Throughout the course of a 30-minute conversation with Adel Henen, more than a dozen students, faculty and staff members stop to say hello, tell a joke or inquire about family. Henen likes it that way, affirming that the best part of his job as a custodian for Facilities Management Services is the opportunity to offer moments of levity, pearls of wisdom and big smiles to those he serves.
An Egyptian immigrant, Henen had seen his share of violence, destruction and poorly treated citizens. He came to the United States in 1970 in search of a better life for his wife and two children, and he takes pride in starting his work day at 5 a.m. to “make this university a safe, clean place for our students, faculty and staff.”
He has worked for RIT for about 10 years, starting at Margaret’s House before being assigned to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf for the past seven years. His résumé includes construction work and 27 years on the custodial staff of Eastman Kodak Co., and Eastman Chemical Co., working for top executives.
But he wishes that he had started working at RIT sooner.
“The people are humble and the students are so kind,” he said. “I love to watch our students use sign language. They communicate with such feeling. It’s beautiful. When I see our students, I just have to smile. They are our greatest resources.”
His time in and around classrooms has also enabled him to share first-hand knowledge of Egyptian culture, customs and history with students.
“I love everything that I do here,” he said. “And I enjoy going the extra mile. I think that’s why people really like me.”
He has been nominated four times for a Presidential Award for Outstanding Staff, although he has never won—“I’ve won the loser award four times,” he jokes—and has been commended by President Bill Destler and NTID Dean Gerry Buckley for his indubitable RIT spirit and kind heart. He has also served as a Staff Council representative for nine years.
“I love that we can share our opinions and raise questions and concerns,” he said. “My co-workers are unique and special—and are good people. We are our own melting pot. Sometimes there are disagreements during the workday, but we forget about what has happened when we leave and we don’t take those disagreements home with us.”
Henen and his wife of 46 years, who works in the Rush-Henrietta School District, are dedicated to their family, which includes five granddaughters, as well as to the RIT students.
“I pretend that all of the RIT students are my children, and I love my children.”
Job title: Custodian, Facilities Management Services
Years at RIT: 10
What I like best about working at RIT: Daily interaction with students.
Staff Spotlight features some of the people who make RIT a special place to work.
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