Although he is demanding of his staff, SUNY Cortland’s head grounds supervisor Daniel Patrick Dryja ’04 never asks them to do anything he isn’t willing to do himself.
“Think for a moment about how tiring it is to shovel snow at your own home for 30 minutes or so,” said Dryja’s supervisor, David Horrocks, assistant director, Buildings and Grounds Services. “Now, consider that beyond the tractors and plow trucks, Dan and his staff will shovel and salt stairwells and walkways continuously, all day, sometimes for more than 12 hours at a time. In these exhausting activities Dan is often seen working right alongside his staff, while simultaneously directing the efforts of a dozen grounds staff all over campus.”
|Daniel Dryja '04|
Dryja’s ability to skillfully balance his time “in the trenches” with administrative duties and leadership has earned him the respect and loyalty of those he supervises in the Grounds department of Facilities Operations and Services.
“He leads by example while always stepping back enough to see and respond to the big picture,” said SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum.
Dryja also commands admiration by the campus community for his outstanding job at overseeing a crew in beautifying the campus, maintaining its grounds and athletic fields to exceptionally high standards, and keeping wintry weather at bay around entrances and walkways.
Dryja was honored with the prestigious 2016 President’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service. Bitterbaum presented the award on Dec. 2 at the 47th annual Service Awards Ceremony. Sponsored by the College’s Human Resources Office, the ceremony was held in the Corey Union Function Room.
The award was created in 2002 to annually recognize one SUNY Cortland full-time classified service employee “for extraordinary achievement and to encourage the continuation of excellence.” Nominees must have at least three years of continuous service. Supervisors, co-workers or other College community members nominate the workers considered for this honor.
A number of Dryja’s coworkers nominated him for the prestigious award.
Just a few months after Dryja became SUNY Cortland’s head grounds supervisor in 2014, one of his staff — commenting on their appreciation of his knowledge, dedication and fairness — said with considerable emotion, “I love the guy. I’d take a bullet for that man.”
In the relatively short time Dryja has been the campus grounds supervisor, he and his intrepid grounds crew have made their mark on the campus landscape, Horrocks said.
“Each summer for the past two years, amidst the daily demands of routine summer grounds maintenance work, Dan has spear-headed extensive refurbishment of multiple campus landscape installations,” Horrocks said. “From initial concept and detailed design, from budgeting to demolition, and selection of new plant matter and final installation, Dan and his hard working staff have made major improvements to the campus landscape.”
This past summer, Dryja and his staff made major overhauls of the tired and dated landscaping in the front of Moffett and Miller and along the newly re-surfaced fire lane between Old Main and Moffett.
“This was particularly challenging as Dan was short about a third of his staff most of the summer,” Horrocks noted.
In the winter months, Dryja lives and breathes the local and regional weather forecasts and skillfully deploys the grounds crew in three shifts from 4 a.m. past midnight, and sometimes into the following morning.
“As Dan’s wife can attest only too well, Dan spends many sleep-interrupted and sleepless nights watching for overnight weather developments that might interrupt the movement of staff and students on campus. His late nights are sometimes spent on the phone with the University Police Department’s dispatcher, and early mornings briefing the associate vice president for facilities management on the readiness of the campus following major snow “events,” according to Horrocks.
Dryja spends much time and thought refining the campus snow and ice removal procedures, from staff assignments to strategic equipment deployment, in order to ensure maximum safety for faculty, staff and students.
“The commitment of Dan and his crew is extraordinary in what can be brutal and demanding work,” Horrocks said.
Dryja first began tending grounds at the College while earning his degree in exercise science. Starting as a temporary employee in 2003, he received permanent appointment as a grounds worker in 2004.
Eager to learn new skills and advance in his new field while working fulltime with Grounds, he earned an associates degree in horticultural and landscape design from Morrisville State College. Dryja also left his department for 10 months to take advantage of an opportunity to work for the New York State Department of Transportation, where he learned about road maintenance and related activities.
For five years, as a general mechanic in the General Maintenance Unit of the College’s Physical Plant, he was the College’s resident expert tasked with maintaining the artificial turf fields at the Stadium Complex as well as a dozen natural grass athletic fields, including the highly groomed baseball and softball game diamonds. In 2014, he accepted the promotion to head grounds supervisor.
