It takes a lot of work to keep a university campus beautiful, especially one interspersed as UC Santa Cruz is with wild forest and grassland. The new annual David Kaun and Abigail Kaun Grounds Crews Recognition endowment honors those who make that possible.
Each year, two gifts will be given to members of the grounds crews, which includes employees who maintain facilities and landscaping. One gift of $1,000 or more goes to a selected worker with 10 years or more on the job. The second goes to a member of the staff facing a financial challenge or who wishes to advance their education.
“I was speechless”
Emeritus economics professor David Kaun was inspired to establish the endowment when he was at a Shakespeare to Go performance at Porter College, and was struck by the beauty of the landscaping. As a labor economist, he realized keeping the campus beautiful takes significant work.
“This has to do with two elements, nature, and the works of humans, the groundskeepers,” Kaun said. “Alas, as is normal in the university world, the latter are paid far less than the esteemed faculty and administrators, and are hardly if ever recognized publicly.”
The first annual gifts went to Salvador Peña, an equipment operator for the resource recovery team, and Michelle Sasse, who maintains the landscaping around Colleges Nine and Ten and the Student Health Center.
“I was speechless,” Peña said. “It was a great thing to happen for me.”
Peña said the gift will help with household finances. He has worked for the university for 10 years.
“It’s a great community,” he said “Everyone is really friendly towards each other and helpful.”
An opportunity to plan a vacation
Sasse has worked at the university for 15 years. An alumna, she supplemented her bachelor’s degree with horticulture classes at Cabrillo College. When a gardener job opened up at UC Santa Cruz, she saw it as a great opportunity: a rare chance to apply her skills in a full-time, year-round position.
For her the funds open up the possibility of travel.
“I might be able to go on a vacation and I haven’t done that for a long time,” she said, adding that the entire physical plant staff were grateful.
“Many of us were teary eyed,” Sasse said. “It warmed all of our hearts when they announced the endowment was being established.”
Abigail Kaun, David Kaun’s daughter and special assistant to the dean of the Baskin School of Engineering, helped arrange the endowment. She said she hopes it brings recognition among the faculty and students to the work of the grounds crew employees.
“We all on this campus have one of the most magnificently beautiful places to work and to study and learn,” she said. “This place is beautiful because of the people who make it that way.”