Facilities director steps down

Mike Irish, who some say virtually transformed the facilities and planning department at Portland State in his nearly three years as director, stepped down to a part-time role July 1.

Irish will assume the title of special assistant to the director, Robyn Pierce, who has served as assistant director, has moved into the director’s job.

As for his reason for stepping down, Irish said, “I want to spend more time with my kids.” He will occupy an office at the facilities department, work three days a week, and said he will retire completely no later than June of 2006.

Cathy Dyck, interim vice president for finance and administration, gave Irish high praise.

“He’s been a wonderful addition to the finance and administration staff,” she said. “Mike has done an excellent job of increasing morale among the facilities staff in spite of severe economic constraints.”

Morale was a big issue when Irish took over the job in December 2002, after the departure of former director, Brian Chase. Irish found a dispirited bare-bones staff that had suffered numerous layoffs in the recent past.

“I’ve pretty much accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. We now have about 100 people including students,” Irish said.

This is Irish’s second tour of duty at Portland State. He started as construction inspector in 1985 and by the time he left in 1993 he had worked up to project manager. He spent a year at Oregon Institute of Technology as assistant director of the physical plant. Then he became director of facilities and planning at Eastern Oregon University and in 1999 moved to Eastern Washington University as associate vice president. At the end of 2002 he was back at Portland State.

“It was easy to move here because I already knew most of the people,” Irish recalled. “Without doubt, we have the best physical plant staff we have ever had. We have good tradesmen, dedicated to the university.”

He keeps morale up by scheduling picnics, outings and parties four times a year where the staff members can mingle and get to know each other.

Irish said his work, as special assistant to the director, will focus on budget and deferred maintenance. These are areas where he has assumed hands-on responsibility and he wants to pass his knowledge on to Pierce as the new director.

Referring to deferred maintenance, Irish said, “I want to get it more lined out. Where we need it and let Robyn take it from there.”

Pierce came to Portland State in October 2001. She assumed the job of assistant director of facilities, handling contracting, space management and fiscal services. Before that, she spent 17 years in the office of the chancellor of higher education, eight years in human resources and seven in facilities management. She feels her good relationship with the chancellor’s staff will stand her in good stead in the future of Portland State.

“I hope to continue on the path that Mike has set,” Pierce said. “Keeping funding and services in house have been very good for our staff. We have a better department, a dedicated department.”

Pierce sees plenty of work ahead to take care of the real needs of the campus.

“Modernized classrooms is the big one,” she said.