During the years of New York Jets Training Camp, Dryja was responsible for grooming and maintaining the quarter-million dollar NFL grade turf fields installed by the New York Jets.
“He won over the very demanding Jets field staff by his diligence and attention to detail,” Horrocks recalled. “Across the years, Dan has raised the bar on the quality of all of our natural grass athletic fields, and visiting coaches and officials frequently note their appreciation for the high quality of our game and practice fields.”
Dryja and his wife, Elizabeth, have two sons, Cayden, 9, and Landon, 4. Dryja is a dedicated dad and an accomplished carpenter and woodworker, having remodeled nearly all of his own home. He enjoys preparing savory treats for others on his barbecue smoker as well as fishing and outdoor sports with his family.
Employees Honored for Years of Service
Also during the ceremony, 44 classified employees were recognized for their years of service. They included:
Wendy Fairchild, Secretary 2, Information Resources
Mavis Lefever, Secretary 1, Campus Activities and Corey Union Office
Sharon Tucker, Secretary I, Mathematics Department
Mary Cervoni, Agency Program Aide, Registrar’s Office
Bonnie Eldred-Kress, Office Assistant 2, Athletics Department
Brenda Gorman, Secretary 1, Student Health Services
Theresa Peebles, Administrative Aide, Student Conduct Office
Darleen Richardson, Office Assistant 2, Business Office
Leslee Anne Bellardini, Secretary I, Library
Brenda Hammond, Secretary 1, University Police Department
Elaine Lund, Nurse Practitioner, Student Health Services
Steven Phillips, General Mechanic, Maintenance
Ronald Riccardi, Plumber and Steamfitter, Maintenance
Pamela Schroeder, Secretary 2, Academic Affairs
Cheryl St. Peter, Supervising Janitor, Custodial Services
Doris Albro, Senior Computer Operator, Administrative Computing Services
Franklin Dalton, University Police Officer 1, University Police Department
Kathleen Gauthier, Office Assistant 2, Mail Services/Central Warehouse
Patricia Alter, Secretary 1, Literacy Department
Dale Argyle, General Mechanic, Maintenance
Renato Brevetti, Mason and Plasterer, Maintenance
Lori Burns, Nurse 1, Student Health Services
Kathy Coggi, Office Assistant 2, Financial Aid Office
Michele Cornelius, Janitor, Custodial Services
Timothy Gowe, Motor Equipment Maintenance Supervisor 1, Motor Pool
Carol Gridley, Secretary 1, Advisement and Transition
David Haggerty, Janitor, Custodial Services
Dawn Harvey, Janitor, Custodial Services
Chad Matijas, Plumber and Steamfitter, Maintenance
Richard Nauseef, Plant Utilities Engineer 1, Heating Plant
Connie Parmiter, Secretary 1, Sport Management
Ruth Partigianoni, Cleaner, Custodial Services
Gregory Peters, Janitor, Custodial Services
Patricia Randolph, Office Assistant 1, Field Experience and School Partnerships
Shirley Randolph, Office Assistant 1, Student Accounts Office
Rosemary Root, Cleaner, Custodial Services
Athena Vunk, Administrative Aide, Extended Learning Office
Nancy White, Janitor, Custodial Services
Michael Beaumont, Transportation Supervisor 1, Transportation Services
Ronald Benda, Cleaner, Custodial Services
Dana Bush, Laborer, Grounds, Stadium Complex
Roger Cornelius, Janitor, Custodial Services
Daron Foster, Refrigeration Mechanic, Heating Plant
Debora Howe, Janitor, Custodial Services
Sandra Kline, Office Assistant 1, Admissions Office
Melissa Lang, Janitor, Custodial Services
Michele Lella, Secretary I, School of Arts and Sciences
Marcia O’Loughlin, Secretary 2, School of Professional Studies
Edith Pennell, Secretary I, Business Office
Eric Rawson, Janitor, Custodial Services
Carlton Rodman, Janitor, Custodial Services
Donna Sickmon, Office Assistant 2, Accounts Payable
Casey Thomas, Locksmith, Maintenance
Barbara Toomey, Office Assistant 2, Residence Life and Housing Office