Director of Facilities Willie Hollinger was honored in chapel today in recognition of his retirement after 20 years of service to the school. He came to MUS in 2003 after nearly two decades in facilities management at Methodist Healthcare in Memphis.
Director of Maintenance Fred Taylor said Hollinger was not only his director but also a good friend and mentor. Over Taylor’s 17 years at MUS, the 6-foot whiteboard in the maintenance office was his classroom, and Hollinger was his teacher.
“He encouraged me to go back to school at the age of 40-plus … and was there to push me every step of the way. He also attended my graduation ceremony. Still, I would have to go to Willie when there was something I could not figure out. While most people would say ‘Hey, Google,’ I would say, ‘Hey, Willie.’”
Director of Business Operations Rankin Fowlkes called Hollinger one of his heroes. “To many of us, Willie has been a confidant, pet doctor, mechanic, HVAC consultant, landscape advisor, historian, and a puppet master. He works behind the scenes to make sure everything else works.”
Fowlkes said he has been in almost daily contact with his facilities director for more than 18 years, usually coming to him with a problem – and Hollinger solving it. “Word of advice to you students: Be a problem solver, and you will be very valuable to your organization.”
Fowlkes said you can tell how important someone is by where they rank on your “favorites” contact list. “Willie was No. 4 on mine, just after my wife and kids.”
Headmaster Pete Sanders called Hollinger a jack of all trades who oversaw every aspect of facility services and plant operations on campus. He developed and implemented a preventative maintenance program and maintained the school’s heating and air conditioning equipment, building automation systems, plumbing, electrical services, and food service equipment. He scheduled all work requests both in-house and with outside vendors.
“Rain, shine, snow, or freezing pipes, he has always been here to keep our campus systems running,” Sanders said. He went on to describe how Hollinger came to campus even on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to deal with burst pipes last year.
“Willie was also a pivotal member of our school Safety Team, and he was the perfect man for that job because his alternative career has been as a volunteer public servant for 30 years.”
A graduate of the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD, he was once a firefighter for the Raleigh Volunteer Fire Department. In 1995 he joined the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency Reserves (later under the Shelby County Office of Preparedness/Homeland Security), where he helped launch the Community Emergency Response Team training program to help citizens learn how to take care of their families in a disaster. As a first responder, he has been deployed many times to disasters and recovery operations.
He has received numerous commendations from the mayors of Shelby County and Memphis, as well as the governor’s Three Star award. In 2011 his peers at the Office of Preparedness voted him Reserve Officer of the Year. In 2012 he received the MUS Jean Barbee Hale Award for Outstanding Service.
Once asked why he spends so much time volunteering to teach others how to be safe, he replied, “I just may be the one needing help some day. Everyone needs to know what to do during an emergency.”
“That sounds like Willie Hollinger,” Sanders said, “always ready to get the job done, but with characteristic humility.