SLU employee on love of helping people and the great outdoors
For those who look forward to springtime at Saint Louis University, chances are that the beautiful fountains around campus have a little something to do with it– and Herschel Smith is the man to thank. An unsung hero at SLU, Smith works hard to keep things running at the university and he does it all with a smile on his face.
As a child, Smith already knew that construction was his calling. By helping his dad in mechanics and his uncle in carpentry, he quickly developed a love for building and pursued this passion in school. After attending vocational college in Jefferson County where he studied building trades, Smith went into the Navy for five and a half years where he worked as a carpenter, plumber and electrician. One of his locations included a freshwater navel base in Bahrain where he worked for a year and gained skills that would transfer to his future jobs.
Once back in the U.S., Smith moved to California where he met his wife, who is also a St. Louis native, but the two found their way back home after Smith learned of a job opening in a new wing at the Saint Louis University Hospital.
“My main job was to do room maintenance,” said Smith. “It was rewarding, being able to go in to help and to make the patients comfortable and [be] someone to talk to…just to go in and make them feel good.”
He commented that one of the most challenging aspects of the job was going back to a room and seeing the same patient still there – and his favorite part of the job was when a patient got to go home.
After the university sold the hospital in 1998, Smith transferred to the SLU campus and began working with the aquatics in the Simon Recreation Center. He then began working with the outdoor fountains and pools, and today his list of responsibilities provides him with a varied work schedule.
“You come in and you don’t really know what’s in store for you,” Smith said. “It makes the day go by fast because of the fact that you have fifteen different things going on.”
Smith remarked on multi-tasking being one of the challenging aspects of his job because he wants everybody to be happy and satisfied with his work. His favorite part of his work is the opportunity it provides him to help people and the gratitude that people show in return.
“It is rewarding with my job just to go make people smile and to be helpful…and when you do fix something and someone goes and says thanks,” said Smith.
Outside of his work, Smith enjoys spending time with his wife – attending concerts, going to car shows, and occasionally swing dancing. But most of all, he loves just being outside in nature.
“I feel that being outdoors is my church,” stated Smith. “I feel next to God more…the nature, the trees – it’s just uplifting.”
Having come from a large family, Smith loves to spend vacations camping, kayaking, hunting and fishing with his two boys, brother and many cousins.
“It’s fun…we all get together,” said Smith. “It’s [a time] that’s pretty much just for the boys.”