Drafted by the Boston Red Sox, Wes Allen Brooks had one dream: to pitch in the major leagues. So when the team released him from its AA club, Brooks was at a loss.
“There was no Plan B,” Brooks said. “I never thought about that.”
Not long after, Brooks met Peggy Smith, senior manager of mail services at Washington University in St. Louis. She offered him a position as a campus mail courier. Seventeen years later, Brooks considers the job one of the great blessings of his life.
“It was hard to transition from baseball, but what eased it was the people here on campus,” Brooks said. “Now Washington University is home to me.”
On May 21, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton presented Brooks the Gloria W. White Distinguished Service Award at the annual Staff Day celebration at the Athletic Complex. The award was established in 1998 and celebrates the legacy of Gloria White, a campus leader for some 35 years until her death in 2003. The award recognizes a nonacademic staff member for exceptional effort that has bettered the university.
Brooks was nominated by Smith, along with Pam Lokken, vice chancellor for government and community relations, and Alan Kuebler, associate vice chancellor for resource management. They praised Brooks for his work ethic, big heart and ability to build bridges across campus.
Wrighton shared Kuebler’s comments with the large crowd.
“He brings his team-first mentality to work with him,” Wrighton read. “He was well-schooled when he played for the Boston Red Sox organization. He now plays the role of savvy veteran who looks out for his teammates in mail services. If someone needs a hand, Wes provides it. If someone needs to be inspired, Wes is the inspiration. If you are off your game, Wes helps you find your way. If someone needs a jolt, he can do that, too. Good teams need leaders like Wes Brooks.”
Wrighton estimated that Brooks has traveled 150,000 miles among the university’s four campuses, has handled some 15 million pieces of mail, paychecks, packages and pouches and has memorized the names of countless Washington University employees.
To Brooks, such service is more than a professional courtesy.
“When I think of being a mailman, I think of being a public servant for people,” Brooks said. “If we talk and engage in a conversation, even if it’s just for five minutes, it really means a lot to me. And because of that, I give that back.”