Photo of Michael Wilcox
Michael Wilcox

Remembering longtime custodial staff member Michael Wilcox

Not many people can claim they brighten every room they enter, but Michael Wilcox could—in more ways than one. A third-shift custodial supervisor, Wilcox was known for his big heart, gentle spirit and genuine care for others—and his ability to make floors shine across Case Western Reserve’s campus. 

Now, the university community is mourning the loss of such a kind and warm personality, as Wilcox died June 6. He was 64.

Wilcox began his tenure at the university 36 years ago as a building service worker and floor care technician, and rose through the ranks to become a second shift group leader. In 2017, he was promoted to third shift supervisor, overseeing building service workers at the School of Law, Thwing Center, Maltz Performing Arts Center, Tinkham Veale University Center and Wyant Field House. 

As a group leader, Wilcox was in charge of buffing floors in hallways, as well as stripping and waxing floors. As a supervisor, he took on even more responsibility, training new hires and doing inspections of their cleaning using a software program.

“Mike was very experienced in floor care maintenance and took pride in teaching other building service workers who were willing to learn,” said Demitrius Finley, custodial operations manager and Wilcox’s supervisor. “His cheerful, professional demeanor, knowledge of the job and his character are what led to his promotion as custodial group lead.”

Finley said Wilcox garnered respect from custodial supervisors and building service workers alike while serving as a group leader, which led to him being promoted yet again to third-shift supervisor. John Protasiewicz, the Hurlbut Professor of Chemistry, had mixed feelings when Wilcox was promoted in 2017—but only because it meant he wouldn’t see him as often. Protasiewicz’s office is in Millis Hall, and Wilcox impressed him to no end when he cleaned and waxed the floors of his lab. 

“He [made] especially sure the very delicate and sensitive scientific equipment was not disrupted by the cleaning service,” Protasiewicz wrote in an October 2006 email to Fred Peck, assistant director of academic custodial services. “The room just looks so great now. Prior to his cleaning, the floor was in terrible shape. It is a job to be proud of. In fact, the hallways in Millis Hall always sparkle due to his attention to details.” 

Photo of Members of the Custodial Services' supervisory team (Wilcox in red)
Members of Custodial Services’ supervisory team (Wilcox in red)

Wilcox instilled that same detailed work ethic into his team, often pointing out that it’s the small things that are most noticeable—but he did so in a respectful manner.

“I think the most impactful thing Mike did was that he showed you don’t have to be loud or flashy to make an impact,” Peck said. “[He showed that] being gentle, quiet and paying attention to details—and caring for others—will take you far.”

Even in high-stress situations, Finley observed Wilcox maintain these traits. Finley never witnessed Wilcox becoming upset—and Wilcox’s consistently uplifting attitude had an immense impact on the well-being of his team.

“His staff never felt tension and knew that not only was he there to supervise, but he was also always willing to roll up his sleeves and help out, therefore increasing their willingness to want to get things done,” Finley said. Peck, who worked with Wilcox since 2005, said his friend always had a smile and was a soft-spoken, hardworking and dedicated staff member. 

“Those in Millis Hall would call him ‘Big Mike,’ but it wasn’t that he was too tall—it was just his presence,” Peck explained. “It was about his big heart and [his care toward] his friends and coworkers. Mike was a gentle soul that would go out of his way to help.”

Outside of work, Wilcox regularly attended church on Sundays—and he loved spicy food and listening to music: “Mike loved music so much he almost carried himself rhythmically,” Finley said. 

Calling hours will take place Wednesday, June 19, from 2 to 6 p.m. at Wanton Horne Chapel of Peace Funeral Home (12519 Buckeye Road). Funeral services will be held Thursday, June 20, at 10:30 a.m. at Liberty Hill Baptist Church (8206 Euclid Ave.); the family will start receiving friends at 10 a.m. See more information about the services

Students who would like support during this time are encouraged to contact University Health and Counseling Services at 216.368.5872. This line is staffed by a counselor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Faculty and staff can access counseling at any time by calling IMPACT Solutions at 1.800.227.6007.