There are lots of teams at the University of Minnesota. The Gopher hockey, football and basketball teams are a few that get lots of exposure. But North-West District Sr. Building and Grounds Worker Larry Van Grootheest appreciates some of the lesser-known teams he has worked with at the U.
In addition to playing a key role within his own Facilities Management team on the West Bank, Van Grootheest has been a member of the MOTLI crew (Mobile Operation Team - Leased Intermittently), Key Access Committee and FM Safety Committee. In five years at the university, Van Grootheest has also worked on teams from all three campuses -- St. Paul, East Bank and West Bank.
He is very proud of the results that his teams have produced. In 2007, the MOTLI crew changed out 20,000 lights for the Office of Classroom Management (OCM). By changing lights building by building, rather than bulb by bulb, and standardizing to more energy-efficient bulbs, this project will save the university more than $1.5 million over five years.
“The teams are what makes (working at the university) so enjoyable,” says Van Groothest. “President Bruininks talked a lot about the OCM lighting project and how it was saving money. We could say that our team did that and had a major impact. That makes you feel good as a crew and a team.”
Van Groothest grew-up in Hardwick, Minn. He went to high school in Luverne and then got a baking degree from Mankato Technical College. After college he moved to Fulda where he managed, and later owned, a bakery. Eventually, he sold the bakery and moved to Worthington, where he worked as a baker at a grocery store full-time, while co-owning his sister’s photography studio.
While in Worthington, Van Grootheest met his wife Katia. A native of Lima, Peru, Katia was a Spanish teacher at the school where Larry had worked for a short time as a custodian. After dating for a while, the couple moved to Mankato where Katia pursued a degree in family and marriage therapy. When she finished school the couple got married and moved to the Twin Cities, and Larry eventually landed at the U.
Larry and Katia now live in Arden Hills and enjoy eating out, dancing and travel. They have visited Lima three times, including their church wedding, and are planning a trip to Germany, Greece and Italy next year. Larry still bakes occasionally and enjoys photography, as well.
Van Grootheest has taken advantage of the Regent’s Scholarship to pursue a degree in human resource development, which he thinks really helps him with the training aspect of his job.
“Anybody who doesn’t take advantage of (the Regent’s Scholarship) that the university offers is crazy,” said Van Grootheest. “Where else can you get an extra education, expand your mind and not have to pay for it?”