John George, a Garland native who worked in the UTD print and copy services for 21 years, passed away at 39 on Jan. 20.
His family, coworkers and friends reflected on the unexpected loss and what he meant to them.
Chris Rench, assistant director of print services and George’s supervisor, spoke about how George had worked at the office since he was 19, building relationships over a lifetime.
“It has been very difficult. So we have all had each other’s backs throughout the department, laughed together, cried together, shared John’s stories,” he said.
Rench recalled George’s diligent work ethic. He reminisced on the time when the print shop received their most important job, the commencement files, thirty minutes before closing.
“Everyone else basically got up and left, when John, who was only a low platemaker at the time, grabbed the files and fired up the press to start printing. And he was here until 2 a.m. I ended up staying with him. We started the job because we had to run it for several days,” Rench said.
He said that in doing so, George had surprised him.
“That was the first time I realized ‘Hey this guy was special. He’s not just running home … He goes to get the job done, end of story,’” Rench said.
Ryan Mendenhall, a 2012 ATEC graduate, worked under George in the front end of the print shop for a year. Visiting UTD after George’s passing, Mendenhall recalled how he looked up to him.
“He was a mentor before he was a friend. He taught me everything I needed to know about a job that not many know about, working the front end of a print shop,” Mendenhall said.
Rench recalled how George taught himself and seemed to know how to do everything.
“I asked him one time, ‘How do you do all this stuff?’ And he said ‘When we growing up we had no money and we were dirt poor, and you either figured out how to fix things or it didn’t get fixed because you couldn’t afford to call someone and fix it,’” Rench said.
George’s work ethic led to Rench promoting him to a manager of the print shop.
But there was a non-professional, human side to him too, Mendenhall said.
“He was always a plethora of jokes, so any day with him was pretty great. But there were some UTD events and staff meetings where he pulled pranks and man, let’s just say UTD police enjoyed having fun,” he said.
Mendenhall commented that it is still hard to believe that George is no longer with them.
“It’s a tough loss to really comprehend yet, but he’ll be missed, and I think that’s evidenced by the massive amount of support his family has gotten through his GoFundMe page. It has been mostly UT Dallas peers that have donated and supported him,” Mendenhall said.
Rench, though lamenting that he had to resort to platitudes, reaffirmed the closeness that he had enjoyed with George.
“In my entire life, I’ve never quite met anyone like him,” Rench said.