Rafael Rivera Photo by Patrick Verel
Rafael Rivera
Photo by Patrick Verel

Who he is:
Manager of Grounds, Transportation, and Waste Management at the Rose Hill campus. He oversees a 17-person crew comprising a foreman, gardeners, grounds workers, drivers, and mechanics.

What he does:
“I’m responsible for everything that’s green, across 85 acres. It’s a constant cycle and there’s always something to do. In the fall you have cleanup from all the leaves; in the spring you’re pruning everything, watering, trying to make the grass come back to life. In the summer you’re increasing the watering of the grass and trees on especially hot days, and weeding and maintaining the beds around trees.

“Tree care is a big thing. The elms are the most delicate; they push out so much energy just to seed. You’ve got to give them another shot of fertilizer for them just to flower and another shot just to pull out their leaves, just because they’re that old. They get inoculated twice, in the spring and the fall, sometimes more, depending on the tree and how temperamental it is.

“Before Commencement and Jubilee we’re seeding, filling in soil in spots, mulching around the trees, doing plantings in the beds around campus. Every year is different; this year because of the harsh winter the workload was crunched into a shorter time frame. We do any needed repairs on the roadways, any painting of lines that’s needed, repair any broken sidewalks.

“My crew also handles snow removal, cleanup after storms and hurricanes, trash collection and separation of recyclables, and intercampus delivery of mail, office equipment and other items.”

Is there an area in which you’re more hands-on?
“Lawn care. I’m there saying, ‘I want diagonal cuts,’ or ‘I want circles, I want squares.’ We are always changing the patterns. You can’t cut the same way all the time because then the grass will lay down and always stay that way. Mowing is what we’re doing all day in the summer, pretty much—going from spot to spot. It’s constant.”

What do you like most about the job?
“I love the place here. You sit out on Eddie’s Parade and you’re mesmerized at what this crew does. There is a sense of family here; you get to work with great people. The staff really takes an interest in what they do, and if it wasn’t for them, the campus wouldn’t look the way it does. I have one gentleman right now cutting newly installed lawn, and it’s like it was his own child. He cares for it, cleans it up, and he says ‘Look at that, it’s beautiful.’ When it comes to grounds care and the look of it, they take great pride. They really do.

“There’s also a sense of pride in working for Fordham. I went to elementary school on Marion Avenue near the Church of Our Lady of Mercy, and we used to come to Fordham every summer for our retreat. We used to run on Jack Coffey Field. I was always aware of Fordham and what it is.”

Personal Background:
Born and raised in the Bronx, Rivera graduated from Adlai E. Stevenson High School and earned an associate degree in applied science from what is now Westchester Community College. Before coming to Fordham, he worked in building and lawn maintenance for the Atlantic City Housing Authority, and also worked with his father at his family’s real estate business. The next-to-youngest of four children, he is married with an 11-year-old son and a 17-year-old daughter who has just been accepted to the University.

Hobbies and Pursuits:
Rivera is an avid motorcyclist. He loves film, along with manga and anime (Japanese comic art and animation). He is completing his bachelor’s degree in computer science at Fordham’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies.


Chris Gosier is research news director for Fordham Now. He can be reached at (646) 312-8267 or [email protected].