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Stanford Report, May 15, 2002

With his disarming smile, Washington tackles sensitive tasks for Housing Services

Willie Washington has a saying that often reverberates within the walls of the maintenance shop for Housing Services on Escondido Road. "Seven point five," Washington will sing out. "Seven point five."

The phrase is shorthand for Washington's approach to his workday, which is eight hours minus a half-hour break. Whatever assignment is thrown at him in those hours, "I'm here to do the job," said Washington, a project crew custodian.

His tremendous work ethic was a constant theme in the submissions nominating Washington that flooded the Amy Blue Awards selection committee. And virtually all of the nominations noted Washington's kindness and ready smile. "When we've all had enough, Willie is still smiling. Nothing ever gets him down," said Teresa Riseborough, supervisor for Roble, Lagunita and Governor's Corner residence halls. Washington "brings a wave of smiles and a happy, positive attitude when he walks into my dorms," she said.

Washington, an Alabama native, started working in dining services at Tresidder Union 27 years ago. A supervisor who transferred into Student Housing Services asked Washington to come along with him, a move Washington made and never regretted, he said. He and fellow crew members complete about 20,000 work orders per year, said his supervisor, Sharon Bruce. "I like the variety," Washington said. "Every day is a good day."

Washington is a key player in getting big jobs done, such as during "Crash Week" in June, when the 6,000 bed spaces used by undergraduates are turned into spaces for conferences in just one week, said Michele Rissman-Baltuch, assets coordinator for Student Housing Services, who supervised Washington for four years. Washington's organized approach and his leadership make the most of the limited time, she said.

It might have been selfish of her, said Rissman-Baltuch, but she often turned to Washington to handle the most challenging jobs. "I had every confidence that Willie's interactions with our customers in student housing would always be professional, of high quality and pleasant for our customers," she said. And when things absolutely had to go perfectly -- like when First Daughter Chelsea Clinton moved in -- Rissman-Baltuch made sure Washington was present. "He has a great deal of patience. You cannot ruffle his feathers. He truly radiates positive energy."

Washington is a top choice for the most delicate jobs, like when a family apartment doesn't become available until quite late in a pregnancy for a graduate student or a spouse, Riseborough said. Washington is asked to help with such moves because "there's a lot of humanity in his approach to people," she said.

"Willie is a sparkle," said Bettye Price, administrative services manager for the Department of Biological Sciences. A 2001 Amy Blue Award winner, Price is Washington's niece. Washington's wife, Linda Washington, works for Residential and Dining Enterprises in Manzanita Hall, and his brother, Chester Washington, works on the maintenance crew for the Department of Biological Sciences.

Her uncle is one of the few people she has never seen get upset about anything, Price said. "He's so much fun to be around and he has a great sense of humor. He's the kind of person you feel grateful to know," she added.

Washington said his jaw dropped when he learned that he was to receive an Amy Blue Award. "I was shocked. I could hardly believe it." All the members of his 10-person crew deserve the award, he said. "I take my hat off to the whole crew."