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A Round of Applause for Mario Soto

When you’re strolling around campus this spring and you see our broad green lawns coming to life, give a little cheer for Grounds Team Leader Mario Soto, who, after 38 years of faithful service to TLU, is retiring.

He came to campus back in 1985, starting out as a custodian. Four years later, he moved into grounds. He knew all about irrigation and was comfortable operating heavy equipment, having grown up as a migrant worker around Michigan, picking fruit and driving a tractor. “I love being outside and grounds was a better fit,” says Mario.

Anyone who’s spent any time on and around the TLU campus has seen Mario in the distance, making rounds on his tractor. You might wonder whether he passes the time listening to music or podcasts. The answer is no. Mario prefers to work in silence and concentrate on his job. “I love being outside on the tractor,” he says. “It’s peaceful for me. I just concentrate on the grounds and time flies by. I’m proud of my work and I love the satisfaction I get in seeing how beautiful it looks when I’m finished.”

So what is he planning to do with this next chapter of his life? “Rest! I hope I can learn to take it easy,” he says. “My wife and I also hope to travel. We still have family up north and we’d like to go visit.”

Through his years at TLU, Mario has worked with more than 10 different supervisors—himself becoming the ground supervisor in 1997, but then deciding he wanted to return to the work he loved most, groundskeeping, rather than supervising others. He received TLU’s Distinguished Staff Award in 2003. When he talks about the university, the pride he takes in his work is written all over his face—a rare thing for the humble and unassuming man that he is. He isn’t the kind to look for praise, but rather considers the beauty of his work and the knowledge that he’s helped to keep the campus looking its best for so many years to be reward enough.

Mario will be missed on campus—and when asked what he’ll miss the most about working at TLU, he smiles and answers without hesitation. “My tractor.”