What we scoff at in our youth may be what we crave in our adulthood. These words ring true for St. Paul-West Bank District Custodial Supervisor Phil Archer. As a college student, he left the small campus atmosphere of Concordia College in his hometown St. Paul for the excitement and big city atmosphere of the U of M’s Twin Cities Campus.
When Archer graduated from Como Park High School in 1983, he chose Concodia because he liked what he saw when he was recruited to play football. An injury ended his gridiron dreams, but he decided to go to Concordia anyway. After one year, he knew he wanted something more and transferred to the U.
Unable to afford tuition for a full load of classes, Archer found a job in facilities at Coffman Union which helped him attend the U part-time.
“I enjoyed the flexibility of working a lot and taking a couple classes here and there while trying to find out what I really wanted to major in,” said Archer. “I finally decided to study things that interested me instead of looking for a career. I’d always enjoyed reading and history classes, so I just decided to major in history.”
Archer liked the variety of jobs he was exposed to while working in the student unions, like bouncer, custodian, project work, meeting/event setup and security. Eventually he became a student building and grounds manager.
After graduating in 1992, Archer took a job as a facility manager for the University of Tennessee Student Unions. He spent 2 years in Tennessee, during which his mother succumbed to cancer and father became ill with a heart condition. In order to spend more time with his father he decided to move back to Minnesota in 1995. Luckily for Archer, there was a job opening with his old employers at U of M Student Unions.
“Family is real important to me,” said Archer. “I would have moved back even if there wasn’t a job and tried to find one, but it just so happened that things lined up and I was able to move home and come back to work at the U.”
Archer started as a building manager and moved up the ranks to assistant to the director, human resources specialist and facility operations director. One big project he was involved in was the renovation of the student unions.
Due to cutbacks, Archer was let go in 2006 and took the opportunity to travel to see friends and family in Tennessee, Nebraska and Chicago. Eventually he worked as a collections agent until getting hired by FM in January of 2008. The debt collection business made him appreciate the team atmosphere at the U and inspired him to bring that attitude to his new job in FM.
After spending the better part of two decades in Minneapolis, Archer now prefers the calmer scene in St. Paul, because there are less worries about customer security and safety.
“Minneapolis was the happening place to be when I was just getting started,” said Archer. “Going to the St. Paul Campus was like down-shifting. Things were slower and more relaxed. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate that more.”