During the 2015 Homecoming Ceremony, Facilities Service team members rejoiced as Facilities Management Coordinator and 2006 Covenant alumnus, Amy Buck, mounted the stage to receive this year’s Rudy & Collyn Schmidt Service Award for her can-do attitude and leadership of the department.
A jar of gumballs, a cache of Diet Cokes, and Tennessee Vols paraphernalia are regular fixtures on Buck’s desk--right alongside a list of urgent tasks. Being Covenant’s Queen of Clean is not for the fainthearted, but Buck finds a joy in making sure the campus stays well-ordered and sanitary.
“I am convinced that she is the backbone of Covenant,” says Junior and summer facilities employee,Teresa Harwood.
“She’s the first one on the job and the last one to leave.”
Julie Pretorius, junior and former Team 13 Leader, laughs as she recalls how even transporting a cargo of boxes by golf cart could be memorable with Buck. “It was like we were on a special ops mission. She and another lady were sitting in the front seat. Boxes were piled to the ceiling, and I was stuck in the back with three or four more boxes. There wasn’t anything specifically humorous about it, but she made it an adventure.”
“I get enjoyment out of getting a big puzzle and trying to figure out how it’s going to work,” says Buck. She appreciates how “I am able to get my hands dirty and feel like I am making a difference, as well as serve alongside staff members that taught me how to grow as a follower of the Lord and be a servant.”
Buck first heard of Covenant at West Hill Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, TN, where her parents and two brothers still live. After graduating from Bearden High School in 2003, she enrolled at Covenant and joined the Sociology Department.
“The great thing about a sociology major is that it applies to everything,” says Buck. “You can use it in any field you work in, in learning how to better interact with people.”
Buck’s sociology background helps her as she coordinates and engages with large numbers of employees on the Facilities Service Team, but she discovered her real calling while employed as the Leader of Team 13, the group that tackles the miscellaneous tasks across campus. “Academics was not my strength,” she says, “but I enjoyed being able to accomplish something and feel proud of it. I could set up the Great Hall for an event and say, ‘yeah, I managed that.’”
Buck worked in Facilities for all four years that she was a student at Covenant, and she became a full-time employee in 2007. Her love of Covenant’s unique campus environment was a major impetus for the decision. “Covenant is such a wonderful place,” she says. “I tell people I came to school and never left. Especially after coming from a public school setting, as a whole, the faculty and staff really cared about me and not just my academics or my work. They cared about the person, my relationship with the Lord, and how that affected who I was.”
Alongside her daily duties of answering campus complaints and regimenting teams to meet these needs, Buck continues to follow in her professors’ footsteps. “I definitely love being able to work with college students and watch them throughout their time at Covenant. Being able to witness the growth that someone goes through those four years is really cool and really significant. I feel very blessed to be able to see that in people and be able to encourage them during that time, because it’s a hard time.”
And for Pretorius and others, this encouragement has been very tangible in Buck’s willingness to aid teams even with subordinate tasks and her direct interaction with student employees. “She seems so solid,” Pretorius says. “She’s someone I could look up to, and if it ever got really hard, I could remember, ‘Amy’s been in this position.’ “
Buck’s personal concern for her employees also ensures that each employee is placed in the best possible role for them and the team. “She’s very discerning about fitting you in a job, knowing what you’re capable of. She’s good at spotting personality and how you fit in,” she says.
Harwood agrees: “She’s super-efficient and just awesome at what she does. At the same time, she was always super gracious, and knew what we could handle.”
Buck isn’t known for rallying her workforce with lengthy inspirational speeches. Pretorius remembers a former facilities employee who often began each morning with a montage of witty anecdotes and long prayers. By the end, however, Amy Buck was always raring to go: “’Alright ladies and gents,’ she said, ‘let’s get to work!’ The difference was palpable. She’s just very candid, straightforward: All right, move on, no ruffles or feathers.”
When asked what some of the difficulties of her job were, Buck said, “We don’t have difficulties, we have challenges.” When asked what superpower she would take advantage of to make the job easier, she simply said, “20x20 vision.”
“Amy Buck has all the superpowers!" quipped a maintenance technician as he darted across her office.
Buck does admit that working in the bowels of Carter on summer nights when only a handful of people are on campus can be disconcerting. Still, she is heartened by the fact that she hasn’t “found any evidence to tunnels or ghosts or whatever you might have heard.”
In fact, she might have been more surprised that she received this year’s Rudy & Collyn Schmidt Service Award, than if she had spotted the infamous Carter ghost during her years of working here. However, the day of the Homecoming Ceremony, Buck says “my supervisor’s diligence to make sure I was there and have me sit next to Ms. Schmitt in chapel was a major tip off.”
“I was definitely honored and really appreciative that people thought that of me,” she says.