Reggie Dailey has been keeping a list. When he thinks of something that will keep him busy after he retires, he adds it to the list. From summer of 2020 until this semester, he slowly filled up the page with enough activities, determining it was time to move on from his position as the director of Maryville College’s physical plant at the end of the 2021 year.
Dailey began the position in June 2018, but his history with Maryville College goes back much further. He first came to MC with his daughter Brynn as he and his wife helped her search for her future Division III soccer school. At the time, he was living in Salisbury, North Carolina, working at industrial manufacturing plant Performance Fibers, where he spent 32 years in total. Once Brynn started playing soccer at MC in 2005, Dailey immediately got closer to the college.
“I don’t think I ever missed a game—home or on the road,” Dailey said.
He also began volunteering during Kin Takahashi Week that same year, an event he’s been a part of now for 15 years. Dailey knew after Brynn and her husband Cody Everett, both class of 2009 alumni, married in 2012 that he would be making the move to Maryville eventually. In September 2014, he made the decision while standing on the golf course, and a position at MC’s physical plant opened up right after. In January 2015, Dailey became assistant director of physical plant for mechanical trades.
Coming from employment at a manufacturing plant, Dailey said the MC position had a steep learning curve during the first six months.
“You are never too old to learn if you are willing to listen and willing to try and fail,” Dailey said.
In his role as director of physical plant, he learned how complicated higher education can be across the full spectrum of its reach, especially in a pandemic. According to Dailey, anything from a small change to a big crisis happens almost every day at the college, and he always thinks diligently about how these obstacles might affect everyone’s daily life at the campus.
He’s faced several challenges like this during his time at physical plant, but eventually he and his staff get operations running smoothly again each time, something he believes is a team effort. Dailey describes his job as helping his staff solve problems before he has to call Jeff Ingle, the Vice President for Finance and Administration, or MC President Bryan Coker. Even so, he appreciates the support of both Ingle and Coker, along with former president Tom Bogart, which makes his job easy.
Along with facing the unexpected, Dailey had a few bucket list items that he wanted to accomplish before retirement. The major entries on this list were the renovation of the steam plant, which was accomplished in fall 2020, as well as the renovation of Carnegie Hall, accomplished in summer 2021.
While Dailey hesitated to say which building on campus is his least favorite, he emphasized that Carnegie is the most complicated. It’s old. It has 248 windows. The hot water issues in 2019 and 2020 gave him more parents calling than every other issue combined. Just about every time something unexpected and challenging arises, he bets it will be happening in Carnegie.
“All are special in their own way,” Dailey said of the buildings.
Besides taking care of all the buildings, his other major success at MC was preventative maintenance. His plan to put the air chillers, hot water boilers, elevators and fire-safety equipment on maintenance schedules has resulted in much less failure within these systems.
Working with his team to solve and prevent problems makes Dailey take pride in every aspect of his work over the course of his time at MC. He believes in the importance of looking at progress over time, which is evident by his daily journals. Dailey has been keeping journals since his first day at the college, putting in entries for each day he served. Now he’s on his twenty-sixth journal.
For all the challenges, Dailey believes it has been worth it to be working for the noble cause of supporting not just the college’s mission but supporting each student in their journey at MC. He knows his work is a vital part of students’ lives, making it much more rewarding than his previous manufacturing jobs.
“It’s like having 1,100 kids,” Dailey said.
Even with taking care of this many students like they are his own, he does have one kid in his life that is helping him transition to retirement. His grandson is almost three years old, and Dailey wants to be spending more time with him as he grows up.
Dailey might be retiring to be a full-time grandfather, but his time spent at MC is not over yet: he will continue to be on campus every year for Kin Takahashi Week, maybe even becoming its manager. He also wants to do more work with Habitat for Humanity, along with gardening in the summer. Whether volunteering or helping in another capacity, he will still be found around MC from time to time.
Assistant director of physical plant Larry May will step up in Dailey’s role after the new year, so Dailey has been preparing May and other staff for the transition. Although he’s ready for this change, Dailey will miss some of the aspects of working as director of physical plant. The “tremendous group of people” with whom he works is one of those aspects.
A favorite part of Dailey’s day is 4 p.m. He likes to be back to physical plant by this time, when his team is getting ready to go home for the day. He listens to the sounds that drift over to his office. If everything is quiet, he can tell that it has been a challenging day, but if there’s louder conversation, he knows it must have been a pretty good day.
These moments are most gratifying for Dailey, a man who has become just as important to MC as MC has become to him.
“I couldn’t have picked a better way to spend the last seven to eight years,” Dailey said.