Tom BondraSunday is a big day for Tom Bondra. Not only is it Easter, but it’s also his 72nd birthday.

But before he can celebrate the two holidays, he has to make it through an even more special Good Friday: After 38 years in Campus Planning and Facilities Management, Bondra retires today.

Bondra’s time at Case Western Reserve began by responding to a help-wanted ad for a plumber. From there, he continued to advance throughout his career to project manager.

“I was very fortunate to move myself up the ladder,” he said.

Through nearly four decades, Bondra has seen significant changes to campus and helped the university prepare for commencement every year since 1977. He’s worked in every building, learning the nuances of each—right down to the challenge of changing light bulbs in the four-floor-high ceilings of Kelvin Smith Library.

Some experiences stand out, such as working to prepare the university president’s home for Barbara R. Snyder’s arrival, and on Adelbert Hall after the fire that ravaged the building in 1991. His work on Adelbert—one of his favorite buildings on campus—included salvaging important portraits and documents.

One of the key moments of his career came during the 2004 vice presidential debate, which was held in the Veale Convocation, Recreation and Athletic Center. Often putting in 12-hour days, Bondra worked tirelessly to prepare the area for the national spotlight. Working with the U.S. Secret Service was unforgettable.

“It was right out of the movies,” he said, recalling how Secret Service members were stationed on roofs of surrounding buildings.

Though he has worked on countless high-profile projects, one memory stands above the rest.

In 2013, he received the President’s Award for Distinguished Service in recognition of his dedication to the university and friendly demeanor.

“That was the highlight of my longevity here,” he said. “It was such an honor.”

Bondra always encouraged his now-adult children to pursue careers they enjoyed, regardless of the paycheck.

“I said, ‘You know what, if you have a job and you don’t look forward to every day, I don’t care what you’re making, I don’t care what kind of benefits you’ve got, the job’s not worth it,’” he said.

Reflecting on his own career, Bondra knows he has followed his own advice and enjoyed what he’s done with his life, admitting that it has become a significant part of who he is.

“It’s been a great, great ride,” he said. “I can’t emphasize that enough. I’ve met some wonderful people here. It’s like a second family. When you think about it, you’re at work almost as much as you’re with your family.”

It was during a stress-management wellness class that Bondra realized it was time to retire while he and his wife were still healthy. His wife retired in January from University Hospitals.

“I’m a little scared to retire,” he said. “I worked all my life and I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself.”

Though he’s still unsure of how he’ll fill his newfound free time, he and his wife plan to spend summers in Chautauqua, N.Y., where they have a home on the lake, and winters somewhere warm.

“I look forward to coming to this place every day,” he said, reflecting fondly on the many experiences he’s had at CWRU. “The time is just flying by. Thinking about … leaving—it brings a tear to my eye.”

Get to know Bondra a little better before his retirement with this week’s five questions.

1. What is your favorite city? Why?

It’d have to be Chautauqua, N.Y. We have been going up there for probably about 30 years.

2. In all of your education, who of your teachers had the greatest impact on you?

There have been so many. I couldn’t pinpoint one person, other than the director I work for right now: Gene Matthews has been wonderful. I look up to him like I would my own father, even though I’m older than him.

3. When it comes to music, what artist is one of your “guilty pleasures?” Why?

The list is too long.

4. What one word would you use to describe yourself, and what one word would your friends use to describe you?

I would hope that my friends would describe me as a fun person to be around to have a lot of laughs. As far as one word to describe myself, I believe that I am an honest person. I care about people.

5. What is your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

I’ll miss the people the most. It’s been a family to me—a wonderful family.