Enrico Recine: Meet the people's porter

For Enrico Recine, who is closing in on 25 years of service as a McGill employee, being a Porter isn’t only about the building he works in, it’s about the people who study and work there.  / Photo: Owen Egan
For Enrico Recine, who is closing in on 25 years of service as a McGill employee, being a Porter isn’t only about the building he works in, it’s about the people who study and work there. / Photo: Owen Egan

By Jim Hynes

When Enrico Recine told his colleagues that he was interested in the vacant Porter’s job at McConnell Engineering, arguably one of the busiest buildings at McGill, they told him he was crazy.

“It’s so busy. It’s 10 times the work,” they said.

But that didn’t discourage Recine, then the Porter at the Macdonald Engineering Building, from applying for the job. Indeed, busy is how Recine likes things. And if students are the ones keeping him hopping, then all the better.

“My formula for working at McGill is simple, Recine says. “Everything I do, I do for the students. Every action I take, I ask myself, ‘will this make it better for the students?’ If it helps them well then I’ve done my duty. At the end of the day it’s all good.”

Recine, or Rico to the students, cleaners and tradespeople he greets with a smile every day, will be celebrating his 25th anniversary as a McGill employee in early January. He started his career in 1985 as a janitor at Strathcona Anatomy and Dentistry and began acting as a replacement Porter about five years later. He started as a full-time Porter at Macdonald in 2003 and moved to McConnell last spring.

Making the rounds

Recine arrives at work early every day, making sure the doors to the building are unlocked by 7.a.m., then unlocking all of the classrooms. He then makes the rounds on all 10 floors in the building, inspecting every washroom and checking on the lights and everything else that keeps a building running smoothly. Anything that needs fixing is jotted down on a pad and promptly reported to the proper department for repair.

And that’s only the routine part of the job.

“We have to be prepared for just about anything, said Recine, one of McGill’s 14 full-time Porters. “You have to be able act quickly when a pipe breaks and a classroom gets flooded. You’d be surprised at some of the things that come up in a building of this size with thousand of people passing through every day.”

And those thousands of people leave their mark on the building in many different ways. The “Found” book in Recine’s office near McConnell’s main entrance, for instance, reads like an electronics catalogue. Ipods, blackberries and cell phones, you name it, its on Rico’s list, together with designer sunglasses, watches and wallets. This week, there’s even a skateboard in amongst the valuables.

The “Lost” list? It’s more like a book.

“People are in here every day reporting something they’ve lost. And some of them are very upset. That’s why it makes me so happy to be able to reunite somebody with their belongings, especially a wallet with money in it.”

Then there’s the less pleasant aspects of the job, like asking suspicious characters in the building to produce a McGill I.D. card.

“I have sort of a sixth sense when it comes to intruders. It helps that I’ve worked at McGill for so long and can tell who belongs and who doesn’t,” Recine said. It also helps being six feet tall and weighing 250 pounds. I can be a friendly teddy bear and very kind to the people who need my help, but for the intruders I can be very intimidating.”

Pizza for all my friends!

Recine was rewarded for his years of dedication last November when he won a Principal’s Award for Administrative and Support Staff in the Trades and Services category. Typically, though, he gives the credit for that achievement to the people he works with.

“The electricians, the painters, the carpenters, the plumbers, the grounds crew, the HVAC guys – they are my real allies. When I won the Principal’s Award I bought all of those guys Pizza, because without them and the cleaners, I wouldn’t have won it. Because they’re the ones doing the physical work.”

On one cold fall morning, it’s not pizza but cups of hot coffee for “Leo and Burt from the stockroom,” who’ve come to take measurements for the carpets that will cover the building’s entrance come winter.

“To me it’s very important that my colleagues and everyone at McGill is always in a good mood,” said Recine, who also serves on the new Campus Community Leadership organizing committee. “Because life is short, and if you’re going to be spending almost 40 hours doing something, it’s better if you are happy doing it. If you can be happy at work, then you’ve got it made. Myself, I really like to put a smile on people’s faces, whether they be students or administrators. If I can solve a problem that makes somebody happy, then my job is done. And that’s why I say it’s best the job you can have.”

Enrico Recine’s six-word opus was recently chosen by the people at DAR and the Campus Community Leadership Committee as one of the best recent entries.

Name: Enrico Recine.

Most rewarding part of the job: Seeing someone’s smile after you’ve helped them out.

Six-word story: Students are my number one priority

Genesis of the story: I’m the parent of a McGill student (his son Adam is studying Psychology), so I can identify with the parents of all these kids. I consider myself as something of a guardian for the students. I would like to assure their families back home that their child is in good hands throughout their studies here at McGill. Without the students there is no McGill. So I’m here for them.

To submit a six-word story, go to www.sixwords.mcgill.ca