Blue Devil of the Week: A Desk Person He is Not

Grounds crew staff member Terrence Williams loves the freedom in working outdoors

A landscape specialist for 16 years, Terrence Williams helps make Duke beautiful.
A landscape specialist for 16 years, Terrence Williams helps make Duke beautiful. Photo by Beth Hatcher.

Name: Terrence Williams

Position: Landscape specialist, Facilities Management Department’s horticulture grounds crew

Years at Duke: 16

What I do at Duke: As a 16-year member of Duke’s horticulture grounds crew, Williams and his co-workers maintain much of what blooms and grows around Duke’s verdant campus –from flower-filled planters to neatly-trimmed hedges. “We plant flowers, we plant trees. We install landscaping designs.” The Durham native enjoys the work, even on an already-sweating midday as a sizzling sun shines down on a freshly tilled Research Drive planter. Williams was tilling and fertilizing the planter, getting it ready for new flowers. “They haven’t told me what we’re going to plant yet though,” Williams said.

What I love about Duke: “We work all over campus – East Campus, West Campus,” said Williams, who likes the diversity of grounds work, both in its locations and tasks. He also enjoys working outdoors because of the freedom it provides, every day is different. A desk person he is not. “Duke’s a great place to work. It’s dependable and the benefits are great, especially the healthcare for my kids.” His other favorite benefit? The Duke employee discount at Biscuitville. “I get the bacon, egg and cheese biscuit combo with sweet tea,” Williams said. “I also like Duke Gardens. I think it’s beautiful in there. My family goes there every now and then to look at the flowers.”

A memorable day at work: Any day that goes smoothly, like a recent Friday when the crew finished up planting the Campus Drive traffic circle—with scabiosa and lantana plants. “That was a good day. It felt like we accomplished a lot.”

Something unique about my office: Williams doesn’t have an office per se, but he does have a Duke baseball cap he keeps on his head constantly, as equal parts sun defense and Duke school spirit. “I usually wear it until it’s faded and then I get another one.”

First ever job: A lawn lover early, young entrepreneur Williams maintained his own lawn cutting business as a kid. “I was probably 12 years old and I would take the lawn mower around and ask people if they wanted their grass cut.”

Best advice ever received: “If you find something you like to do keep at it. If you enjoy it, it will be easy for you to do it every day.”

If you could be a plant, what kind of plant would you be: “I guess I would want to be an oak tree. They live for a long time and they make good shade.” Williams is also found of petunias, his favorite flower. “They come in all colors, pink, purple and red. They’re like a big blanket of flowers.”

Family ties: Williams’ wife Monica Williams works as a housekeeper at Duke and his uncle Herbert Williams also works for Duke’s grounds crew. Williams’ mother Donna Marie Brown attended Duke’s School of Nursing and worked as a nurse for 25 years at Durham Regional Hospital, now Duke Regional Hospital.

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