News for NMU Employees

CAMPUS Closeup: Randy Tryan

Randy Tryan (Housing and Residence Life) brings donuts to his custodial office in Van Antwerp every Tuesday and Friday, encouraging students to stop by and say “hi.” As a kickoff to each new academic year, he takes the resident advisers and directors four-wheeling at his secluded camp in the Hiawatha Forest (last picture). Before Thanksgiving, he seeks out students who can’t make it home for the holiday and invites them to his family dinner, making sure they leave with a container full of leftovers. This past fall, he helped to arrange a Pictured Rocks boat cruise at a reduced group rate so Van Antwerp residents could experience one of the Upper Peninsula’s finest features. And after a student’s grandpa passed away, it was Tryan the mother called to request that he check in on her daughter.

“I remember being that age and know it can be difficult adjusting to a new place,” he said. “I try to get to know them by talking to them or joking around when we cross paths. I just think all people are important and deserve encouragement, support, friendship and adventure. The U.P. has some pretty unique things to offer students from outside the area, especially if they’re from a big city. And when parents are moving their kids in here the first time, I make a point to talk to them. I tell them Marquette’s a safe community with a lot to offer. It helps put them at ease.”

Perhaps because he interacts with students in their more relaxed “home” environment, Tryan develops the type of connection that compels him to go beyond his assigned duties. Students appreciate his effort and sense of humor, as evidenced by the photo at left and his recent Facebook post about how some reciprocated on his birthday:

“So yesterday at work, I was called upon to meet with the guys’ house (Mountain House) in Van Antwerp Hall. I walked into a surprise birthday party. Instead of cake, there were several dozen donuts, a large card and about 60 people. Made me feel real good. After 12 1/2 years I still love going to work every day and seeing all those 285 kids in my building. It was a very good day indeed.”

Tryan’s job-related duties include responding to frequent work orders for a wide range of repairs (the most persistent plumbing issue is shower drains clogged with hair). He also supervises a crew of four student custodians who help him clean the building’s stairwells, hallways and laundry areas. Upon his arrival each morning, he does a visual sweep of the building to make sure nothing is disheveled so students “wake up to a place that looks good.” 

In addition to being an NMU employee, Tryan also is an occasional student. He earned a degree from Northern after he was hired. Already a skilled carpenter, electrician and plumber through previous on-the-job experience, he decided to move in a different direction academically. He attended evening classes to build on some junior college credits and gradually completed the requirements for a degree in business. Tryan didn’t stop there. He dabbles in other disciplines as a lifelong learner.

“It’s good to keep feeding your mind,” he said. “I’ve taken classes in refrigeration and electronics. I took one in computer programming because I thought it would be cool to know something about that. Some classes I take for self-growth. Others are just things I’m interested in, like statistical demographics. It may seem strange, but I really enjoy reading statistics.”

Like his educational choices, Tryan’s previous professional experience was diverse. He had worked as an apartment maintenance superintendent, outside sales rep to contractors for a lumber yard, insurance agent and contractor. His brother, Dennis, who holds a similar job in Spooner Hall, told him about an opening at NMU. Tryan applied and was hired. He says he has declined every opportunity to leave Van Antwerp and transfer to another area on campus. 

Tryan and his wife, Donna—an instructor at Bay College—sold their home in Harvey and moved to the former K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base. They are members of the Sawyer Alliance, a group whose mission is community improvement. The couple established the area’s first community garden and participates in faith-based service such as hosting Bible studies. They also enjoy traveling and have three adult children. Matthew works with FEMA, Krista teaches part-time at Bay College while studying to become a psychologist and Bradley is a chef.