By Christopher Thrall –
On Tuesday, April 13, an old friend returned to Augustana.
Hank VanDruten was Augustana’s maintenance manager for 25 years, starting when he was 56 years old and continuing until a table saw took the fingers off his left hand. (He insists that he had already decided to resign at that point.) VanDruten laughed when he recalled the discussions he had with the Workers’ Compensation Board about how to compensate an 80-year-old man for an injury on the job.
Chris Blades, Facilities & Operations Manager at Augustana, worked with VanDruten for years. His old boss taught him to save every piece of scrap material and showed him how to solve problems when you couldn’t afford to hire an engineer. They redesigned and rebuilt the heating system in the Convocation Centre one summer: that system is still in place. “We still come across some of his solutions,” said one of the F&O crew, “and they’re still working twenty years later!”
With the new Facilities & Operations building open on the southern edge of campus, the team that worked with Hank wanted to recognize his devotion to Augustana. Unable to name the building after VanDruten, Blades instead dedicated the machine shop to his former mentor. Along with a plaque, Hank received the welding helmet he wore throughout his time with Augustana.
Hanging proudly in the F&O entry, the plaque reads:
As he received the plaque – and heard the applause from the F&O team and coworkers from his time at Augustana – the 89-year-old blinked back tears. “There were some difficult times,” he said. “At times, there was no money and we all just pitched in for the students. After all, that was the most important thing – they were here to make a future, so we all helped out.”
Hank VanDruten, the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta – formerly Augustana University College and the Camrose Lutheran College – thanks you for your decades of dedication.