- Ray McKee:
When it's show time, McKee's
there day and night
The work of Event
and Labor Services is a lot like show business, and for audiovisual
supervisor Ray McKee, the curtain goes up dozens of times a day.
McKee's responsibility to see that presentations flash on screen at
the right moment during classes and that the words of visiting speakers
like Bill Gates and the Rev. Jesse Jackson can be heard in the back
row. And he oversees the crews that make sure the sound works during
what's arguably the most important time Stanford students will hear
their names -- when they receive diplomas at more than 50 individual
ceremonies after the main Commencement program.
As they perform
work critical to the success of hundreds of campus events, he and his
crew of nine are nearly invisible most of the time. That's fine with
the soft-spoken McKee. "I like being in the background, orchestrating
things," he said.
Equipment is part
of the equation in the 4,000 to 5,000 different jobs that the audiovisual
side of the department completes each year, said Larry Davidson, manager
of Event and Labor Services. But McKee is successful because he emphasizes
people, not technology, Davidson said. "Ray gives attention to people
who need help with their event beyond what can be expected." And through
McKee's example, his entire staff has the same dedication. "I never
worry about whether things will be done," Davidson added.
McKee, who was born
in Mississippi, moved to the Bay Area in the late 1960s and began working
in the Grounds department in 1969. After two years, he became an audiovisual
technician. Though he hadn't planned to stay on the West Coast, he was
drawn by the climate and the variety of people and perspectives he encountered
on his new job, McKee said.
As a technician,
he might have spent one hour in a psychology class taught by Philip
Zimbardo, showing slides of his 1971 prison experiment, and the next
hour might find him setting up sound for the Doobie Brothers. McKee
has met world leaders including Mikhail Gorbachev and Nelson Mandela.
"In this department, there's no typical day," he said.
Over the years "I've
worked with Ray on an almost unimaginable set of circumstances," recalled
President Emeritus Donald Kennedy. "Even on the tenser and more stressful
of these occasions, he was a wonderful source of encouragement. Not
only did one know that the 'tech' wouldn't fail, there was a quick shot
of good cheer."
Through the years,
McKee has shown himself to be utterly dependable, said Bruce Krempetz,
director of operations for Stanford Events. "He's one of those people
you can contact and he'll do whatever it takes to get something done
-- and get it done right."
was never more in evidence than during the 1991 Centennial Celebration,
when he was solely responsible for the audiovisual needs generated by
200 special classes, plus multiple panels and forums, wrote Lois Wagner,
executive director of Stanford Events, when nominating McKee for the
award. McKee handled it all while still managing the everyday audiovisual
needs of academic classes, Wagner said. "Ray is one of those people
who you call at 6 a.m. and he's there. You call him at 10 p.m. -- and
he's still there," she said.
As supervisor, one
of McKee's priorities is to make sure that his employees can balance
their work and personal lives, he said. Event and Labor Services operates
from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week; in McKee's early days, a small
group of employees was stretched to cover all those hours themselves,
he said. "That can be a strain on relationships."
It's typical of
McKee, who works 14-hour days himself, to fill in for employees with
family emergencies or other obligations, said Guy Bailey, audiovisual
shop foreman. McKee once stopped by on his day off to check his messages,
and when he saw that the crew was rushing to make last-minute deliveries
for a conference, he jumped in to help without hesitation, Bailey said.
"I come from the
old school," McKee said. "If you're going to do something, do it the
best you can."