BY HELEN EGGERS
For the UAS Whalesong
With autumn solstice long gone, the darkness deepens, shadows lengthen, flexing muscles. The summer brightness falters. In September, as brilliant leaves fall, light weakens. October stumbles into November, then in limps December. The diminished daylight is dismal if you happen to be fan of lightness. Like, who isn’t?
Every UAS student is cognizant of the vast spread of the campus. Housing nestled on a shadowy mountain hides across a busy road. The asphalt sidewalk, perhaps shared with bears, is seasonally icy. A bus stop waits on another hill; the student activity center is in a “distant land”, down yet another a dismal winter road. Not to mention the town campus.
Just as one might become faint of heart, might desire to curl up and stay in the dorm (forever), there shines a glimmer of hope. A circle of brightness calls to the curious. Let there be light at night.
One tall hero bedecked in Carhartts battles back the nocturnal forces. Armed with a tool belt and current meter, he lights up the extensive UAS campus; including the town campus.
Without Shawn Eggers, campus electrician, to combat the ever-extending darkness, UAS Juneau campus would be one treacherous trudge from home to class to cafeteria. Humans hungry for food, hungry for knowledge or company, might risk life or limb.
But with the well-lit pathways, students can safely trek from housing to Mourant for a meal or conversation. They find illuminated routes to guide them to classrooms and study halls. The outdoor commons area has unique overhead lighting to keep shadows at bay. The gravel trail near the lake bridge boasts soft lighting coming from the railing; safety that delights the eye.
Our hero, seemingly with super-powers, daily battles the somber shadows. He extends daylight, even far into the night.
The campus electrician is assisted by the entire facilities department, including Levi Cumlat, with Jeff Jones recently heading for warmer climes. Levi says, “That Shawn, he’s a good worker. He fixes many things not fixed before. He’s funny too.”
Student Tom Spitzfaden chimes in, “The area outside of Spikes used to be dark. I study there a lot. Thanks to Shawn’s design and installation, the area is now study friendly. Much improved.”
As night after night grows longer, as darkness seems to gain authority, Shawn rewires dark corners, changes light bulbs, upgrades old fixtures. Classes continue, paychecks are issues, data is collected, collated and dispersed, grades calculated and circulated.
Shawn has now lit up UAS for three years. His job requires intricate problem solving. He resolves math quandaries and just plain puzzles it out sometimes to find lighting solutions.
Ordering elusive parts for older, discontinued fixtures is another challenge. If the cost has risen unreasonably, Shawn searches for alternate sources. “There were some ballasts required for several old lights. Just the ballasts cost $1,400 each. But I searched around until I found them for $600 each.” Shawn said. He seeks for the most cost effective method in his work, purchasing locally if possible.
Ask Shawn how he became an electrician, he’ll take you back to his Navy days. One morning in the engine room, there was a complicated problem preventing a piece of equipment from functioning. A man with an electrical education, well tooled, confidently assessed and then repaired the machine. He thus sent an impressed young sailor towards his life work.
I can also attest to his dedication. Early last Sunday morning, on his day off, Shawn drove downtown to ensure the night time lights on the TEC center were working correctly before sunrise. He doesn’t charge the university when he does this, which is not infrequently. The lights at the SAC, the lakeside lights, the court yard lighting – have all been inspected by Shawn during his “off” hours. He’s a man who takes pride in his work. One of the best way to ensure the accuracy of his work, is to LOOK at it. Which he does.
The University of Alaska Southeast has never been more brightly lit. Pushing back the northern latitude winter darkness and creating light where darkness once reigned, is just another day’s work for Shawn Eggers. With the entire facilities department at his side, the darkness doesn’t stand a chance. Eggers vs. wintertime darkness? Smackdown!