Staff Spotlight – Greg Modzelewski

Greg Modzelewski recently celebrated his first anniversary of service at Yale. Following in his father Eugene’s footsteps, who worked at Yale for 34 years in the Physical Plant, Greg works as an equipment mechanic. He and his team maintain the heating and air conditioning systems in over 300 buildings on campus.

The youngest of three, Greg grew up in North Branford, Connecticut. After graduating from high school, he attended Porter and Chester Institute, where he studied heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC). After completing the program, he began as an HVAC apprentice and then a full-time technician at Commercial Air Services where he stayed for eight years before coming to Yale.

Looking back on the past 12 months, Greg considers himself fortunate to have a position at Yale, feels the benefits are generous, likes the strong union aspect, and loves working in all the many and different buildings around campus. 

Recently, he talked to us by phone about how quickly one year passed, working on a large campus, and looking forward to the next 30 years!  

What’s your day-to-day job?

Our team services the HVAC equipment and systems for hundreds of buildings around campus. We maintain or fix any equipment that moves air or pushes water into those structures. I’m still learning about the different mechanics, systems, and getting to know the campus. The team I’m on consists of 10 technicians. We are like a family, and we are busy. Some of the machines we work on are huge, and for me, it’s interesting work. I came from working for a much smaller company, and at first, I was nervous by Yale’s sheer size, but I’m excited to be working here. The work is different each day, and that keeps it new and different.

How has COVID-19 affected your job?

Currently, we are going around to all our buildings installing high-level air filters. These upgrades are part of a push to ramp up our filtration systems. It’s been hard to get some parts, as deliveries take much longer than before. Also, we service some of the colleges and many classrooms. If something needs fixing, we can’t get into some of the spaces right away; we must make sure those areas are empty to keep the appropriate physical distance. I feel that our jobs are now on the frontlines. We are doing all we can to bring more fresh air into the buildings. I think people value us more or maybe see us in a different light because we are helping to keep them safe and healthy. Perhaps the community realizes that what we are doing is, and was, important.

What’s it been like at work and home during the pandemic?

It’s been stressful for my family. My wife is a dental hygienist. We had to take our two kids out of daycare. And for many months, we couldn’t see family. My wife has nine siblings; they are very close. At times, it’s been difficult.

How has the last year been?

My first six months of the job were pre-COVID. Then the pandemic hit, and I was home for a few weeks, but we’ve never stopped working since. The buildings need maintenance, and things break even when they sit empty. It’s busy; our team runs around campus from building to building working on issues. We must keep physical distance from the students, of course, and it’s harder to fix something when it’s broken. I get a little frustrated, I don’t like it when I know something isn’t working right. I will say getting into ceilings to fix something has been easier with no staff or students in many of the buildings. We are all wearing masks, so you can’t see faces, and I’m still new. The year has gone by fast; it has been great. I plan to be here for a long time!

Favorite thing about your job?

I enjoy exploring the campus. I look at the students walking around campus and think they see it above ground, the buildings, classrooms, and gardens. I get to see Yale from the underground, and it’s cool. I’m in old mechanics rooms where people have been working and fixing things for 100 years. For me, that’s amazing. The other day I got to see a building, picked up from its foundation, and moved down the street. Yale does some exciting things, and it’s amazing to watch new buildings get erected. There is a lot of innovation going on all around us!

What is the hardest thing about your job?

I wouldn’t say this is hard, more frustrating, but working around the students and classroom schedules. If something breaks, we have to wait to fix it. We can’t just go down and get in there, and I must be patient.

What are you hoping for in the future?

As a young man, I saw how my father had a good and solid career here at Yale. I’m hoping for the same thing for myself. I want able to continue that legacy of fixing and repairing Yale’s equipment while I build a good career for myself. I’m married and have two small children. I want to be able to provide a good life for them.

Favorite hobbies?

I have a ton of hobbies, but my favorite is snowboarding. Right now, the kids are too young to go, but I’ve been on some epic trips with friends. We’ve been to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Big Sky, Montana, Aspen, Colorado, and even Whistler, British Columbia in Canada. I love winter and snow.