A career built from the ground up
When Terry Achey started at Penn State Hershey thirty-four years ago, it was hard for anyone to imagine how much it would grow. There was no Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, no freestanding children’s hospital, not even a dedicated building for the facilities department. But over the past three decades, Achey has a hand in many of the projects that have helped grow Penn State Hershey into a world-class institution.
“Terry really loves this place and he treated the facilities like they were his own home,” says Wayne Zolko, associate vice president for finance and business, who worked closely with Achey for almost twenty years. “It wasn’t just a job for Terry, he really believed in our mission. Both his love of the Medical Center and his knowledge of our facilities from the ground up, having worked in a lot of different areas, gave him an appreciation for the work that had to be done.”
“I looked at this as a place I wanted to work at for a very long time, but I didn’t have aspirations to become director,” Achey says.
He retired on January 2 as director of facilities—a position he held for the past twelve years—where he was responsible for building maintenance and operations, planning and construction, project management, CADD services, and safety. Achey left an indelible print on many facets of Penn State Hershey, but one of the projects he’s most proud of was the work he contributed to the ten-year Master Plan.
The two milestones of the 10-year plan were the Cancer Institute and the Children’s Hospital, both of which took years of planning.
“Being able to work along with the leadership team that has shaped the physical and programmatic growth of the campus over the past 30-plus years has been extremely rewarding,” Achey says. “I have the upmost respect for the professional staff and faculty on our campus and I’ve always felt that our town, our region, is very fortunate to have a world-class resource serving our population and providing a major economic impact.”
One of Achey’s most recent initiatives involved establishing a Campus Green Council, which focuses on sustainability projects. Since much of the waste in a medical facility is considered off-limits by standard recyclers due to contamination concerns, Achey has led the council in finding other ways to create an environmentally friendly atmosphere.
“We still recycled hundreds of tons of waste a year, mostly from paper, cans, metal and construction debris,” Achey says. With his retirement, he has turned the program over to other staff members who are looking to bring enhanced office recycling and cleaner vehicles programs to campus.
A ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the new Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital took place just a few weeks before Achey’s retirement. Taking care of the smallest patients has always been a priority for Achey. For the past sixteen years, he chaired the Children’s Miracle Network Sporting Clays event helping to raise more than $688,000.
“I was involved with sporting clays as a hobby when a co-worker suggested using it as a fundraiser. We might have raised about $3,000 that first year,” Achey recalled. “I don’t think anybody expected it to grow so big, but we started getting more interest from our supporters.” The event has spawned into the largest employee fundraiser at the Medical Center with more than 200 participants. “It’s really a labor of love. Everyone knows that all of the support stays here in Hershey to help families and children in need.”
Achey cites Penn State Hershey’s unique makeup as one of the reason’s he made his career here. “I have friends who work for colleges, hospitals, and research firms, but being at an academic medical center means that you can work with each of those under one roof.”
The challenge, of course, for Achey and his colleagues has been providing the resources for both the physical growth and the technology changes that have been needed over the years. When he started his career, he worked with architects who designed blueprints by pencil, a far cry from the software-driven projects of today. “Everything became a lot more complex, but it’s all for the good of providing better services. Our staff continues raising the technological bar.”
While Achey will miss the support and friendships from work, he and his wife Peggy, who retired a few years ago from her role an administrative assistant at Penn State Hershey, plan to spend his retirement catching up with relatives, including their five grandsons.
Achey says he will be forever grateful for his career at the Medical Center.
“We have excellent retention of staff because the culture is so great to work in,” he says. “The organization is not moving out of town or the country, we are here to stay. It’s always amazed me how many long-term employees we have, and it’s a tribute to what a great place Penn State Hershey is to work.”
-by Holly Swanson