New custodial services manager wants to make good first impressions

Ernest RobinsonBy SARAH GROSS

Ernest Robinson has ventured into a whole new world.

Formerly the director of environmental services at Uniontown Hospital, Robinson, 49, has a long history of working sanitation services in the medical world. Now he’s tackling college life, as Pitt’s new senior manager of custodial services.

He brings with him a master’s degree in health care management from Troy University, and many years of leadership and custodial work, ranging from health care to contractor work to his service in the Marine Corps. He also brings a great pride in what he does.   

While at Uniontown Hospital, where he worked for more than 10 years, he monitored rooms and buildings to reduce the spread of germs and infections. Safety was an absolute concern, as unsanitary surfaces in health care can be deadly. He not only grew as a leader, but he also learned how to focus on what he considers to be a vital part of his job, the customer.

“I’d look at anyone that has the opportunity to walk right into any building as my customer,” Robinson said. “So how can I make sure that their first impression is a great one, because what’s important, and what I’ve learned in health care, (is) you only get one shot to make a great first impression.”   

He looked at his customers in Uniontown Hospital just like they were his family. Additionally, he has a high level of trust in the people he works with. This is not something he can do alone, and he said he depends on the people around him. Robinson has a complex team of more than 100 people who rely on him, made up of the assistant managers of custodial service, the special events manager, the custodial supervisors, the window washers, and the full staff of custodians.

As someone who has held management positions before, Robinson talks avidly about the importance of teaching and coaching, through a concept he calls, “Lead by your feet, not by your seat.”

“My other focus is really just trying to reteach, retrain, so we have better, more informed custodial service employees, so they're able to give a better-quality result to the community,” he said.

Despite all of his history with health care, he expresses a lot of enthusiasm for his new role on a college campus. It gives him a chance to really enjoy his surroundings. The students’ “hustle and bustle,” as he puts it, really gives everything life, and gives him joy to know he’s making a positive impact.

In the four months he’s been at Pitt, Robinson and his crew have been making an impact, not just in custodial services, but also in assuring the success of larger events, such as Homecoming.

“There is other behind the scenes work that goes on in order for those moments to take place on campus. Facilities has a lot to do with that, and that’s what makes this job special because it’s those little moments in time that make things special for people.”

And in his time at Pitt, Robinson has found a favorite place.

“I walked to Heinz Chapel almost a month ago and I would say I almost cried.” Robinson says. “Sometimes we as people, we go far away to see beautiful structures. It amazed me that we had something right here in our backyard.”

And increasing the beauty of structures on campus is exactly what Robinson himself is doing.

Sarah Gross is a junior nonfiction writing major and a contributing writer for the University Times.