Serving People Well is Key to this Computer Man's Work Happiness

Brett Hendricks standing outside the humanities building.
Brett Hendricks, computer labs manager

May 07, 2024
Gonzaga University Communications | Spirit Newsletter

We certainly can’t judge anyone by their looks, but in Brett Hendricks you might see a free- wheeling, positive-spirited soul who might not like bureaucracy but sure likes the feeling he gets when helping people with their needs.

The floppy-haired, highly educated computer labs manager for the College of Arts and Sciences with 30 years under his belt here is one of the University’s most-sought friendly faces.

After he packed his bags and a U-Haul trailer to move from Chicago to Spokane in 1994 to pursue a Master’s of Divinity at Gonzaga, he knew he’d need to find a way to pay for this fourth degree (bachelor’s degrees in computer science and theater at Drew University in New Jersey, and a master’s in philosophy from Loyola-Chicago). He approached Peter Hanlon in ITS and said, “I know something about computers. Need any help?”

He was hired. At first, he was unhappy. His job was to fix computer problems and it was “people” who kept “messing up the computers,” he reasoned.

Then Hanlon explained to Hendricks, “Your job is to take care of people, and you do that by taking care of their computers. “Since I’ve flipped that around, my work has been grand.”

For the past 27 of his 30 years he has gotten to know many people in every office in the College. He loves making their lives better with a tweak here or a reboot there.

“Sometimes it is as easy as telling people where the on/off button is.”

“When I first got here, I worked on Fr. (Bernard) Coughlin’s computer in the president’s office. Someone had put an arrow on the switch and a tag that said ON/OFF,” Hendricks recalls. Giving Fr. Coughlin credit for this mystery, “On/Off buttons are in various places on different computers.”

He tries to figure out the most direct steps to solve problems. And he’s good at it.

“It’s like solving a puzzle,” he says. “There’s a lot of little mysteries, figuring out what the computer is trying to do and why things don’t work.”

“Soon after I started here, we acquired our first server. It had a three-gigabyte hard drive and we thought that would last a very long time,” Hendricks remembers. “One day I came in to work and all our storage was gone. Turns out a computer science student had a program that went to infinity of several billion copies of the letter H.

“When I started working in the College, we had 70 computers in four spaces and two servers. Now we have 500 computers in 70-plus spaces and seven or eight servers. Automation and the tools with which to work on computers have drastically improved and made my job much easier and more efficient. No more floppy disks.”

Hendricks Space

Hendricks has occupied three office spaces in 30 years, the first 17 years in Herak, then two years in “the best office at the University, (History Professor Emerita) Betsy Downey’s old office on the third floor of College Hall behind the University Chapel. My most prized possession is her drab colored wooden file. Inside one drawer is a notification from base security at Hanford with the names of two security officers,” says Hendricks. “I posted a picture of it and someone tracked down the obit for one of the officers detailing her work at Hanford during and after the war.”

Hendricks’ current office below the east stairway to the “Garden Level” of College Hall has been his home for the last eight years.

“When I arrived here there was a doorway between my office and a conference room next door. I had that doorway removed and a wall inserted there to cover the hole. I placed a time capsule in that wall with various memorabilia from my time here,” Hendricks says.

Family Tie

The thing that kept Hendricks here after earning his second master’s degree was a young lady named Molly.

“I applied for the job in the College mostly because I wanted to see where this relationship with her would go,” says Hendricks about the new psychology professor. He and Molly Kretchmar-Hendricks were married in 2000 and have two children, Emma and Ian.

Hendricks is thankful he has a reason to know people around the university and feels connected. “People here make this a special place,” he says. “And the fact that we are guided by a mission for educating people in a way that they grow into who they really are, into people who can make the world a just place, is evidence of our good work.”

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