The end of the year is kind of like a roller coaster ride. You climb and climb the steep track… and then there’s a brief, terrifying pause before the hair-raising plunge to the New Year as we study for final exams, write papers, grade papers, make plans to see family and friends, shop, cook, eat and celebrate. All this as the hours of sunlight are shorter and the nights colder and more blustery.

Before 2022 comes to its conclusion and we turn the page on another year, we wanted to share our gratitude for the many Matadors whose jobs make life on campus a little easier, brighter or more beautiful. Many of them work quietly, steadfast, behind the scenes. We enjoyed getting to know them, and we hope you will, too. Here are just a few on campus we could not study, live and work without:

Tom Case, Grounds Manager, Physical Plant Management

CSUN is not all about the classrooms, labs and lecture halls. It’s a wonderful place to be outside, with mature trees — home to all those frisky squirrels — an orchard, a duck pond, native plants, rosebushes and swaths of green lawns. We even get a hint of the changing seasons around campus, as trees turn red and gold in the fall and the spectacular jacarandas burst forth with brilliant purple petals in the spring.

Tom Case is the grounds manager on campus. He oversees a crew of more than 20 people who work across CSUN’s 400 acres — mowing and edging the lawns, trimming trees, sweeping the streets and emptying the outdoor trash cans.

“I like it to look good,” Case said. “It’s our campus … and the crew takes pride in the fact that we’re providing areas that aren’t just inside buildings, where students can recreate.”

Case and the crew from the “600 shop,” their office in the Physical Plant Management building on Plummer Street, are also responsible for setting up events — that means making sure electrical power is provided, irrigation is shut off and plenty of trash cans are available across campus.

The biggest event is commencement: The 600 crew sets up the stage, arranging flowers and greenery to make sure everything is picture perfect for the graduates’ big day. They even have a team of people who go under the grandstands on the University Library Lawn, to retrieve dropped cell phones.

This is Case’s first year working at CSUN, he took over the job from Ruben Lopez, who retired from the position after 32 years of service. Lopez returned to help Case navigate managing his first commencement, and despite the 18-19 hour days, it sounds like it’s already his favorite time of year.

“To see the students walk, you see their families beaming with pride… That’s what it’s all about,” Case said. “It’s getting people here to campus [for commencement] so they can start their lives. And then, you know, come August, we start again. But the work on campus is never done.”

As for the work in the months ahead, Case and the 600 crew will be busy removing turf and putting in more drought-tolerant landscaping. Tree trimming is also ongoing. Case said there’s a lot to be grateful for in his new job.

“I’m thankful that I have a phenomenal crew and leadership that trust me, and our crew with the vision of the campus,” he said. “It’s just great to come to work.”

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