July 23, 2024

Stuart Sullivan: Man with a Plan

When his boss John Wiltenmuth retired in January 2020 after a quarter century on the job, Stuart Sullivan thought he had a handle on pretty much anything the Mary Washington facilities department would encounter. After all, Sullivan had been with the department for four decades.

Facilities Executive Director Stuart Sullivan on his horse, Chime.

Facilities Executive Director Stuart Sullivan on his horse, Chime.

But PPE and plexiglass? Procuring protection in a pandemic? Less than six weeks after taking over as facilities executive director, Sullivan and his team had a singular focus: COVID-19.

“Finding personal protective equipment (PPE) for the whole campus when everyone in the country was buying it, ensuring we were following CDC guidelines, writing return-to-work procedures, preparing training materials for those who worked from home temporarily, setting up over 100 classrooms for social distancing, installing and maintaining 500 auto hand sanitizer stations, mounting plexiglass in all face-to-face service areas, providing procedures and supplies for community bathrooms in dorms, renegotiating contracts to help with additional COVID cleaning, performing all of the normal day-to-day work and doing it all while practicing MMDC.”

Oh – and attending weekly COVID Implementation Team and Commencement planning meetings. He and his staff also set up the bistro lights on campus and made the propane fire pits possible. Sullivan has even been known to spend weekends cutting the grass on campus.

“Well, they say timing is everything,” he added, “and in this case, John timed it perfectly! I knew there would be some adjustments for me in this position, but COVID made it even more challenging.”


Sullivan's own yearbook photo. He and his team have spent the last few months preparing UMW's buildings and grounds for nine in-person Commencement ceremonies, beginning today.

Sullivan’s own yearbook photo. He and his team have spent the last few months preparing UMW’s buildings and grounds for nine in-person Commencement ceremonies, beginning today.

Q: With so many demands on you, how have you persevered?
A: The fact I had been working at UMW for a long time and was familiar with processes helped me, and knowing the talent of our wonderful staff was a great benefit.

Q: What has been your greatest challenge these past 14 months?
A: Planning. I like clear directions so I can make sure the project or task is done correctly, on time, and on budget. With COVID, we may have needed to change direction on procedures at any given time.

Q: How has in-person Commencement impacted you and your staff?
A: Facilities is always busy preparing for graduation each year. Landscape and Grounds works extra hours to get the campus looking great. This year, the electrical department had to run power to the Campus Recreation Field, and the paint shop had to paint the bathroom doors. We had to power wash the parking garage, restripe the parking lot, and on and on. Our staff has been coordinating graduation with our Events colleagues for years, and we do an excellent job working together.

Q: Have you seen any silver linings in the COVID cloud?
A: People. I have asked so much of so many this past year, and the vast majority have stepped up. Their commitment to UMW and each other is truly inspiring. Our campus community is the main reason we made it through this school year. No matter how good a coach you may have, it’s about the team, and I’m blessed to have a great one.

Q: What are you looking forward to most post-pandemic?
A: A family get-together where we can hug each other. We all miss the personal connection.

Q: What do you like best about the UMW campus?
A: What’s not to like? I fell in love with Mary Washington the day I walked onto the grounds. It’s one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve ever seen, but the UMW community is what has kept me here all these years. So many people here have mentored and help me through the years, and I hope I have been able to give back some of that.

Q: How do you always maintain such an even keel and positive demeanor?
A: I have my bad days, but I never found complaining or sharing negativity helps anything. My favorite supervisors were positive and encouraging. I try to treat everyone the way I’d like to be treated.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Attitude is everything. A bad one gets you nowhere, and it’s something you can change.