Gary says goodbye

by Jourdon LaBarber

Editor Emeritus

Leaving Canisius, Gary Everett says, is like leaving junior high school. You know you have to go to high school, but you don’t want to. Letting go of a good thing isn’t easy, and retirement – or high school – can be scary.

“But when you get there, you say ‘OK, it’s high school,’ it’s cool,” Everett says, laughing. “It’s the same thing, except you’re a lot older.”

Everett’s office in the basement of Bosch Residence Hall is as decorated with his school’s colors as even the most spirited junior high student’s locker. Every shelf on the bookcase next to his desk is laden with Canisius memorabilia, from a Petey Griffin bobblehead to the large Griffin statue sitting on top. On this day, he’s even wearing a navy blue tie decorated with a pattern of Canisius logos.

It’s been one year since Everett made the decision to retire from his position as Director of Public Safety at Canisius, a decision that was announced to the public in January. Now, with one month left on the job, he sits in an office that’s only a stone’s throw away from the laundry room where, 32 years ago, he realized he’d found a home at Canisius.

His future at Canisius wasn’t so clear when he initially got the job as a night shift officer in 1982. He was 31-years-old and had just been laid off of his job as a security officer at Edward J. Meyer Memorial Hospital, now the Erie County Medical Center, thanks to a county budget cut. His kids were in school and his wife worked afternoons; he wasn’t sure if a night shift would work for him.

That changed during his first night on the job, thanks at least in part to an interaction he had in the Bosch Laundry Room. It was 1 a.m. and Rev. James L. Dugan, S.J. – best known as Father Dugan – was up doing his laundry. Everett lent Dugan a quarter and the two had a long conversation that night. Now, three decades later, Everett calls Dugan at least once a week.

“I tease him, ask him if he’s at the casino and stuff like that,” Everett said. “We’re good friends, he’s been a good mentor, as all the Jesuits have.”

All it took was that first night for Everett to know he had found a place he liked to be.

“I started liking it right away,” he said. “I think it compared to what I hear students say now, that they looked at other colleges, but as soon as they got here they liked it on the first day. I think it was like that for me to work here. One year leads to another; before you know it 33 years go by.”

Everett was eventually promoted to a job as a sergeant on the afternoon shift, a position he held for 17 years. He was promoted to Assistant Director in 1998 and finally to Director three years later.

In that time, the job has changed dramatically. When he began on the night shift, Public Safety owned one patrol car; now they own seven cars, three bikes and a Segway. Everett used to have to send out timely notifications from his office; now he sends them from his phone.

But the biggest change, he says, is in the way he’s able to help people. As a field officer, it was about interacting with people and having a presence.  Now, he’s on call 24 hours a day, solving problems whether it’s at the scene of the crime or from the comfort of his recliner at home. He had received two middle-of-the-night phone calls about how to handle students who were picked up the night before our conversation alone.

That’s not to say he doesn’t sometimes miss working in the field. His best memory on the job, he says, came on Easter Sunday in 1995, when he was still working the afternoon shift. That morning, a man who was reported to have sexually assaulted an 85-year-old woman was fleeing through the Canisius campus. Everett was one of many officers searching for him. The search eventually brought him to Montante Cultural Center, where he found the suspect hiding at the bottom of the basement stairwell. After calling for back up, he made the arrest; the man was sentenced to 25 years to life and Everett received an award from Mayor Anthony Masiello, an award that still hangs on the wall in his office today.

“It’s Easter Sunday, he commits a crime of rape, sodomy and strangling an 85-year-old woman on Easter Sunday and then he hides in the basement of a Roman Catholic Church? I think I had some help finding him, I really do,” Everett said.  “No matter what bad day I’m ever having, I can always say that I put that guy in jail. He can never hurt anybody again.”

For Everett, helping people has always been the best part of the job, an aspect he still loves today. That’s the main distinction he’ll make over the next month as he works with his successor, H. Wilson Johnson, who’s been a member of the Rochester Police Department for 32 years.

“When we do work together, I’m going to talk to Mr. Johnson about the difference between campus law enforcement and municipal law enforcement,” Everett said. “It’s a lot different, a big part of my job is keeping students out of trouble. You just have to treat people decent and you have to care about these students 24 hours a day, that’s all they’re asking you to do. He’ll be fine.”

Part of caring about the students, Everett says, is doing everything possible to avoid their arrests, an aspect of the job he says won’t change. That’s not all that won’t change upon his retirement – he’ll still be active on various committees and be a presence at athletic events. He’ll do everything except drive the shuttle, and of course the he’ll likely cut back on the midnight calls.

“My health is good, my wife’s health is good, and we’re going to have some time to do stuff,” he said. “All good things must come to an end, that’s the way it is. I gave it a lot of thought.”

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