Tuesday, December 18, 2012

After quarter of a million miles, KCKCC’s Novak is retiring


No such records are available but if there were, Jay Novak could easily claim the all-time record for trips between the main campus of Kansas City Kansas Community College and the College’s Leavenworth Center campus.

Unfortunately, no one knows just how long Novak has been making the daily trip to deliver mail, packages and other inter-campus materials.

“I think it was about 1989,” Novak says of his best guess. “I know I didn’t start right away.”

What is known is that classes were first offered in January of 1998 and student workers made the first inter-campus deliveries – until a car caught on fire and it was decided a full-time employee should take on the responsibilities.

Conservatively estimating that Novak made the 52-mile round trip 225 days a year for 22 of the Leavenworth Center’s 24 years, that would easily put him well over a quarter of a million miles in a career that will come to an end with his early retirement Dec. 31.

“I want to retire before my health goes bad,” says Novak, who is in his 36th year at KCKCC.

Topping the retirement priority list will be taking care of his 94-year-old father, Julius G. Novak, who lives with Novak on Leavenworth Road not far from the college.

They’ll spend their winter months in their favorite occupation, watching University of Kansas basketball.

“My sister went to KU and got my dad and I watching Jayhawk basketball in about 1983 or 1984 and we haven’t missed a game since,” he says.

A retired third grade school teacher, his lone sister, Judy Black, lives in Lenexa. There’s also one niece.

Retirement will also give Novak more time to wet a fishing hook in Perry Lake or Wyandotte Lake.

“I have three friends at Lake Perry I’ll go over and stay with once in a while,” he says. “I did a lot of fishing in the 90’s but not so much since so I want to get back into that.”

There will also be various jobs working on his house that he’s not been able to do; weekly mowing of 1¼ acres of grass at his home; taking in an occasional garage sale; and keeping the wild birds well fed.

“My mom (Marge Novak) got me started on feeding the wild birds,” says Novak. “She passed away in the mid-90’s but I’ve kept it going ever since with a lighted bird feeder on half of a telephone pole I can see from the back porch. My mom also took me to garage sales. She went to them for 50 years or more. Mostly I just look though.”

Born and raised in Wyandotte County, Novak attended Christ the King elementary school and Coronado Junior High before being a member of the largest graduating class at Washington High School in 1972.

“They had two sessions then and in my senior year, we went from 7 a.m. until noon.”

Novak took jobs working in a box factory and a plastic plant after graduation before coming to KCKCC May 2, 1977.

“The job market was good in the 70’s and a lot of hiring going on,” he remembers. “The College was having a hard time hiring custodians and maintenance people so I came out and applied and got hired.”

In addition to making the daily mail run, Novak is something of a do-it-all employee, setting up rooms for various events and other assorted duties.

“Whenever I get a phone call or whatever comes up,” he adds.

During his 36 years, Novak has been in on the construction of five campus buildings – the Nursing and Flint buildings, Child Care Center, Continuing Education Building and the Jewell Student Center.

He’s also worked for five presidents, Dr. Jack Flint, Dr. Alton Davies, Dr. Bill Spencer, Dr. Tom Burke and Dr. Doris Givens.

“I’m going to miss all the people but I’ll be back time to time. I only live about seven minutes away,” says Novak. He won’t, however, miss the day he had to pick up a wandering snapping turtle and deliver it to the campus lake or the heavy rains that caused occasional flooding in the Nursing Building at the north end of the main campus building. “It if rained all, day, we could expect a phone call because it would get pretty deep in one of the classrooms until they got it fixed.”


PHOTO: After nearly 36 years of service to Kansas City Kansas Community College, Jay Novak (right) is retiring effective Jan. 1. In honor of his years of service, he was presented a clock by Dr. Ben Hayes at the College’s annual Recognition Dinner. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)