Oral history project: Ronnie Powell

Ronnie Powell

Ronnie Powell

Ronnie Powell, longtime staff member of facilities management and planning and known about UNMC as "The Mayor," in November 2021 completed an oral history interview that now been published by the Leon S. McGoogan Health Sciences Library Special Collections and Archives.

Powell, who recently announced plans to retire this August, has been at UNMC since 1976 and is known throughout campus for his friendliness, professionalism and collegiality.

Listen to Ronnie Powell’s oral history interview.

In his interview last fall, Powell shared stories about the growth he has seen on the UNMC campus over the years. He also expressed his pride in the associate degree he earned while working full time. Powell also shared memories of growing up in North Omaha and the African American physicians and dentists who provided care to his community, as well as stories about:

  • His close-knit family. (Powell gave his mother credit for pushing him to apply at UNMC.)
  • Difficulty he faced early on as an African American to move out of housekeeping and into a position requiring a skill set. (He had trained in refrigeration repair).
  • His memories of "saves" over the years with refrigeration repair.
  •  The meaningful support and mentorship he received from his managers and mentors during his career at UNMC.
  •  His volunteer work with the elderly.

Powell also is the first Black man hired in the facilities management department.

"At that time, nearly all people of color (at UNMC) worked in environment or food services," said Mary Haven, a retired associate dean of allied health professions who is among the many UNMC colleagues who call Powell a friend. UNMC’s Minority Recruitment Committee worked with hospital administration to hire Powell.        

"He was the only person of color in that department for many years," Haven said. "He was amazing. It is humbling to think of the comments and glances he would have to ignore each day. He was friendly and outgoing. His smiles would light the hallways.  I congratulate him on his ability to make a most difficult journey seem routine. I am proud that he completed his degree and most proud to call him my friend."

Today, his colleagues in Facilities Management & Planning are grateful to know and work with Powell.

Matt Walsh, a zone facilities technician with FMP: "Fifteen years ago, being the new guy on campus and not sure the location of your next job, I bumped into Ronnie Powell. He introduced himself, then took time out of his schedule and walked me to my next job. He said look for him if I get lost again (with that, Ronnie Powell laughed and smiled). Over the next 15 years, I made it a point to make him laugh every time I saw him. I can say Ronnie is a good man and a good friend. I wish him the best when he retires."

"I met Ron when I started at UNMC in 1987," said Jim Gilbert, lead, facilities operation. "He was working fulltime in the refrigeration shop and attending MCC (Metropolitan Community Collerge) for his associate degree in refrigeration. We became friends over the years both at work and personally. He has always had a great attitude and is always smiling. Always talking and ready to lend a hand, Ronnie is affectionately known around campus as 'The Mayor.' Congrats on all your years of service, Ron, and have an awesome retirement."

28 comments

  1. Clarence Ueda says:

    Ronnie, You "The Man" on the campus grounds in Facilities and Management". You have given an entirely new meaning to "Keep on Truckin". All the best ! ! !

  2. Melonie S Welsh says:

    Congratulatios to one of Louisville's most loyal fans! Ron used to take the new med students to school on the basketball court. For the past 4 decades he never passed by me without asking about my family. He is one of the best ambassadors that UNMC has ever had.

  3. Marlene Haske says:

    Ronnie is one of my favorite people at UNMC, and will be missed! Happy Retirement 🙂

  4. Anne Lawlor says:

    Ronnie was one of the first people I met when I joined UNMC in 1999. He is a tremendous ambassador for UNMC and I'm proud to know him. Enjoy retirement!!

  5. Jason Carper says:

    Ronnie is a great person and a good friend. He will always help put a smile on your face. Have a great time in retirement and keep on livin like you tell me to do.

  6. Nicole Gamerl says:

    Ronnie is always so friendly. Enjoy retirement! Well deserved.

  7. Vivian Capurro says:

    Ronnie is the G.O.A.T. of UNMC Facilities. When I worked in ARS, he was always so kind to us as we dealt with all the issues that building has. Congratulations on your retirement!

