Southern’s Unsung Hero: Campus Locksmith, Donald Neznek

Melissa Nunez – General Assignment Reporter

It was 27 years ago when Ronald Neznek was flipping through a newspaper and came across the job posting in the wanted ads. While he was not looking for a new job,  position for the university locksmith caught his attention. He pondered whether the university environment could match the excitement he already had in his current position.

“When I was working for the local locksmith, I was a lot younger then, and doing service calls is kind of fun because you are on the road,” said Neznek, “every day is different, you do not know who you are going to meet.”

Exciting as his old position was, Neznek realized it would lose its charm after he got older and decided to give Southern a shot.

“I knew as I got older the being outside and hustling around all the time would get old,” said Neznek. “I was a little concerned, but obviously I came here and stayed here, I found a home here.”

Neznek has been helping students locked out of their dorms ever since and he said the appreciation they give him makes all the difference.  

“[Students] appreciate you doing something for them and that goes a long way,” said Neznek. “A little thank you, a little politeness, a little conversation goes a long way in making the day go by.”

Neznek said the funniest call he remembers was from a student who locked themselves inside their room in Hickerson Hall on the second floor. Neznek said when he arrived, he could not find anyone inside, it was then he discovered that the student had escaped through the window by tying bedsheets together.

Neznek said he makes all the keys, pins all the cylinders, as well as changes the locks around campus, the amount of work orders he receives fluctuates depending on which part of the semester it is; in the first four weeks phones will ring off the hook but by mid to end, there will be an average of two work orders daily.

“If you change a lock, then they are asking for six keys, so that could take up to two hours. Sometimes changing locks in the dorm will be my whole day,” said Neznek. “Once I get the keys made, the cylinder coded, and everything recorded, then to me it is done.  Then it is just a matter of me going over there and switching out the lock.”

Neznek added a shift in the number of locksmiths also changed his job description a bit over the years as well, now jobs such as replacing doors are done by the carpenters, and letting professors and students into locked offices are handled by campus police.

“As the place got bigger and bigger, the case I made for the police taking over that was if you call the police department, there is a record of who called,” said Neznek, “and the police officer who responds has the authority to ask you for ID to make sure you are who you say you are.”

Neznek said, since he is always either changing locks or making keys, his connection to the campus is not always so apparent, but he is there for students when they need him.

“There are all kinds of people here, like me, who have worked here for years that are just kind of behind the scenes,” said Neznek. “Nobody knows really where I am, but when you need something I respond.  I’ve been told that I have a reputation that I will always return your phone call and I say that is the least you can do.”

Photo Credit: Melissa Nunez – General Assignment Reporter


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