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Employee Spotlight – Chad Thome
 
How does a fine arts student with a knack for sculpture end up as the archivist for the University of Houston?

For Chad Thome, the answer is simple.

The Friendswood High School graduate began his career path in 1997 when he landed a job working at the M.D. Anderson Library on the UH campus. After graduating from UH with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 2001, he stayed at the library working in various roles, including running the computer lab and building up plenty of experience in information technology.

So when the opportunity arose five years ago to become the archivist for Facilities Planning and Construction, it just seemed like a logical step to take.

“Basically, I preserve, maintain and provide access to records,” he said. “That could be paper records or electronic records.”

And there are plenty of records – both old and new – to keep him busy in his office on the second floor of the General Services Building.

Whether it is construction drawings, contracts, invoices or even real estate documents, the University’s ever-growing digital database relies on Thome to keep it orderly, updated and easily searchable for anyone who needs to access it.

“Everyone in Plant Operations has access to this database. So the plumbing shop, the electrical shop, H-VAC, utility services can all come in here and do a search for whatever problem they have and access the drawing,” Thome said.

The campus has various construction projects under way, and they all are generating a good deal of paperwork, whether it be from the University, the contractors or the vendors.

“At the end of the project, I will sort through all that paperwork,” he said. “According to state law, we have to maintain certain records for a certain amount of time, so I will identify what type of record it is and how long we have to keep it.”

But digital archiving is a relatively new thing. For most of UH’s history, records were kept in file cabinets, folders and boxes. As Thome learned quickly from looking through them, not everything through the years was labeled and organized as well as it should be.

“The warehouse, when I was given that, it had basically been unattended for about 12 or 15 years, and people were throwing boxes up there for a stretch of about 25 years,” Thome said. “They were labeled OK, but what I realized is that the documents started in the late ’60s and went through the ’80s. You could tell when the University had someone in the position who did the job well, but there were also stretches when it appears there may not have been someone working in it.”

Although his job keeps him busy, he has still found the time to pursue a master’s degree in library science from the University of North Texas, which he will complete this semester.

What about the creative side of his personality that led him to pursue a fine arts degree in the first place? Well, that is still alive and well. Much of his work can be viewed on his website, http://www.willsculptforfood.com.

One of the projects he has done is a realistic-looking coated Styrofoam tree that sits in the middle of Abe’s Cajun Market, a restaurant in the Clear Lake area.

In 2001, he participated in the Houston Cow Parade, which benefited Texas Children’s Hospital, by creating a fiberglass and wood statue known as “Miss Moo America” – a cow dressed up as the Statue of Liberty.

One of his most recent endeavors has been building wooden kayaks and canoes out of red cedar.

For Thome, who is a distant cousin to Major League Baseball player Jim Thome, the career path that life has chosen for him has turned out for the better, even if it may not have been what he envisioned when he first walked onto the UH campus as a freshman.

He knows that his job will always be an important one, and that he can never archive too much information.

“I try to catalog as much as possible so that no matter what little piece of information you know, it’s searchable in the digital database and you can locate it,” he said.