Pitt’s surplus has been Tom Heidkamp’s bread and butter for four decades


Pitt’s Surplus Property Manager Tom Heidkamp has worked nowhere else since 1979, and yet his surroundings can change daily.

In the surplus property showroom there are microscopes, a set of kitchen sinks, an upright piano, a clothes dryer, a treadmill, stacks of athletic clothing and enough chairs, desks and bookcases to furnish many an office. There is a “Bod Pod,” an egg-shaped machine for measuring athletes’ oxygen efficiency, which looks like an alien space capsule amid other mysterious lab equipment. There are no robots at the moment, but Heidkamp has seen those come and go as well, he says.

Now Heidkamp is about to leave all this behind, as he retires at the end of March in his 45th year at Pitt. He joined the University staff on Oct. 4, 1974, as a stock person in the registrar’s office, and five years later moved to Pitt’s warehouse, which evolved into the surplus property office.

Early on, Heidkamp recalls directing the unloading of trailer trucks with office furniture and sorting it all out for placement. And as the campus acquired more new buildings during his career, such as Forbes Quadrangle (now Posvar Hall), more University departments moved out of the Cathedral of Learning, leaving their old furniture behind, which Heidkamp and crew collected in Pitt’s warehouse.

“We saw value in it, to save the University money, in lieu of buying new,” Heidkamp recalls. “That was the basic concept for what became surplus property.”

“Surplus property by its nature is a green department,” he adds. Indeed, John Wilds, recently retired from Community and Government Relations, dubbed Heidkamp “The Father of Sustainability at the University” when Heidkamp received the 2017 Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Career Achievement.

Heidkamp coordinates all moves from campus to surplus property’s space on Thomas Boulevard in Regent Square, evaluating items for resale. He has helped salvage for reuse “dormitories worth of furniture,” he says. “We’ve kept that out of landfills — thousands of pieces.”

The department not only redistributes Pitt property to fresh spots on campus, it sells surplus items to the public, with an online buying and auction site. Through the years, his department has added other services, from providing temporary storage and refurbishing items to recycling used printer toner cartridges and overseeing data destruction and IT security on used computer equipment.

Heidkamp’s office and those of his staff are several floors below the showroom, and the entrance and conference room are furnished and decorated with surplus items, from a life-sized cutout of the mascot Roc to large photos of the marching band in action.

“The whole landscape of the campus has changed (since 1974),” Heidkamp says. “I remember walking up the hill to a football game back in the ’70s (at Pitt Stadium). Fortunately, I was here when Pitt won its national championship. It was a very exciting time for the University.

“I’ve enjoyed working with the University community, finding solutions to new issues for furniture and equipment,” he adds. “I will miss the great communications I’ve had with the staff and faculty of the University and the hustle and bustle of running the department, meeting all the people on campus and assisting them with all their needs.”

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at martyl@pitt.edu or 412-758-4859.