Campus Closeup: Ray Liubakka
Ray Liubakka (Printing Services) passed up his dad’s offer to pay for college because he wanted to start earning money in construction right after high school. The Marquette native kept busy building homes year-round during the ‘70s economic boom, but as the work became more cyclical with winter slowdowns, Liubakka filled the void with a part-time job at a commercial printer. It soon expanded to full time when he quit construction altogether and enrolled in the graphic arts program at NMU. With professional training and a relevant degree, he joined Printing Services 22 years ago.
“It’s been a wonderful job for me,” said Liubakka. “I love dealing with people, even though I don’t always do that enough because I’m more involved on the production end. But over the years I’ve interacted more with clients. I also like the challenge of doing jobs that go beyond what we would typically handle. There is a lot of pride in putting together a printed piece. Employees may not know our department that well, but we are the face of the university in a way because we’re putting out what people see on campus and out in the community. When I’m out somewhere and see posters or other pieces, it’s rewarding to know I played a role in creating them.”
Liubakka said the biggest challenges are when the volume of work exceeds available personnel and the consistent deadline pressure. “That’s the nature of printing. You need to complete projects so they meet the clients’ timelines. I take it personally if we don’t hit a deadline because I know how important it is.”
Responsibilities of his position include large-format printing of blueprints and other visuals for Engineering and Planning, electronic pre-press, engraving signage that is posted near office doors and includes a Braille translation, bindery functions and bulk mailings for Admissions that target prospective students. At the time of this interview, there were several boxes loaded with a brochure that will be distributed to high school juniors.
“We save the university lots of money on bulk mailings,” he said. “We have a software program that is updated quarterly and checks every address in the U.S. We run the mail list through the program and it pulls out bad addresses and duplicate mailings to the same address.”
Technology has impacted Liubakka's job in other ways. The department has offset and digital printers, but mostly relies on the latter. It used to have a darkroom and large copy camera for pre-press; now it’s from computer to film with no darkroom. Liubakka said they also do more color work.
Not all changes have enhanced quality: “It used to be that the printer controlled the whole project, from design to production. Now with all of the publishing software, more people are doing the design themselves and bringing in what they created to be printed. The quality varies significantly because some know the obvious rules—not too many fonts, for example—and others don’t. In some cases, the quality suffers. We can help with the front end of that process.”
Liubakka’s wife, Cheri, is an NMU alumna and CPA. The couple’s three daughters are continuing the NMU legacy: Alyssa graduated last May and is now in medical school; Kimberly is an elementary education major; and Katelyn is a high school junior dual enrolled in an evening course at NMU. Liubakka said he doesn’t mind being the lone male in the family.
“I grew up with three older sisters, so I was pretty much beaten down by the time I had daughters,” he joked. “But I’m blessed with smart kids. They take after their mother. My biggest love is family.”
Liubakka also enjoys running/exercise, playing “old guys” basketball twice a week, golfing, downhill skiing, traveling over school spring breaks and being involved in church activities.