Elevator U 2017

The Boar's Head Inn

A gathering rich in history, education and networking proves memorable at UVA.

In 1819, Thomas Jefferson set out to establish a better institute of higher learning, one that would advance knowledge through the future. Fitting, then, that the University of Virginia (UVA) would be the host of the 2017 Elevator U Conference in Charlottesville, Virginia. Elevator U’s mission to exchange ideas and information relative to vertical transportation in academic facilities mirrors many of Jefferson’s ideas. This year’s conference was well received and one of the best attended in recent years.

The first day began with the traditional golf outing. Don Ross of D.H. Ross Elevator Inspections, Inc., sponsored a raffle for closest to the pin on all four par threes. That same evening was the Elevator U Board of Directors Meeting, during which Ross received the first-ever Honorary Elevator Ladder Award. It was reported during the meeting that attendance this year was 160, with nearly 50 vendors.

The first official morning of the conference began with a welcome from Don Sundgren, associate vice president and chief facilities officer for UVA. Sundgren thanked those in attendance and provided an overview of UVA’s operations and current hospital expansion project.

Following Sundgren was Dr. Clemense Ehoff, who kicked off the educational presentations with “Maintenance from a Business Perspective.” Ehoff emphasized that a customer’s expectations are a direct result of his or her experience, which is different for all customers. Ehoff also noted he is interested in conducting a study on call-backs at universities and asked those in attendance to submit their data to be included in his research.

Bob Shepherd, executive director of NAESA International, spoke next on personal safety. He stressed the importance of pit access and brought attention to the National Elevator Industry, Inc.’s nine Safety Absolutes (ELEVATOR WORLD, May 2017). Shepherd added a 10th to the list, the always-important personal protective equipment.

After the lunch break, RobDirscherl from the University of Pennsylvania presented “Long Term Planning.” Dirscherl emphasized that writing your own contract and ongoing continuing education for university staff are crucial during planning. 

“Safe Elevator Operation with Serial I/O” presented by Adam Silvernail of Virginia Controls, Inc. was next. According to Silvernail, “Anytime you use new technology, you have to be careful of the consequences it may bring.”

John W. Koshak of eMCP, LLC, gave a presentation on understanding the maintenance control program (MCP) and introduced his product, the electronic MCP (eMCP). “The root cause of many accidents,” said Koshak, “is lack of maintenance.”

After Koshak was “Hydraulic Cylinder Replacement” presented by Joy Graber and Matthew Grindel from United Drilling, Inc., which closed out the educational presentations for day one.

A “Magical” Evening

That evening was the social event sponsored by Vator Accessories, Motion Control Engineering and United Drilling. As always, there was plenty to keep everyone entertained — two caricature artists, a tarot card reader and a magician who also had talents as a balloon artist.

After breakfast the following morning, Mark Yako with GAL Manufacturing Corp. started the educational presentations with “Selecting the Correct Equipment.” Don Vollrath with Magnetek said the key takeaway from his “Elevator Power Regeneration” presentation was that an elevator always needs to be able to haul the maximum load, which is “a fact of life.” The final presentation of the morning was your author’s “State of the Elevator Industry.”

The vendor hall was open for the first time during the lunch break, and, since it took place in a separate building, it provided ample room for visiting the booths.

VendorMercials: Always a Hit!

After lunch, everyone was entertained and educated by the popular VendorMercials. These give vendors an opportunity to promote their products and/or services in a unique way. With guitar in hand, Chip Rowland with Brugg sang an original song, Joe Fay with SnapCab had some audience participation with a UVA-themed game of over/under and Ed Mathis and Franklin Pierce from Mathis Electronics modified The Association’s 1967 hit “Never My Love.”

It is always fun to see who plays the roles in the skit that promotes the importance of plates from John Rearick of CodeDataPlate.com. This year, it was Ed “Jaz” Jaskowak, Don Ross, Margaret Lourenco (Smart Elevator Tech) and, of course, Rearick. Ed Butte with Magnetek took a more serious approach and gave an overview of his company’s latest products.

Finishing out the VendorMercials was MikeJennings from Virginia Controls, Inc. (VCI). VCI’s offices are about an hour and a half from Charlottesville, so instead of busing the conference attendees for a tour of its facilities, Jennings brought the facilities to the conference via an amazing Google Street View virtual tour.

Kevin Morse and Dale Hughes from Naval Facilities Engineering Command finished out day two’s educational presentations with “Elevator Design Criteria and Specifications.”

