This is the second installment of The Collegian's UR Employee Spotlight Series. The series will tell the stories of University of Richmond staff members who tirelessly help students and work behind the scenes to better campus life.
Most members of the University of Richmond community remember Sept. 9, 2011, as the day Barack Obama visited campus to speak.
But for Mark Brooking, it was the day he opened every single locker in the Robins Center.
“I had to get here at 4 a.m. and walk around with the Secret Service,” Brooking said. “They wore black suits, just like you see on TV.”
Over the course of four hours, dogs inspected each locker before Obama entered the building. Master key in hand, Brooking lead the Secret Service through each athletic locker room, until all lockers were declared safe.
As the University of Richmond locksmith, Brooking is responsible for many on-campus security-related issues. He makes sure that all of the doors and locks are working properly and keeps track of every key.
Although he often has a list of tasks that he wants to accomplish each day, Brooking has to adapt if new problems arise.
“I try to plan the day, but it never works,” he said.
Brooking started working at the University of Richmond 18 years ago, after previously working in a family building business.
“I needed a change,” Brooking said of why he came to UR.
Since then, change has been a constant part of his job. In the nearly two decades Brooking has worked for UR, there have been frequent major technological changes. With each advancement, security on campus is updated. Fortunately, Brooking said he is up to the challenge.
“It’s still a learning curve, but I like to learn,” Brooking said.
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The greatest catalyst of security changes on campus was the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. To increase safety for students and faculty, deadbolt locks were installed in all of the classrooms and peepholes were added to the offices. In addition, all of the exit devices on exterior doors were replaced so they could not be chained shut.
In 2012, the transition to keyless entry for the 15 residence halls on campus began. Although this has been a lengthy process, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
“South Court will be done in December of this year and Gray Court will be done next summer,” Brooking said.
When the school year ends and students are finished with their finals, Brooking’s work is not finished. Over the summer, in addition to general maintenance and improvements, he is involved with the Summer Camps and Conferences program.
Sophomore Hannah Campbell worked with SCC in 2017. One of her primary responsibilities was preparing dorms for groups, which required her to work closely with Brooking.
“Mark was a huge help during the summer," Campbell said. "We would go to him if a key was missing, a key didn’t match the lock on a door, or if a key needed to be tagged."
Despite the unpredictable nature of his job, Brooking comes to work each day with a positive attitude.
“He was one of the many people who made working SCC a really great experience," Campbell said. "He always had a smile on his face and helped us under a time crunch."
Contact features writer Caroline Robelen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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