Generally, when one thinks about what makes up a university, the first thing that comes to mind are the students, professors and president. But what about the people who help keep the university running behind the scenes?
Most forget that the buildings do not clean themselves and the anonymous employees tidying dorms are more than just volunteers.
“I’ve worked at Bradley, and that’s pretty much been my whole life,” Sisson and Dingledine Hall custodian Michael Mahoney said. “I started here as a teenager back in 1971.”
Mahoney lived in East Peoria until he was eight before moving to West Peoria. He attended a Catholic boarding school in Peru, Illinois. After graduation, he worked at Carpet Land and had a small stint as a bartender at Jim’s Steakhouse.
“From what I understand, I make a pretty good martini,” Mahoney said.
While working at Jim’s, he met former Bradley Athletic Director Ron Ferguson.
Soon after, Ken Goldin, former director of student activities and an old family friend, told Mahoney there was an opening in the custodial department and that he should apply.
“And the rest, as they say, is history,” Mahoney said.
In his 31 years at Bradley, Mahoney said he has worked in 90 percent of the buildings on campus.
He has worked every shift the custodial department has, whether it was 11:30 p.m. to 7 a.m., 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. or being on call for emergencies.
“I used to be on the call-in list, and I would go in 3-4 in the morning and clean up bathrooms,” Mahoney said. “And I think that speaks for itself. They can sometimes be pretty bad.”
Mahoney said his grossest bathroom experience was when he was plunging a full toilet and some of the water splashed in his face.
But he has more than bathroom horror stories to share.
“I came in one day [to Olin Hall] and there was something I thought might be a melted candy bar on the floor,” he said. “And I saw a few along the way, and I thought, ‘What is this all about?’ Well, I found out what it was all about, and it was not a candy bar.”
Though the disgusting moments make for good stories, Mahoney said his favorite memories are always of the students.
Mahoney described a moment where a group of students was having a barbecue outside one of the dorms he was cleaning and invited him over to join them after his work was done.
“[We] would just talk and laugh and have a good time; and there were a few instances like that,” Mahoney said. “There was a student I knew who was a cross country runner, and he needed a ride to a race, so I took him to the race, and that was kind of neat.”
According to Mahoney, although the buildings have changed, the students have stayed constant.
“[Students have] always been polite and funny,” Mahoney said. “They are just as respectful and friendly. They let you know they appreciate you and the work you do.”
Even though Mahoney loves his job, he does have a life off the Hilltop.
“I’m a Chicago Cubs fan and I saw a no-hitter in 1969 at a Cubs game,” Mahoney said. “And I saw a World Series [game] back in 1984.”
In addition to witnessing baseball history, Mahoney has taken several cross-country road trips with his family.
He has driven to California several times and even to New York. During one of these trips, Mahoney said it was the first time he had seen mountains.
But no matter the road trip, Mahoney always found his way back to the Hilltop.
Mahoney has seen the Allen Fieldhouse turn into Renaissance Coliseum, four different university presidents and a refurbished Markin Recreational Center. Mahoney said he is supposed to retire in six years, but if his health holds up, he isn’t planning on going anywhere.
“When I do eventually retire, I will have fond memories,” Mahoney said. “When you talk about family, the Bradley family, it’s true. It really is to me.”