By William J. Dagendesh
Alphonse Herrera enjoyed a popular following at CSU-Pueblo, in part because he accepted everyone for who they are and for what they have to offer society.
As a supervisor, Herrera dealt with a myriad of personalities and respected everyone’s opinions, said Jason Turner, director of the university’s Environmental Health and Safety Office. People admired Herrera because he treated everyone equally, Turner said, because he whistled while he worked, which made the job fun.
“I always knew when Al was walking down a hall because I would hear him first,” Turner said. “Al was a great person to work with. It’s unfortunate I only got to work with him for two years.”
Herrera, who oversaw the Custodial and Grounds Maintenance Departments at CSU-Pueblo, died Saturday, July 16, at age 48. Cause of death is unknown.
Known as “Al” by his family, friends and co-workers, Herrera, who would have turned 49 on July 29, worked at the university for 14 years. He is regarded as someone who loved his job but loved people even more.
However, Herrera was more than someone who loved his job, he was a natural leader who communicated and connected with people, said Ken Nufer, director of Human Resources. Herrera wanted people to be treated fairly and to succeed, Nufer said, and Herrera worked to get to know his people.
Herrera’s death is an enormous loss for CSU-Pueblo and the community, Nufer said.
“His calm demeanor and ability to listen before making any judgments are rare qualities that define great leaders,” Nufer said. “His sense of humor was a bright spot that you could always rely on and look forward to. He had a keen ability to communicate at all levels of the university and will be greatly missed.”
Herrera’s custodial career began more than two decades ago. For a time, Herrera worked with the Grounds Department at Inverness Business Park, a world-class, high-amenity park in southeast Denver. Herrera went on to serve with the Nevada-based Douglas County School District, where he spent seven years as the head custodian.
Always looking to improve the community’s quality of life, Herrera applied for work at the former University of Southern Colorado and was hired as a custodian I in November 1997. He was promoted to custodian III (housekeeping supervisor) in August 1998.
In November 2009, Herrera was promoted to the position of LTC (Labor, Trades and Crafts) Operations I, which put him in charge of all the work in the Custodial and Grounds Maintenance Departments.
Ever active in the community, Herrera served on CSU-Pueblo’s Colorado Peak Performance Committee, and also various search committees, both on and off campus. He was sought out for his custodial expertise.
It was that expertise that repeatedly paid dividends for the university, said Rhonda Gonzales, dean of the Library and Academic Resources Center at CSU-Pueblo.
Gonzales worked with Herrera to resolve maintenance issues affecting the LARC, which opened in April, she said, and he ensured a custodial team dedicated to taking care of the building was in place. Herrera boasted a personable demeanor which made for an enjoyable working relationship, Gonzales said.
“Al was definitely concerned about our project and was very willing to help us get settled in the new LARC building,” Gonzales said. “He made sure we had things we needed, that hadn’t been thought of in the hurry to get opened before school let out. He came over to the building personally to make sure things were going well.
“He was a very nice person, and was approachable and easy to work with. I definitely appreciated his help and I will miss working with him.”
Peter Dorhout, who took over as provost of CSU-Pueblo last fall, wished he had the opportunity to meet Herrera, he said.
“I was saddened by the news of our CSU-Pueblo community’s loss and hope that the family finds comfort in their grieving as we send them our heartfelt thoughts and prayers,” Dorhout said.
In a campus email, Kristi Alfonso, program assistant with the Office of External Affairs said, “Al has been a dedicated and enthusiastic member of the CSU-Pueblo family since 1997. The university expresses its sympathy to the family, friends, and colleagues of Al Herrera.”
Details about Herrera’s funeral service and memorial will be announced.