As members of the auxiliary services profession, we impact people on our campuses — students, faculty, staff, and guests — every day. It is not a question. It is a statement. We have the option of making it a positive or a negative experience. We all leave impressions on our customers and rest assured; they are customers, ones we should offer the very best customer service on a regular basis. These customer service experiences could become our legacies.
Can these chance encounters or planned experiences be called legacies? Let’s see.
What Is A Legacy?
Merriam-Webster describes a legacy as a gift, something transmitted by or received from a predecessor. Some examples include: (1) She left us a legacy of a million dollars; (2) He left his children a legacy of love and respect; (3) The war left a legacy of pain and suffering; and (4) Her artistic legacy lives on through her children.
Taking this definition and these examples, auxiliary services professionals can indeed leave legacies to their campuses — planned or accidentally.
Legacies can affect many, a few, or one. They can be positive or negative. Legacies can be made by donors, and legacies can be made by well-known people. Legacies can also be made by people who are not broadly known and by people who contribute their actions, skills, and experiences. Legacies can be active or quiet. Legacies can be powerful.
Positive legacies generally fall into the category of “making a difference.” Regardless of what category our legacies are determined to be, we should plan for them, when possible, and make the most of them.
The Accidental Legacy
Auxiliary services professionals share stories, and here’s one that happened on Georgia Tech’s campus that I like to call, The Accidental Legacy.
This event began on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving at approximately 8:30 p.m. when most employees had already left campus. At that time, a parking customer returned to retrieve his car from one of our parking decks that was open to the public. He got into his car ready to drive home and then discovered his car’s “steering column became completely inoperable.”
He exited his car, seeking help and finding only an automatic pay station. He then went to a nearby business and was told that since he was not a customer, the business could not help him. He was on his way back to his car to call a tow truck when he met one of our maintenance workers. Without being asked, the employee offered to help him and he waited for the two truck with the stranded motorist. When the tow truck arrived at the parking deck, the truck was too tall to enter the structure. The truck driver said that it would be Thursday, Thanksgiving day, when he could return with a different truck. That’s when the maintenance employee went out of his way to assure the parking customer that his car would be fine. The maintenance worker even called the Georgia Tech Police, informing them that this car would be left in the parking deck overnight. The car should have been fine anyway, but it gave the customer a feeling of security, knowing that the Georgia Tech Police were notified.
The motorist returned the next day, got his car to an auto repair shop, and returned to work at a nearby county district attorney’s office on Monday.
I know all of this information because I read the letter the motorist sent to our university president and many others on campus, citing the parking maintenance employee’s exceptional customer service.
Our employee was at the right place at the right time for this parking customer. Our employee’s kind assistance contracted starkly with the area business’s unconcern thereby making his attitude even more positive. This experience put our maintenance worker into a situation of an Accidental Legacy of goodwill. His kindness and assistance were genuine even though helping stranding motorists was not his job description. He did help, however, and the parking customer did not forget.
Legacies That Span Generations
Another favorite of mine is the Legacy that Spans Generations.
A perfect example is NACAS’s own Mereese Ladson and her inclusive excellence legacy.
NACAS honored Ladson with an annual conference scholarship:
The Ladson Diversity Scholarship was established in 2005 in honor of the late Mereese Ladson, controller at Brooklyn College (CUNY). Ladson was a president and long-time leader of NACAS East and a great friend to the entire Association. Ladson’s professionalism, commitment to inclusiveness for all, and leadership were sources of inspiration to our members. This scholarship program is intended to further her work to promote the advancement of diverse, career-minded higher education professionals and to enhance their auxiliary services skill and knowledge base through NACAS professional development programs.
Ladson’s legacy will be always a part of NACAS history, and therefore, can be classified as one of the Legacies that Span Generations.
Career Legacy – Active And Quiet
The Career Legacy may be the one that auxiliary services professionals most often relate.
It is, as it states, what we do. It’s a compilation of our work — the positive, the negative, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s how our work is deemed by our peers, colleagues, and customers.
These legacies generally fall into the active and/or quiet categories.
Active Legacies can be recognized with awards; for example, the NACAS Newton Award is a good example of an Active Career Legacy. Recognizing a person by naming building after him or her can also be an Active Career Legacy. Both have operating forces that remind people of accomplishments and generally positive legacies.
The Quiet Legacy is one that auxiliary services professionals can also be categorized. We make changes in campus cultures but may never see our names listed on an award or posted on a building. Either way, the legacy is there.
Often we are happy for our legacies to be quiet; we neither seek recognition nor want it. However, there are still steps to confirm our legacies are positive and powerful.
Auxiliary services professionals are only one of many groups changing campus cultures, enriching college experiences, and possibly altering lives. I met with a professor recently and one of the questions he poses to his students is, “What legacy will you leave at Georgia Tech to make the campus better?”
The same question could be addressed to each auxiliary services professional: What legacy will you leave your campus to make it better?
How To Leave A Positive, Powerful Legacy
As an auxiliary services professional, are you in the category of Accidental Legacy or a Legacy that Spans Generations? Will your legacy be positive, or will it be negative like the area business that did not help a stranded motorist on Thanksgiving eve? Do you or have you already left a Career Legacy that you would like remembered in your school’s history? Can you plan for your legacy that almost surely will be left by your footprint at your campus? Yes.
For more information on how to leave a positive, powerful legacy, attend the educational session at the NACAS Annual Conference in Montreal, “10 steps to creating a powerful, positive career legacy.” Attendees will learn how to immediately begin a legacy that people will be proud to know and follow. They will also know and be able to relate to the difference in a legacy and just doing the job. And, finally participants will be able to recognize when a job tips into an influential legacy.