By Greg Russell
It might be said that John Chando experiences the wild side of life at the University
of Memphis. Deer, snakes, hawks – even a couple of big cats – it is all in a day’s
work for the U of M employee.
Chando is a general maintenance mechanic at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, which
is run by the U of M. For his diligent work, he was honored with a Distinguished Employee
of the Year Award in June during Employee Recognition Day. He has been at the University
for four years.
“Working in the middle of T. O. Fuller State Park has its benefits,” Chando said.
“We have many different types of wildlife.”
He is also keenly aware of the region’s history.
“Working at Chucalissa is amazing. Sometimes, like with anywhere, you take for granted
what was going on here hundreds and even thousands of years ago. It is exciting to
think that I am working on the same grounds where Native Americans settled years ago
and developed their own culture and way of life. All the work that the archaeologists,
past and present, have put in to discover and preserve the history of Chucalissa is
also very impressive.”
John Chando (far right) with his family after he received a Distinguished Employee
of the Year Award. (photo by Susan Prater)
Chucalissa director Dr. Robert Connolly said Chando’s work is equally as noteworthy.
“John consistently works beyond his official responsibilities,” Connolly said. “He
is proactive in the oversight of all aspects of the physical plant operation at the
Nash Museum. He regularly monitors and oversees the entire operation at Chucalissa,
is mindful of future needs and addresses small problems before they become big problems.
He is the epitome of a team player.”
“Team” comes to mind often when Chando describes his job.
“We have a tremendous staff here, which consists of a few full- and part-time employees,
graduate assistants and interns. The museum’s director, Robert Connolly, utilizes
many different resources, always comes in with new ideas. He has really transformed
the museum into one of the premiere attractions in the region.
“Being the only full-time maintenance person taking care of such a large facility
can at times be overwhelming especially during special events like the Native American
Festival and 5k Relic Run,” continued Chando. “Usually the museum runs very smoothly
and we do have a part-time seasonal employee, John Hesse, who knows the museum like
the back of his hand and is a great help to everyone at Chucalissa.”
Chando said the Nash Museum is also sometimes aided by the maintenance staff from
the University's physical plant who are “very efficient employees,” he said.
In his free time, Chando likes to take to the open road.
“When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my family. We love to go downtown
and take daytrips to the many different places our area has to offer. I also enjoy
riding my motorcycle on the back roads of Tennessee.”
Chando, who received $500 as part of the award, was very humble in describing his
“Just knowing that someone appreciates my work enough to nominate me for the award
is very flattering, but being one of the recipients is a very special honor,” he said.