There are some people who work in a big institution that you see everyday, but don’t really know except for a wave, a nod and brief conversation.
But it is their smile and their courtesy and general good nature that enlivens you as you pass, knowing the day is a little bit better for that brief encounter.
George Fagin was such a man. A security guard at the College Park building, he died suddenly over the Christmas holiday. Today his loss can be felt in the lobby by his post.
Where once there was cheer, now there is silence.
I don’t think there is a student, administrator, professor or staff member who wasn’t greeted by George. He stood vigilant in a tidy white shirt that streamed over his thin frame. His hair combed back, eyes ever alert, George watched over the building with a sense of pride and responsibility. Yet, he always radiated good will and helped make everyone welcome at College Park.
George had a knack for names and greeted his flock as they entered and exited his building. Sometimes you got pulled into conversation, lured by his engaging smile. Sometimes you just walked by, catching snippets of his husky voice. Sometimes you listened as George assisted a student or helped a visitor with a problem.
In an institution where administrators and professors often pass by, too preoccupied to talk with anyone, George had time for everyone. This was his special gift and for this he will be missed. I don’t think I ever passed by the guard station without him acknowledging me by name.
The journalism students I teach loved him because he looked out for them and knew the Daily Titan staff by name. When the campus was locked down recently, George looked the other way as student journalists—told to evacuate College Park—stayed in their office on the sixth floor. Someone else may have been officious like a typical security guard or played by the book.
Not George. He went out of his way to help the students.
Those of us who work in the building were shocked by his death. Students choked up upon hearing the news. They had lost a friend who cared about them. A colleague who was visibly upset told me of his death. The university has many employees of high stature and advanced degrees. They take pride in their education and their position. As a security guard, George stood at the bottom of the pay scale. I doubt he graduated college; he told me he was drafted during the Vietnam War and served in Germany. George was pure working class. Yet he stood out as a model teacher.
What he gave to the students, what he exhibited by doing his job, was a lesson in courtesy, cheer and character. It is something he shared with Aristotle. College Park has lost a good soul with the passing of George.
Remember him when you walk by his post.
Communications Professor, California State University Fullerton