combine the existing maintenance departments, the Branham Hall fire threw a major wrench into the works. The smoke was damaging enough, but the fire department’s water hoses released the building’s asbestos coating throughout the hall. Suddenly, Cain found himself as the site supervisor for an asbestos abatement as well as a fire cleanup.

Coordinating with Project Manager Al Herzog from the Atlanta campus, Cain worked along side hazmat crew that cleaned up the asbestos, as well as the contractors who had the heavy-duty job of repainting, recarpeting and fixing up Branham. With just eight weeks budgeted for the work, it was finished on time—and in time for the students’ return in August.

Cain said the Oxford community’s positive reaction to the fire is just one of the things that drew him to the place. He has accepted Oxford as it has accepted him, and that institutional acceptance takes many forms.
A single parent, Cain is accompanied on occasion by his 5-year-old son Max. “He’s a very popular individual out here,” said Cain, who also took Max along to a retreat at the end of summer where he met other Oxford staff and students. Max is particularly fond of riding his bicycle on the Quad.

“He thinks that’s his personal playground out there,” Cain said.

It’s that sort of personal touch that has endeared Oxford to Cain. “People want to know more about you here,” he said. “They don’t want to just see you come and do your job.” Cain has given back in several ways; he attends after-work functions and enjoys getting to know the students on a personal level, acting as a resource whenever they might need something.

“I'm just thankful to God for the wonderful gifts he has given me,” Cain said. “And for the people he puts in my life.

“I’d love to see Max as a student at Oxford or Emory,” he continued. “He’s a good little boy, and he’s who I do everything for.”