A stone sits in Henry Crans’ office, emblazoned with the date 6/30/19 – that’s 50 years from the day he began working at Cornell.
In 1969, the Vietnam veteran was hired as a draftsman for Facilities Services; he retires on June 30 as the director of facilities for the College of Arts and Sciences. In between, he diagnosed telephone systems and coordinated installation for Cornell’s telecommunications office, managed construction and projects for Facilities and Campus Services, and served as manager of operational maintenance for all university buildings.
“For the last 40 years, Henry has watched over the college’s facilities with deep commitment and care,” said Ray Jayawardhana, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences. “He’s handled the countless problems that have come his way with a matter-of-fact attitude that reduces insurmountable obstacles to mere rough spots on the road. We have been lucky to have him.”
When Crans applied for the director of facilities position in the College of Arts and Sciences in 1979, he was the No. 2 candidate for the position. Luckily for Crans, the No. 1 candidate turned it down.
“He thought it was too political,” Crans said with a smile. “But I love this job.”
As facilities director, Crans has had plenty of practice serving as diplomat and strategist, moving departments and entire building populations around during renovations. When the original Temple of Zeus Cafe was turned into Kaufmann Auditorium, the plaster cast statues in the cafe had to be disassembled before they could be moved. Crans borrowed a portable X-ray machine from the College of Veterinary Medicine to determine where in the statues the joints were. The statues were successfully moved to 172 Goldwin Smith, where they are still on display.
“Henry has an exceptional amount of institutional knowledge,” said Dave Taylor, associate dean for administration. “Combine that with his calm demeanor, common-sense approach and broad facilities expertise, and you will begin to see what a genuinely vital role he has played in supporting the college for decades. He will be missed.”
Overseeing huge construction projects like Klarman Hall and the Physical Sciences Building were major achievements for Crans. During construction of Klarman, Crans arranged for a second century mosaic that was given as a gift by Princeton University researchers to Cornell colleagues to be restored by local art conservator Kasia Maroney. Now on display in the Groos Family Atrium in Klarman Hall, Crans considers this one of the “crowning achievements” of his time at Cornell.
In addition to his facilities duties, Crans has long been an instructor for Cornell’s Outdoor Education Program, teaching mountain climbing, cross-country skiing and day hiking. He was recently recertified to teach rock climbing after he retires.
Linda Glaser is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.