That evening, the vendor hall was busy, with everyone mingling and enjoying dinner and drinks. To accompany dinner was the silent auction and 50/50 raffle events to raise funds for the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation (EESF). In all, US$4,450 was raised for the foundation, according to EESF Executive Director Nikole Gore-Layton.

During the festivities, Terri Flint gathered everyone for two special award presentations. This year’s John W. Blatt Memorial President’s Choice Award was given to Martin Culp with the University of Maryland for his many years of dedication to Elevator U.

The next award was the newly renamed Robert S. Caporale Memorial Honorary Membership Award. An emotional Flint spoke of Caporale’s longtime commitment to the organization, beginning as a founding member in the late 1990s. Each board member then briefly spoke on what Caporale meant to them personally. Terms like “friend” and “mentor” were prevalent as this year’s was given in his memory. It was moving to see Caporale’s memory honored and his passion for the elevator industry and Elevator U carried on.

Presentations and a Historical Tour

On the final day were two presentations: “Sealing Management for Hydraulic Cylinders” from Tony Valdez with Texacone and “Hoist Ropes: Applications, Installation and Maintenance” from Martin Rhiner with Brugg Wire Rope.

During the afternoon of the final day was the much-anticipated tour of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s historic home. Sitting on 5,000 acres, the mansion is filled with historic pieces, each with a fascinating history. Jefferson was very much interested in science, architecture, the arts and, of course, higher education. The land surrounding the home offers visitors amazing views of the distant mountains and rolling hills of Virginia. Many thanks go out to Virginia Controls for sponsoring the Monticello tour. 

Chairman of the Board Terri Flint said of this year’s 20th-annual conference:

“Overall, this year’s conference was very successful. I was very pleased with the educational sessions. I’ve always thought one of Elevator U’s top priorities is to make sure attendees get information they can take back to their campuses. We hope the education we provide with our speakers helps attendees have a positive impact on the maintenance, repair and installation of the elevator equipment they are responsible for.”

Jefferson’s Traditions Live on Through Campus

On the last day, with a little free time, your author had the opportunity to take a quick tour of some of the grounds of the University of Virginia (UVA). If you think a university founded by Thomas Jefferson would be rich in history, then you would be correct. The Rotunda, located on The Lawn, was designed by Jefferson himself and features a prominent bronze statue of his likeness on the north side. Construction on the Pantheon-inspired structure began in 1822 and was completed shortly after Jefferson’s death in 1826. It now serves as the university’s library. Another statue of Jefferson, this one made of marble and weighing 3 T., greets visitors inside.

During a 2015 renovation of the Rotunda’s Lower East Oval Room, a chemical hearth was discovered behind one of the walls. UVA historians date the hearth back to the 1820s and believe it was an agreed-upon project by the university’s then-professor of chemistry John Emmet and Jefferson. UVA also housed, for a brief time, American poet Edgar Allen Poe as a student. A preserved recreation of room 13, Poe’s living quarters, can be found on The Range. Running parallel to The Lawn in two rows, The Range (also part of Jefferson’s original design) consists of 52 rooms and houses only those students who achieve the highest level in academia. How are these students chosen? By their fellow classmates — a self-governance tradition handed down by its founder, Thomas Jefferson.

Stepping into the 21st century, your author was able to get a look at the current US$400-million emergency-room expansion project underway. This expansion will increase the number of available hospital beds for patients and includes 12 elevators. Its upper floors will provide available space for laboratories and additional facilities as needed. If he were here today, I believe this project would meet Jefferson’s approval.


Your author would like to thank James Dowell, elevator supervisor with UVA, for serving as his tour guide.

Elevator U’s New Board

As always, a new Board of Directors is elected during the conference. This year saw some key changes, including election of new President Eddie Morris. Here is the 2017-2018 Elevator U Board of Directors:

  • Eddie Morris, UVA – president
  • Martin Culp, University of Maryland – vice president
  • Steve Pydynowski, Illinois State University – treasurer
  • Brad O’Guynn, Elevator World, Inc. – secretary
  • Don Ross, D.H. Ross Elevator Inspections – director
  • Brad Haldeman, Penn State – director
  • Tom Sybert, C.J. Anderson, Inc. – director
  • Terri Flint, University of Michigan – chairman
  • Glenn Duncan, Parts Specialists, Inc. – founding director

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