  8. Rebecca Bogatz says:

    Ronnie is a staple around the UNMC campus. He always has a smile on his face and makes it his mission to make you smile. Hope you enjoy your retirement! You deserve it!

  9. Tom O’Connor says:

    It always made my day to have an encounter with Ronnie. He has a special gift to brighten people’s lives. Enjoy the next chapter, Ronnie. You will be missed – big time!

  10. Julie Ditter says:

    Congratulations Ronnie! Love seeing your familiar face on campus and will always remember our "We work here……..Maybe you should, too" campaign! I would like to think that our friendly faces helped bring in some new ones to UNMC ;o).
    Best wishes in your retirement and thank you for all of your years of service to the UNMC community!

  11. Cindy Skarda says:

    Always happy to see Ronnie. He will be missed. Enjoy your retirement Ronnie!

  12. Dr. Sheritta Strong says:

    Ronnie is a part of the culture at UNMC and will be missed when he retires! I've known Ronnie since I came to campus in 1998!

  13. Joan Smith says:

    Ronnie Powell has earned the title, "The Mayor of UNMC". He knows everyone here. Even with the day-to-day problems he deals with, he manages to keep a happy disposition and provide great service. I will miss seeing his smiling face on campus when he retires. Ronnie, I wish you the very best!

  14. Renee Payton says:

    I have had the pleasure of knowing Ronnie since the 1980's when I was in Continuing Education. His presence on campus will truly be missed!! Enjoy your retirement – I wish you the best!!

  15. Kevin L Garvin says:

    He is the Mayor!
    Congratulations Ronnie, I will miss you!
    Dr G (KGarvin)

  16. Deb Klein says:

    Ronnie, I will miss seeing your smiling face, but so happy for your next adventure!!!

  17. Traci Clemons says:

    Ronnie is always smiling and once he knows you he never let’s you go by without a cheerful hello or to chat. He helped my husband find his way around when he first started in facilities. I wish you the very best Ronnie! Enjoy every minute of retirement!

  18. Theresa Pikschus says:

    Ronnie it has been a real pleasure working with you for the last 32 years. Your smile is contagious and will be missed on Campus! Don't be a stranger and stop and see us. I will miss you Ronnie!

  19. Douglas Wheatley says:

    It has been my pleasure to have assisted Ronnie with his health care these past forty years. He is an expert on predicting things, with the exception of his yearly pronouncement that his beloved Chicago Bears would win the Super Bowl. Ha!

  20. Giovanni Jones says:

    Congratulations Ronnie- Well done Sir!

  21. Samuel J. Pirruccello says:

    Ronnie, you're getting a ton of well deserved love here. You're an institution within an institution. Cheers my friend and enjoy a beautiful retirement.

  22. Johnny Fichter says:

    I have known Ronnie Powell since 2005 when I started at UNMC. I worked with Ronnie in the refrigeration shop and in the zone tech shop. The Mayor comes into work every day with a good attitude and a smile and ready to help who ever needs his help. I wish you the best my friend , you will be missed! TAKE CARE………..

  23. Shirley Starling says:

    Congratulations my dear friend

  24. Pegg Moore says:

    Congratulations and thank you Ronnie for sharing your oral history at UNMC. You are a gem with a special gift for making everyone feel important !

  25. Bart Clemons says:

    Ronnie thanks for helping me get started with facilities. I hope you enjoy your retirement. You are a good man. God bless!

  26. Kathy Sova says:

    Congratulations Ronnie. We have known each other since the late 70's and you still always make me smile when I see you. Enjoy your retirement.

  27. jerrie dayton says:

    Ronnie, congratulations on your retirement. It was always great to see you in the hall. Your cheerful hello could turn a day around. I wish you the best future and lots of smiles.

  28. Bettye Brown says:

    Congratulations on your retirement. May God continue to bless you. Enjoy your time to travel, enjoy family and all of life’s wonderful blessing.
    Your friend,
    Bettye Brown

Comments are closed.