With temperatures expected to reach into the 50s, next week will offer the Case Western Reserve University grounds crew a break from February’s typical harsh winter weather. But when snow begins falling on campus and ice starts covering the walkways, as it inevitably does in Cleveland, the crew will be ready to get to work.
Daryl Costanzo, the university’s grounds supervisor, and his crew have been preparing for the winter season since August, stocking up on necessary chemicals and working on the equipment.
“Winter’s rough—people slip and fall and don’t wear the right shoes,” Costanzo said. “Ice is the worst.”
To ensure he and his team keep campus safe, Costanzo keeps an eye on the weather year-round. When inclement weather is impending, he alerts his crew immediately—sometimes requiring them to begin work as early as 3 a.m. so the walkways will be safe when faculty, staff and students arrive hours later.
But the grounds crew does much more than clearing snow and ice—they’re also the ones planting the tulip bulbs that sprout in spring, keeping the grass healthy and removing fall leaves.
“That’s the first impression somebody sees. They don’t see that million-dollar lab; they see the trees and the flowers and the grass,” he said. “You need to make it inviting.”
He gives credit to his crew, who he said mostly manage themselves.
“I’m more or less a coach,” he said. “If they need a product or better equipment or support, then I’m there, but they manage their own stuff.”
Costanzo was once in their shoes, working up the ranks from a groundsman, where he started here at CWRU in 1977, all the way to supervisor, a role he assumed in 1998.
He initially got his start in the industry when, at his father’s encouragement, he and his brothers formed a landscaping business, mowing their neighbors’ grass in a neighborhood not too far from campus. (Costanzo later bought his childhood home from his parents, so he still lives in that same neighborhood, within walking distance of the university, today.)
Landscaping also afforded Costanzo the chance to spend more time outside, which he considers a perk to the job. Hiking and fishing are among his hobbies.
As supervisor, Costanzo still has the chance to get outside often, so when you see him—or any member of his crew—be sure to say hello and thank them for keeping our campus grounds safe.
But first, learn a little more about Costanzo in this week’s five questions.
1. What do you like most about Cleveland?
My roots. [His family is from Italy and settled in Cleveland.] The rest is cultural, sporting events, activities—there’s always something to do in this town. And we have a great Metroparks system.
2. What’s your favorite social media platform?
I’m not a Facebook guy, or Instagram or Twitter. You know what [my favorite] is? Just face-to-face conversation and humor, if you want to call that a social media.
3. What was the most influential class you’ve ever taken?
Intermediate price theory—I loved that class. It’s an economics class I took at Cleveland State University. I still use that stuff today in my mind.
4. If you could meet any historical figure, who would you pick, and why?
Meriwether Lewis from the Lewis and Clark expedition. Lewis was a botanist. On the expedition, they hiked up the river system backward. Lewis was actually naming and drawing things on their journey.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
The people—so many different people from all over. There’s so much to learn from everybody. It’s a nice community; it’s truly like a little village.