By the Rev. Kyle Oliver
No matter whom you ask about the most recent retirement from the CDSP staff, everyone agrees it means the end of an era.
Steve Sibbitt, the seminary’s superintendent of buildings, grounds, and security, retired at the end of February after nearly twenty-five years on the job. He stayed long enough to overlap for several months with Mark Ades, who joined the staff in the role of facilities maintenance project supervisor. Also joining CDSP at the midpoint of the academic year was Angelica Juarez, the finance department’s new controller.
“These are transitions you can’t help but feel good about,” said the Rev. John Dwyer, vice president and chief operating officer. “Steve has been the heart and soul of this community since before most of us even arrived. We will miss him, but we’re full of gratitude for his good humor and steady hand.
“As for Angelica and Mark, they both bring years of experience in their fields. They’re just the kind of professionals that help our lean staff operate at a very high level.”
Steve Sibbitt: ‘Camp Counselor,’ Boiler Whisperer, and More
Sibbitt worked a number of jobs before his hiring in the summer of 1996 (“within an hour of my interview,” he said). Before that he had worked various electrical jobs in the construction industry, including a couple years building train cars for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) fleet. But by then he had already left his mark on CDSP.
“After I got hired, I walked into Shires Hall and there was this déjà vu,” Sibbitt told me. “I said, ‘What’s going on?’ Then I opened up a panel and said, ‘Dang, that’s my handwriting. I was here.’”
It turned out Sibbitt had contributed to electrical work during a Shires remodeling project almost a decade before. He told that story when he and two other maintenance staff colleagues were chosen by the Class of 2000 to give the baccalaureate address to the graduates.
“I worked for Trinity Electric. I also worked for Lord Electric. I knew somehow that I was going to end up at CDSP,” he told the students. “I was destined for this place.”
Giving speeches in the chapel is seldom in the job description for a building and grounds specialist. For Sibbitt, though, the invitation was a natural extension of his primary passion during his years on the job: getting to know CDSP’s students.
“I could take my trade, my skill set, and go outside of this institution and be successful in it,” he said. “But I would never meet the quality and class and intellect of the folks that I met here. I’d fix a toilet and do some plumbing repair in between, but my connection was the people. It was just a fantastic place to hang out. I will sorely miss that component specifically in my retirement.”
Sibbitt’s regular presence on campus, his listening ear, and his curiosity about students’ stories shaped his role and extended his impact in the community.
“I was sort of camp counsellor for a couple years,” Sibbitt said. “People would ask, ‘Where do you get your pastoral care?’ They said, ‘You would do well to go sit down and talk to the maintenance man.”
Curiosity and an intuitive, hands-on approach also characterized how Sibbitt has gone about his maintenance responsibilities. He describes his gift as being able to “analyze a mechanical system and make it functional again.”
“I try to figure out why it’s designed and engineered the way it is,” he said. “‘What’s the purpose of that thing right there, why won’t it work?’ I’m not afraid to touch anything or take anything apart.”
Ades agreed with his assessment.
“He has made it easy to take care of these buildings, in the sense that he knows all their idiosyncrasies,” he said. “He knows what makes them tick, and so when a challenge comes up, Steve has his finger on it. He can say, ‘Okay, this is the next step. I know what the big Gibbs Hall boiler is going to do. You turn this, you twist this, you kick this on the side over here, you put a screwdriver over here, and we can get this thing going.’”
Try as I might, I could not get Sibbitt to choose a favorite building on campus. (He does have a least-favorite, the Virginia Street apartments: “The best retirement present that this institution could give me, Kyle, is to raze that thing, knock it down to the ground. It’s a 1949 building with a 1949 electrical system and 1949 plumbing.”)
However, he does have a favorite tree on campus, which he planted himself in the wooded area adjacent to the Easton Hall courtyard. The fir is actually something of a rescue, Sibbitt having collected it after it did its duty as a group of seminarians’ Christmas tree.
So one more contribution to campus, then, for Steve Sibbitt.
The Rev. Susanna Singer, PhD (MDiv ’89), captured both sides of what makes her fellow recent retiree so special.
“Our beloved, well-worn campus would have fallen apart long ago but for Steve’s skill and devotion,” she said. “But he was always ready to shoot the breeze about anything from theology to bowling—and sometimes the theology of bowling. I can’t imagine CDSP without him.”
Mark Ades: From Hotels to Hulu to the Holy Hill
With those shoes to fill, it’s just as well that as of this writing there were already plans to hire a second team member in the facilities department after Sibbitt’s departure.
In part, that’s because of CDSP’s growing needs. Whatever decisions emerge from the seminary’s ongoing strategic planning process, they are likely to require considerable development of an aging campus with unusual topography and building interconnections.
“I was brought in mostly for my experience in project management and construction, beyond my maintenance and facility management side,” Ades said. “I actually opened the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. It was my job to get all those 2,995 rooms ready for occupancy.”
As it happens, Ades seems to have a knack for finding distinctive employers. His last role was working for streaming giant Hulu in Los Angeles, where he managed “every aspect of facilities from construction to design to custodial work to food and beverage to sustainability to transportation.” Before that, he managed a hotel facility that didn’t even begin its life as a building: Long Beach, California’s ocean-liner-turned-luxury-hotel, the Queen Mary.
When I asked him how he was settling in to his role overseeing CDSP’s eclectic campus, he said lots of the same principles apply.
“Everything I tried to do to the Queen Mary—how to maintain it, how to take care of it—was keeping it true to what it was,” he said. “Each building has its own life and character and style. I look at each one and say, ‘Okay, how can I enhance that? How can I keep true to its roots and true to its base while still updating the infrastructure and everything else that needs to be taken care of. To work for unique entities like a ship, or a giant resort being built in Las Vegas, or a seminary, there’s something that makes it fun.”
Angelica Juarez: A Passion for Education
Juarez joined the CDSP staff during probably the most labor-intensive season for a financial professional: time to close the previous year’s books and generate tax documentation for the entire school’s students and employees.
As she gets to know the organization, she says she’s been asking “lots and lots of questions” of her new colleagues. But she made time for a few questions from me, including one of those inevitably embarrassing ones that writers often have to ask: What exactly does a controller do?
“We manage and supervise an organization’s daily accounting operations,” she said, “including payroll, bills we owe, bills others owe us, and the general ledger. We also help guide the organization’s financial decisions. For example, we work closely with all staff to make sure they have the information they need to make budgetary decisions that impact their departments.”
A Bay Area resident for more than twenty years, Juarez has worked as controller at the peninsula’s chapter of the Boys and Girls Club and as senior director of finance and administration at BUILD, a youth-serving nonprofit focused on entrepreneurship.
She said it was the opportunity to learn “the accounting intricacies of higher education” that drew her to CDSP, as well as the chance to serve with a talented and dedicated staff.
“As you can see, education is very important to me,” she said.