Video by Zack Eagles
I Am Vanderbilt celebrates the people of Vanderbilt and the unique talents and contributions they bring to their work at the university each day.
The Vanderbilt campus hums with a particular energy in the weeks leading up to Commencement. Plant Operations staff set up some 32 tents and nearly 30,000 chairs at eight different venues across the university, and grounds crews ensure that every lawn and element of landscaping looks its very best.
Making the day special for graduates and their families is a point of pride for Randy Smith, a supervisor in Plant Operations. Smith manages a team of housekeeping staff tasked with getting buildings ready to accommodate the more than 25,000 friends and family members who will be on campus celebrating graduates.
“We want to make sure the parents are happy, and we want to make sure that Plant Operations’ efforts stand out.”
“We look at it like this: If it’s my child graduating from Vanderbilt, I’m very proud of them, and I would want things to look wonderful because of the time that has been put into their education,” he said. “We want to make sure the parents are happy, and we want to make sure that Plant Operations’ efforts stand out.”
Smith, who will mark 22 years at Vanderbilt this October, also takes pride in getting the details just right for every job he does. For Commencement, that includes ensuring all restrooms and building entrances are accessible for guests, making sure each chair set up on lawns across campus is clean and dry, and prepping stages with ice and water for the speakers. “It’s been instilled in me to focus on the details,” he said, “and I also try to focus on doing it right the first time. I like working smart, not hard.”
Away from work, Smith is an avid golfer who likes to spend time with his family and dote on his grandchildren. He’s part of a two-generation Vanderbilt family. Daughter Alexis Perry works in Vanderbilt University Human Resources as a senior benefits representative.
He credits his longevity at Vanderbilt to his colleagues and the resources provided by leadership in the Division of Administration. “There’s good people here, good support, from my directors to my vice chancellor,” Smith said. “It’s a good place to work, and I just love it.”