The University of Mississippi Landscape Services Department recently earned distinction at the 41st Annual Green Star Awards Banquet by winning a Grand Award, presented by the Professional Grounds Management Society.
On Oct. 25, Director of Landscape Services Jeff McManus and four frontline landscape employees traveled to Louisville, Ky., to accept the award. This marks the second time Ole Miss has achieved the coveted distinction since 2002.
“It’s a big deal,” McManus said. “It’s a big honor to have it. Not everybody gets a Grand Award. That’s top of the line. You’re being judged by your peers, and you’re being judged by other people in the industry.”
Ten other universities were honored by the Professional Grounds Management Society, including Baylor, Western Kentucky and Southern Methodist, but Ole Miss was the only school in the University and College Grounds category to receive a prestigious Grand Award.
McManus attributes the department’s success to the diligence and passion of its 33 employees.
“The employees really love this campus. They know that they’re a part of this campus,” McManus said. “They know that today, they’re going to help create an atmosphere that when a new prospective student comes on campus for the very first time, they’re going to go, ‘Wow! I want to be here.’”
A surprise luncheon was held at Landscape Services for the frontline landscape employees who were unable to attend the awards banquet on Oct. 31. Guest speakers for the event included Chancellor Dan Jones, Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Larry Sparks and Athletics Director Ross Bjork.
“We just had a time where we let the guys feel appreciated, and we let them know that we appreciate their hard work,” McManus said. “Then we unveiled the four banners of our national championships that we have won over the last 10 years.”
Hayden Carpenter, a mechanic on the department’s staff, was among the group of employees who accepted the award in Louisville. He said he has enjoyed his tenure with Landscape Services since beginning work with them as a mechanic at the age of 15.
“Success starts with teaching the new student workers how we expect things to be done,” Carpenter said. “Like edging at 90 degrees, stopping your car on the side of the road to pick up a piece of trash and not ever being satisfied with what’s been done, constantly wanting better for the school.”
Landscape Services’ hard work and effort has not gone unnoticed by Ole Miss students. Sophomore accounting major Rachel Wilson is a regular visitor to the Grove and thinks of it as one of the best study spots on campus. Although she was unaware that the department had been honored with a Green Star Award, she was not surprised.
“Landscape Services does a great job of keeping up campus,” Wilson said. “I think that our great landscaping is a huge factor in recruiting and attracting prospective students. It’s not just the architecture of our buildings or the way our campus is set up.”
As for the future of Landscaping Services, McManus and his employees will continue to strive for excellence.
“You never know who’s going to be here for the very first time,” McManus said. “What if we get the next Hannah Gay? What if the next Eli Manning comes? What if the next Patrick Willis comes? We want this campus to pop and to say, ‘We want you here. This is a special place.’”
— Lacey Russell