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Updated 11:00 AM March 8, 2004



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All signs point to Hill

Many people take for granted the room numbers on classrooms, sidewalk closed signs, and restroom and elevator placards around campus. Not Kevin John. He notices every sign on campus, because he works on many of them.
(Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)

"People see our work every day and don't realize it," says John, sign painter for construction services. "They think it just comes with the building."

In his 25-year career at U-M, John restored a totem pole at the Matthaei property, worked on the Henry Ford Estate and did the decal work for U-M's first two solar cars. Most recently, he was one of the few U-M employees to work on the restoration of Hill Auditorium.

John's work can be found virtually everywhere in the auditorium. The wooden signs hanging from the windows of the box office, the hand-painted directions to the upper levels near the two staircases in the lobby, even the numbers on the new seats—all are results of John's work.

"This project has been pretty gratifying for me because there was such a variety of work to be done," he says.

It also was stressful at times, John says, noting that he had just two weeks to complete the installation of the signage. "It was the first time in 25 years I worked over the holidays."

Although he still is finishing some areas closed to the public, such as the basement and backstage, John was able to complete the necessary projects in time for the Jan. 8 reopening of the auditorium.
"Knowing thousands of people will see your work is gratifying."—Kevin John

"I have always taken pride in what I do, and I try to do it the right way instead of the easy way," he says.

This led to some changes in the plans for the lettering, height, location, colors and style of many of the signs and markers.

"The architects asked me for my input, and we went with that," John says. "They were very receptive to what I had to say."

Despite the stress and hard work, John is proud of the job he has done at Hill.

"Even though there was a lot of pressure put on us, getting it done and knowing thousands of people will see your work is gratifying," he says.

With his job at Hill 95 percent done, John now is turning to the backlog of work that piled up during his stint at the auditorium, and gearing up for his next challenge.

"We are redoing all the building identification signs, which will be a big, 3-year project," he says.

Outside of work John enjoys golfing and is a U-M hockey season ticket holder. He also owns his own sign business and does construction for the haunted barn at Wiard's Orchard in Ypsilanti.

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