July 03, 2013

There’s an old adage in life: Looks can be deceiving. But when it comes to college campuses, the condition and cleanliness of the physical environment may tell a lot more of the story than one might think.

Janice Frederick has dedicated her WPI career to the aesthetics of the campus as a custodian, but sometimes her tasks go above and beyond her job description. The Daily Herd sought to dive deeper into Frederick’s work on campus.

Tell us about your family life and background.

I was born in Fayetteville, N.C., at Womack Hospital, Fort Bragg. My great grand uncle fought in  World War I. My great grandfather owned property in Worcester — on Greenwood Street/Route 20 — as a sheep farm. There’s a memorial to them, named Abramson Square. I was raised by my mother, a single parent, in West Boylston. I have been with my partner, Delilah, for eight years and married to her for five. I have one sister, Carolyn, who is my best friend, and I have two nieces.

When did you come to WPI and why?

My sister told me about a job opening in the mail room in 2000. I applied and worked as a mail clerk then quickly moved up to the courier position. I then applied to Facilities for a custodial position. I have been here for 13 years.

How does your role fit into the context of the college community?

People often look forward to seeing me when they come to work or school; they say I brighten up their day. After 13 years I’ve become a mentor to many people who’ve walked through these halls. That makes me smile and feel happy that I can affect people in that way. I also make sure the building is clean and locked, and do project work, such as refinishing floors and changing light bulbs. I support campus functions and ensure a sanitary campus environment.

How did some of your mentoring experiences come about, and what encouraged you to lend a helping hand?

My mentoring experience is most likely from past work experience years ago with special needs people, and spotting if someone is troubled. Working second shift, I’ve encountered several occasions of a student in distress, cramming for an exam, or just having a bad day. I once saw an exchange student crying in a classroom, telling me how much she missed her family, so I took the time to listen. I’ve even come in about four hours early and taken students out to lunch, and taken them for a haircut when they didn’t know where to go. There are students who graduated 12 years ago who come back and visit me.

What are some of the achievements besides your duties at WPI?

On May 30, 2013, I won the School of Business Outstanding Service Provider Award. My friend and past co-worker, Tina Agyekum, who was also a custodian at WPI, passed away a year ago. I had a plaque made for her, thanks to Adam Sears in the Washburn Shops. I arranged a dedication ceremony with the assistance of many supportive WPI individuals. The dedication was in front of the Washburn Shops in September 2012.

I recently won “most creative” in the faculty, staff, and student art show at Gordon Library. I had submitted a Native American drum that I’d made by hand.

Tell us about some of your leisure activities.

I do all forms of artwork — paintings, woodworking, mosaics, drawings pastels. I enjoy hanging out with my friends. And I have three beautiful cats that I adore!

By Matt Stewart