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Professional Grounds Management Society Honors UCM for Second Consecutive Year

By Jeff Murphy, November 9, 2017

WARRENSBURG, MO – The pride and care the University of Central Missouri’s grounds maintenance crew puts into creating a beautiful campus has led to national recognition for the second consecutive year. During the Professional Grounds Management Society’s (PGMS) annual exposition Oct. 20 in Louisville, Ky., UCM received the University and College Grounds (Large category) Green Star Awards® Honor Award for exceptional grounds maintenance.

The hard work of the University of Central Missouri grounds crew has contributed to national recognition for the second year, with UCM receiving the Green Star Awards® Honor Award from the Professional Grounds Management Society. Contributing to the award were, front row, from  left, George Shuster, Paul Dewey Schleer, Phill Gower, Travis Guler and Shawn Lindley; back row, Grounds Manager Brad Mackey, Tricia Savery, Tia Bond, Grounds Supervisor Kevin Courtwright, Charles Chapman, Taylor May, and Greg Nelson. Not pictured are Becky Ammon and Tom Burden.

The award program provides national recognition for grounds maintained with a high degree of excellence, complementing other national landscape awards programs that recognize landscape design and construction. The competition included colleges and universities, both large and small. PGMS presented a total of seven Grand Awards, its highest honor, as well as 23 Honor Awards and six Merit Awards in 13 categories. Texas A&M University captured the Grand Award, just ahead of UCM in the same division.  

“To be recognized for grounds management excellence against some of the largest, most prestigious schools in the country is an important and impressive achievement,” said UCM President Charles Ambrose. “The first impression students and their parents form upon their initial visit to campus is often related to our buildings and grounds. We’re very grateful for the talented men and women who make UCM’s outdoor environment one that is both aesthetically pleasing and interesting, and most important, welcoming.”

Brad Mackey, a 17-year UCM employee who has served as grounds manager since 2014, accepted the award on behalf of UCM during the 45th Annual Green Star Banquet, which was part of the PGMS School of Grounds Management & GIE+EXPO.  He attributes the award to the hard work and commitment of the 10-member grounds department with landscaping design leadership provided by grounds supervisor Kevin Courtwright, who also handled the competition entry.

“We’ve got a bunch of employees who care, and to get this award back-to-back (years) is not easy. Kevin did a lot of research, and learned there aren’t a lot of schools that have done that,” Mackey said. “Next year, we’re going for the Grand Award. That’s our goal.”

In its printed dinner program, PGMS cites grounds management highlights that contributed to UCM’s recognition by noting, “The grounds of UCM are planted with year-round interest in mind including nearly 10,000 annuals planted in the spring with tropical plants for focal points, mums in the fall, and an annual program of adding spring flowering bulbs. Guests and members of the campus community encounter a varied landscape of mature trees, azaleas, roses and an ever-changing living color pallet, while focusing on a commitment to both service and excellence.”

Mackey credits Courtwright and the grounds maintenance crew for outside-the-box thinking and building good relationships with campus employees and units that, in some cases, have contributed to unique uses of plants. One such relationship involved working with Jay Raveill, professor of biology. In the spring 2017, he provided banana trees grown in a UCM greenhouse near the Wilson C. Morris Science Building. They were planted by the grounds crew at no cost to the university.

“It was something we had never tried, and it gave some areas kind of a tropical look, which is something you don’t see in the middle of Missouri or the Midwest…it certainly created a lot of conversations, both ways,” Mackey noted. He added that campus feedback is helpful in assessing where and how plants will be incorporated into future landscapes.

Emphasizing the importance of quality grounds in creating an atmosphere desirable to students, Tim Castilaw, associate vice president of Facilities, Planning and Operations, said there is an “intentional redesign every year on campus to create a fresh, evolving environment to attract and retain students.”

He also applauded the grounds maintenance crew for its innovativeness and desire to look for cost-effective management solutions.

"Given the challenges we face, we’re maximizing every resource to continue to provide a proactive grounds care culture here at UCM,” he said. “This reflects the commitment and dedication of our grounds crew to be efficient in these challenging times.”

The PGMS has been in existence for more than 100 years. It is an individual membership society of grounds professionals dedicated to advancing the grounds management profession through education and professional development. For additional information visit


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