Retiree: 'I love this place'

Harold Roark retires amid accolades from Pacific University.

 “It’s a great day to be alive in paradise.” 

Many people who have heard this phrase know that it’s a trademark sentence from Harold Roark, who recently retired from Pacific University as director of Facilities.

But the phrase itself isn’t really what people may think it means, said Roark, who served 24 years in the U.S. Army and Oregon Army National Guard before being hired by Pacific in 2001.

Roark began saying the phrase after retiring from the military in December 1994.

 “People don’t understand (the phrase). They think paradise is a place in Hawai‘i. It’s not,” he said. “Paradise is a state of mind. I think it’s a great day to be alive in paradise — because I’m alive.”

Among a variety of activities in his military career, Roark served as a pilot in the demilitarized zone in Korea, flying medical evacuation missions.

“It was a little bit hairy at times,” he said. “They still shot live bullets over there.”

Roark survived his military missions and went on to work in a variety of roles at Pacific University. He was honored at the Pacific University awards ceremony May 7 by the Forest Grove Fire Department with its Citizens Service Award, indicating that Roark established a working partnership with the city and the Forest Grove Fire Department previously unequaled.

“During Harold’s watch, we have seen more partnership between our fire department and Pacific University than ever before,” Fire Chief Michael Kinkade said.

During his tenure at Pacific, Roark established fire evacuation drills in the residence halls, increased fire extinguisher training for resident assistants, streamlined the fire safety inspection process, and welcomed the city’s staff onto the campus for regular training and building familiarity tours.

Prior to coming to Pacific in 1991, Roark explored a variety of occupations. He was born and raised in Eastern Oregon and joined the Army after high school. He earned a bachelor’s degree while in the service from what is now known as University of Central Texas (ATU) near Ft. Hood.

Roark flew both helicopters and fixed-winged aircraft for the Army and Oregon Army National Guard and was also a maintenance test pilot.  He also met his wife, Barbara, in South Korea, where she worked as an Army nurse in the emergency room.

“I hear this American voice on the radio (while flying) and I told my co-pilot, ‘If she’s as good looking in person as she is on the radio, I’m going to have a date with her.’” he said

Roark did indeed get dates with the Army nurse, but found she had other thoughts about getting married to him.

“That silly girl,” he said. “She told me ‘no’ 16 times. I was absolutely shocked when she told me no, she wasn’t going to marry me.

“I just couldn’t image anyone not wanting to marry me,” he said with a laugh. “Pilots are so egotistical, you know!”

After Roark left the Army in 1980, he and his wife went back to Eastern Oregon. However, he couldn’t find a job, so he joined the Oregon Army National Guard and worked in Newberg, Salem and Clackamas, where he helped start the 741st Support Battalion.

After 24 years in the armed services, Roark said, “I finally retired and looked around and thought I didn’t want to supervise people anymore.”

So, he became a horse shoer, working professionally for about seven years. Then, with a family of three children, he applied to Pacific for a maintenance position. He began in general maintenance, cleaning the boilers. He later worked for Campus Public Safety and helped put together, with University Information Systems, the current security system that relies on identity cards for employees and students to get into most campus buildings.

In some ways, it was an adjustment to work for a civilian organization, Roark said. In the Army, he said, “We don’t do things by committee action, so that’s been an eye-opener for me. It’s been a really educational opportunity for me to work with committees.”

Roark became director of Facilities and Safety Management on May 19, 2006. His two proudest accomplishments, he said, are the upgrades in landscaping at the Forest Grove Campus over the years and the use of a trash compactor known as GEM, the Green Environmental Machine. The GEM compacts all of Pacific’s trash so that the garbage service only needs to come in every two or three weeks to pick up the trash, rather than doing a weekly haul of several dumpsters scattered all across the campus.

At age 64, Roark said he’s ready to retire. “I want to go out and do those things while I’m still young enough to do it and I still have my health.

“Pacific has just been a tremendous place, an opportunity for my children as well as myself,” he said, noting that all three children attended the university. “I love this place. I had great people to work with, but now I’m leaving it in great hands."

Cindy Schuppert, who was Roark’s supervisor when he first arrived at Pacific, is now the interim director.

Posted by Jenni Luckett ( on Jun 10, 2014 at 10:51 AM

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