Santiago Bautista, Fordham custodian

Meeting workers at Fordham

By Alex Mold

Santiago Bautista is a cleaner at Fordham University who has worked there since May 6, 1993 – and he says he has has loved the university like a family ever since.

When he left the Dominican Republic in 1987, he came to New York only speaking Spanish. He was hired by Fordham in 1993, working in Keating Hall for Father Joseph M. McShane, now the president of the university. During this time he learned English from Dr. Jay Mancini in the

Santiago Bautistaphysics department at Fordham, and students helped him along the way. The funniest accidental moment he had while learning the language came with the difficulty of pronouncing the work “ask.” When Santiago wanted to ask Dr. Mancini a favor, he said, “can I ass you something.” Dr. Mancini taught him to pronounce the word, saying, “that’s a bad word you are using.”

As Santiago worked for Fordham, he learned to love the campus, and felt that Fordham loved him. Through thick and thin, the people at Fordham have thanked him and given him advice through all aspects of life, he said.

Because he works at Fordham, he and his family are offered free tuition at Fordham. He said he cannot wait until his kids, specifically his eldest son, can attend Fordham. He said he works at Fordham, not because of this benefit, but because the university is like a family to him. Santiago pointed out that when Father McShane offered remarks to the staff for their years of service, he gave everyone a short thank-you speech – but he offered Santiago, the priest gave a mushy emotional speech noting Santiago’s 20 years of service. Then they took a picture of themselves — one of Santiago’s favorite

moments of recognition. Father McShane continues to thank custodial for shoveling after each snowstorm.

Santiago said his other major influence is Jerry Jackson, a co-worker who is like a father to him. Jerry has worked with him for 17 years. Santiago describers the two of them to be like Batman and Robin.

When Santiago started, he worked so well and so often that he was promoted from part time to full time in the first 23 days. This happened because he worked, on paper, from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. in Keating, but actually also worked from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in two different buildings. From 9 to 4, he was working for free, he said, out of his love of Fordham. When his boss, heard about this work, at first Santiago was nervous because other workers had told him that he would receive punishment for going outside the union to work more. After talking with Santiago, the superior realized Santiago was doing the work because he loved it and gave him the ability to continue working if he wants to if he understands that Santiago is not covered if something happens.

Santiago’s feeling run deep. He said he wants to be like Barbara (??) who worked in the biology department until she was old enough to retire but continued working because she loved her work. To him Fordham is like a great family and they support each other even when tragedy strikes. A few years ago one worker’s family members died, and Santiago joined other workers to collect money. Santiago, who seems to be well loved for his friendliness, acts as the mediator in this campus family an serves as a mediator when there are arguments.

This family support goes two ways, especially when Santiago’s now ex-wife wanted a divorce and threatened him. John Carroll, head of Fordham security, offered to help Santiago acquire a restraining order, and offered to arrest her. Santiago felt this was excessive, as it would set a poor example for his kids, and instead he denied the offer to arrest her and took the restraining order. John Carroll said: “You are doing good”. Santiago took this statement to heart and kept trying to bridge the divide between him and his ex-wife. Santiago honestly feels his ex-wife is a nice person but they were different people in how they act. His kids also enjoy his presence, especially his son, who even when annoyed with his mother, will pick up the phone for Santiago and talk out his problems with him.

Santiago loves life. He said he has never had a bad day since coming to Fordham and loves what Fordham does for him. Though he has had to cut back his hours, since he has a family, he remains a hard working, enthusiastic, friendly man who always will greet anyone in the hallways. He feels God put him here for a reason and this reason is that he should do all he can to be happy. Fordham made him a better person and he hopes he will talk about his love of Fordham until he dies. Though he might have days that worry him he knows that if he lets those problems go he cannot fix, he will be happier.

September, 2014

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