Campus Closeup: Bill Ombrello

Golf is his summer passion now, but softball consumed Bill Ombrello’s (Plant Operations) free time for more than 25 years. He saw the field from all perspectives: as a player on slow-pitch and fast-pitch teams that won local tournaments, league championships and U.P. titles; as coach of a woman’s team for a decade; and as an umpire behind the plate. Ombrello participated in state and national umpire school, which allowed him to call both styles of softball with players ranging from girls 8-10 years old through high school to men and women.

“If it sounds like I was on the field a lot, I was,” he said. “I played in two leagues and in some tournaments with other teams. I had three summers where I played up to 162 games. It sometimes reached seven days a week doing one thing or another with the sport. I had played baseball growing up in Lansing—from T-ball to my freshman year in high school—before we moved back up here.”

The Marquette native did most of his growing up downstate. Reflecting his early interest in baseball, Ombrello owns a bat he got from Mickey Stanley, the former Detroit Tigers’ Golden Glove outfielder and member of the 1968 World Championship team.

After retiring from the diamond, Ombrello headed to the links and remains an avid golfer. His other pastimes are Sodoku puzzle books, surfing the Internet and spending time with his family, which includes an infant grandson. Ombrello’s wife, Sue, is also an NMU employee. She works in the Marketplace. Their son, Joe, and daughter, Gina, both graduated from NMU and live in Marquette. Gina works for U.P. Home Health and Hospice. She was featured in the Mining Journal recently for accompanying an area cancer patient whose wish came true to see President Obama’s speech on campus.

Cohodas has always been Ombrello’s main base of operation. He was hired 33 years ago as a custodian in the building before becoming a facilities maintenance attendant.

“Jim Inch was the building attendant,” said Ombrello. “I took his place while he was on vacation once. He later got promoted and I took over.”

Ombrello splits his time between Cohodas, Gries and Whitman Halls, along with the Art and Design buildings. He is responsible for preventive maintenance on everything from lights and plumbing to air handlers/compressors and cooling towers.

“I work closely with the plumbers and the HVAC employees. I’m responsible for things like changing belts and filters, greasing equipment, resetting circuit breakers and running chemical tests on the water in the chillers. It’s nice that it’s not the same routine every day. I’m out and about in several different buildings and get a chance to see other people. Sometimes that can be a drawback, too, because I’ll be called out for one thing and someone else will say, ‘Hey, Bill, while you’re here…’,” he laughs. “The biggest challenge of my job is dealing with temperatures in offices and classrooms. People’s preferences and the way they dress differ, so it’s hard to keep everyone comfortable."

Ombrello was one of six employees recently trained on Johnson Controls’ Metasys building management system. He is able to monitor energy systems remotely via computer and detect any problems, which has made his job easier.

“We used to manually adjust the air supply to offices sometimes several times a day. But with the number of buildings, we wouldn’t be able to do it manually anymore. Now the dampers automatically open and close to adjust the mix of outside and inside air.”

In addition to his daily responsibilities, Ombrello serves his union as a member of the executive board and former steward.



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Updated: February 23, 2011

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