Maintenance & Operations (Managing the Physical Plant)

In Memoriam: Steve P. Krakoff (1955-2017)

My first column of 2018 is an important one for me as well as a very sad one. It is with deep sadness that we mourn the loss a tremendous friend, colleague, and mentor this past October. Steve P. Krakoff, vice president–Capital Planning and Campus Operations for Bowling Green State University (BGSU), passed away on October 16 after a short but courageous battle against cancer. I thought I would take some time to reflect on his passing, but more importantly, his legacy at BGSU. You see, Steve was one of those individuals who was able to see the big picture, a true visionary when it came to development and master planning. He was truly an inspiration and his legacy will live on for generations to come.

Visionary

What made him extraordinary was his ability to take the lead and truly deliver an exceptional product for our students, faculty, and staff. Steve facilitated and guided us through the largest building and renovation project programs in the history of BGSU; well in excess of $500 million. This total included infrastructure improvements, new dining facilities, athletic venues, technology, classrooms, and residence halls. His keen awareness and unique ability allowed him to see the endless possibilities of transforming tired and profoundly worn buildings into modern designs that truly reflect a new perspective on recruitment, classroom flexibility, and improved retention. It was also his ability to inspire new possibilities and beg you to ask the question, “What’s going on in that new building?”

Developing state-of-the-art learning situations such as classrooms and collaboration space were the key deliverables for many of the projects. It was critical the work help create a better learning environment for our students. I was recently leading a tour on campus for a graduate of BGSU and his family when he remarked that it had been over 20 years since his last visit to campus. He was so impressed with all the changes and updates to the campus that he stated, “the look of the campus has changed but the feel is still BGSU.” As a follower of military thought and strategy I think Steve would say “Mission accomplished!”

Understanding Your Strengths

As a member of the Master Plan executive team I was able to witness firsthand how the projects were programmed, planned, coordinated, and ultimately completed. Steve understood what his strengths were and where he needed to fill the gaps. His team was stacked with high-energy people who understood their roles. It was a combination of consultants and internal team members that helped with the focus of each project while making “tough-minded decisions” related to the delivery and budget of the project. His team was not afraid to challenge the status quo no matter what the issue, asking the question quite often; “Is there a better way to get this accomplished?”

Another strength of Steve’s was his ability to balance all the egos while still letting everyone have input. But of paramount consideration was keeping the project on track and moving forward towards completion and within budget. I think Steve clearly articulated an agenda that was broad in nature but provided an opportunity for everyone if they were willing to accept the opportunity. He also allowed us to take responsibility of our areas and understood the need to provide the access and capital to get things done.

One of Steve’s key attributes was his ability to allow us to challenge the status quo and developed a culture of constant curiosity and innovation. Not everyone could get this done, but for him, making strides in areas that hadn’t change in decades was a great sign of progress. Steve was never afraid to challenge the administration, faculty, or staff; in reality, Steve was helping them adjust to change by implementing building programming that would help demonstrate the new building format and use. The buildings were critical for recruitment, enrollment, and retention and needed to be flexible to accommodate the changing forces of higher education.

Front-Row Seat

Steve’s commitment to the Master Plan was infectious. He was able to rekindle an enthusiasm for BGSU that had been lost along the way. His tireless passion and energy were foremost when working on the Master Plan and his commitment to excellence was contagious. I am fortunate to have had a front-row seat.

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of College Planning & Management.

About the Author

Bruce A. Meyer, Ed.D., is assistant vice president of Campus Operations at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, appointed in April 2010. His team currently manages 5,000,000 square feet on a campus with over 20,000 students, faculty and staff.

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