05 - 16
COLUMBUS, Ga. – Gary Freeman, 59, has been a custodian at Columbus State University for nine years. Recently promoted to a team leader, he is responsible for cleaning a variety of buildings around campus, including the Frank G. Lumpkin Center, home to CSU basketball games and other major events.
Friday night, the Lumpkin Center hosted a graduation ceremony for the College of Education and Health Professions. Gary was there on his usual shift until 1:30 a.m., cleaning up after a packed house.
Saturday, he was back in the Lumpkin Center.
But this time, he was there in a cap and gown, not his work uniform.
After working toward his degree one class at a time, when he had the time, Gary graduated on Saturday with a Bachelor of Business Administration, with a major in Management Information Systems.
“I consider it very special to graduate in the building that I have been cleaning for nine years,” he said shortly before walking across the stage and shaking the president’s hand.
Monday, he was back at work, proudly doing his rounds and humbly accepting hugs from co-workers. Still, he wanted to make sure his supervisor was OK with him taking a call on his cell phone about his degree since he was working.
He said it felt “great” to be a college graduate, and he was planning to send out resumes soon in the hopes of finding a job “in his field.”
“Gary is a great example to us all,” said Steve Morse, senior director of University Support Services, the division that encompasses custodial services at CSU. “Not only is he the kind of worker we want at CSU, he is a reminder of why we are all here at this university: to provide an environment where people can get a higher education that can improve their lives.”