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Terry Davis sets out each day to make Furman great

Tucked in a corner of Riley Hall is a tiny closet that tells the story of four decades of Furman family.

Taped to the mint green walls in Custodian Terry Davis’s closet are refrigerator-worthy drawings by his grandson and another young friend, Gracie, the granddaughter of Physics Professor Bill Brantley, Ph.D. Her picture is labeled, “Mr. Terry and me.”

Then there’s a black-and-white photograph of the entire Facilities Services staff from a retirement party 40 years ago. “I had a nice fro in those days,” said Davis, pointing to a dignified-looking lady in her 60s named Lilly Sears.

Sears was a special part of that Furman family and trained him when he first came to Furman, said Davis. She owned a car, but someone else drove her to work every day. After David heard that his mentor didn’t drive, he offered to teach her. After many little trips around Furman’s campus, Ms. Sears became the proud owner of her first driver’s license.

These days, there has been a prominent new addition to Davis’s closet door, placed there by his fan club in the Mathematics, Economics, and Computer Science departments: a massive poster celebrating his latest recognition as 2016 Furman University Staff Member of the Year.

Davis, now in his 41st year at Furman, was chosen from among five finalists and received the award during a Staff Recognition Event last month at Younts Conference Center. Also recognized as finalists were: Jennifer Grissop of Undergraduate Evening Studies, Charmaine Moore of the Education Department, Raenae Nay of Development, and Evans Robinson of Facilities Services.

In addition to his work cleaning and maintaining Riley Hall, “Cousin Terry” also maintains the Paladin Stadium concourse.

“He truly enjoys his job,” said Jane White, who works with Davis and nominated him for the award. “You can always hear him whistling.”

Some of his favorite tunes? “Pure Imagination,” the Gene Wilder song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Described by fans as a “capable and eager problem solver,” Davis is known as a kind, empathetic person with a strong work ethic who is attentive to detail and serves as a mentor to his colleagues.

“His demeanor affects the entire building,” said one nominator. “Like many others, my career has been made better by his service here.”

When Davis first came to Furman, he admits, “I didn’t think I was gonna make it.” At the time, he shared the cleaning of Plyler Hall, all three stories—each 100 yards long, with one other person. It was lots of hustling.

He tried a few other positions at Furman, including maintenance supervisor, foreman, and pick-up and deliveryman, but Riley is where he has been settled for more than 20 years.

His morning routine starts early, at 5 a.m. Sixteen offices have to be readied for the day. Classrooms must be vacuumed. Chairs need to be straightened. Blackboard erasers and chalk can’t be forgotten and should be arranged in neat rows.

Why such attention to detail?  It was something Dr. T. Ray Nanney, then a professor of Computer Science, told him one day. “When the boards are clean, he said his class just went better,” said Davis. “It just stuck in my head. You always think, this could be better. You want more from the look of a place.”

That’s an idea he’s shared with numerous people he’s trained over the years, including fellow honoree Evan Robinson. “Find a routine, a way of cleaning that works for you,” said Davis. “You want to make it look great.”

Even after his job is done at Furman, Davis continues to make time for others. For the past decade, he and several of his friends have volunteered to take church to Carriage House, singing worship songs with residents at the assisted living facility in Taylors.

“We want to bring joy to people who are mostly forgotten,” Davis said. “Of course, we enjoy singing ourselves too.”

On weekends, he enjoys fishing locally and sometimes, traveling for deep-sea fishing. He also enjoys spending time with his wife of 39 years, Mary Frances Davis, their two children, Tara and Terry Jr., and their two grandchildren.

Last updated January 1, 1970
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Clinton Colmenares
News & Media Relations Director