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Longtime Maintenance and Operations 'Go-to' Person Diane Wright Retires

Diane Wright’s name on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus has often been synonymous with water main breaks, traffic interruptions, heating plant problems, and just about any other issue involving the college’s physical space.

That changed when Wright retired April 9 after 30 years with SUNY Plattsburgh’s Maintenance and Operations unit. Over the years, she has seen promotions to her current formal post of Secretary 1. But across campus, she’s been known as the name on emails alerting folks to building issues big and small at any of the 54 permanent structures that make up SUNY Plattsburgh.

“I’ve been responsible for all the physical space on campus so many years; every space has to be accounted for and reported to Albany,” she said. “Changes to buildings, renovations to rooms — all of that has to be reported. If a room has floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall walls, it’s a physical space I’m responsible for.”

Wright grew up in the North Country, graduating from Saranac High School. She spent several years working at a mom-and-pop store where the Saranac Post Office now sits.

Needed a Career

“But I knew that I needed a real job,” she said. “I needed to do something that would give me a career.”

She took the civil service exam and began her career in 1986 as a mail and supply clerk in the mail center. Over the past three decades, Wright has seen changes:  She’s seen people come and go, she’s served under seven college presidents — including three interims — and has voted in five U.S. presidential elections.

“I don’t know if I would have stayed as long as I have if it weren’t for the students,” she said. “They’re so much fun; they keep you young. I’m going to miss the people I’ve worked with, but I’m really going to miss the students.”

By her own description, Wright said she was known as the “go-to girl.”

Kept Track of Every Structure

In her capacity, Wright kept track of every structure, when it was built, what it cost to build, how many floors, how many rooms, their configuration and dimensions, number of occupants allowed, what it was used for.

She was responsible for all the blueprints of all the buildings. When someone came in to ask where a particular blueprint could be found, she responded with questions of her own: “Architectural or electrical? Mechanical or structural? Plumbing or elevation?”

Building signs, maps, surplus property and found property were all part of Wright’s domain. And now, the myriad of duties will be parsed out over various offices in Maintenance and Operations.

Thirty years of institutional memory is hard to replace, said Kevin Roberts, director of facilities, Maintenance and Operations.

“She had a knack for being where the action was, always willing to share her knowledge and opinion, which will be very difficult to replicate,” Roberts said. “She will be deeply missed.”

Vice President for Business Affairs John Homburger praised Wright, calling her “reliable, flexible, adaptable and honest.

More with Relay for Life

“A lot of history is walking out the door,” he said.

Retirement will give Wright the chance to do more with Relay for Life with the American Cancer Society, an organization near and dear to her heart. Two of her brothers are cancer survivors.

“I’ve been involved with Relay for Life the last four years; this year, I’m the Survivor Committee chair,” she said. “Retirement will allow me to put more of myself into it.”

It will also allow her to do more work with the Saranac Cemetery and with her church. And, for the last 25 years, she’s put her all into, of all things, working at Ronnie’s Michigan Stand in West Plattsburgh.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to michigans a few days a week,” she said. “Thirty years is a long time. I’m ready to start a new chapter” — but maybe one that doesn’t begin “Water Shut Down in Hawkins Hall.” 

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