Walk around campus with Gene Verschelde, and you'll find his fingerprints everywhere.
The large bar in the Conference Center? That's his work. The tables in the training room? He built 'em. The display cabinets along the hallways? Those are his, too.
Verschelde is in his 44th year at SMSU and will retire at the end of June.
He can often be found in his Key Room in the Physical Plant building, where his locksmith skills are an important, albeit unheralded, asset to the university.
He is the only locksmith the campus has known and also works in the carpenter shop.
Verschelde is a Minneota native who lives there today with his wife, Brenda. They raised three children: Dale, Minneota; David, North Mankato; and Glenn, Mankato. They have five grandchildren.
"Keying is the most important part of my job," he said. Rarely a day goes by without having to make a key for this or that, or fix a stubborn lock. During his career, he's re-keyed all of the buildings on campus except for Bellows Academic. "I'm not sure I'll be around long enough for that one."
Sometimes, student hijinks means more work.
"Once we had a rash of locks that were super-glued, mostly in F Hall," he said, shaking his head. "We haven't had to make too many (residence hall) keys this year."
Buildings need to be re-keyed primarily for security reasons. Over time, people come and go and it becomes prudent to change all of the locks, to make sure those who should have keys do, and those who shouldn't, don't.
Verschelde attended Minnesota West in Canby for parts and inventory after graduating from high school. He went to work part time for the U.S. Steel fertilizer plant in Minneota and helped his father farm northwest of Minneota. He took a civil service test and was hired at SMSU (Southwest Minnesota State College back then), where he started in shipping and receiving and worked there for two years, then moved to the grounds crew for two years. He then became the campus locksmith and a general repair worker in the carpenter shop.
"I learned woodworking from Lew Spinner. He was the cabinetmaker and was a good teacher. He was particular," he said. Verschelde has been the lone carpenter shop employee since 1991.
A correspondence course from a Kansas City school taught him about pinning various locks. He's done thousands throughout the years, and a five-gallon plastic bucket sits in the Key Room, half filled with old keys that will be sold later to Becker Iron & Metal.
The campus used to be all Sargent locks. That changed in 1983, when the move was made to simpler Best locks.
"We had to change when we ran out of (key combinations) for Sargent," he said. "They had 4,000. Best has 16,000. Best is easier to work with, too."
Only three buildings were completed when he began his duties in September of 1970.
"Bellows, the PE building and Fine Arts," he said. "The holes were being dug for IL, SM, the Student Center and the pool addition. The three H-series residence halls were about 80 percent complete."
A wood shop at his home will keep him busy in retirement. He also helps a friend farm.
How's he enjoyed his time at SMSU?
"SMSU is a nice place to work. I like what I do. I get to meet and visit with people, and I've always liked that,"?he said.
Sure, he'll miss driving his "cream and rust" 1990 Suburban around campus. But he leaves knowing his work will live on.
"You see your work all over campus. That's nice," he said modestly.