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IU employee Gary Chambers has helped shape Bloomington campus during 50-year tenure

June 18, 2015

As a lifelong resident of Bloomington and 50-year employee for the University Architect’s office, Gary Chambers has literally been a part of shaping the IU campus and community.

Chambers, director of construction management for the Bloomington campus, fell in love with architecture during his high school years. His mother inspired him to pursue this field because she wanted her son to be an architect. As a student at Bloomington High School, he took a few architecture classes, further piquing his interest in the subject.

gary chambers

Through his work with the University Architect's Office, Gary Chambers has been involved in the remodeling of nearly every single building on the Bloomington campus. | PHOTO BY JAMES BROSHER, IU COMMUNICATIONS

After his high school graduation, he began work as a draftsman. His first day of work at the Physical Plant was April 1, 1965. Chambers still remembers his first day and recalls being filled with excitement. His dad was a custodian at RPS and he was proud to also be employed by the university.

While he was a draftsman, Chambers used a Leroy lettering system, a mechanical writing method which allowed him to draw proportionally accurate pictures of campus buildings. He made 16-inch drawings of all of the Bloomington and the regional campuses, documents that helped officials plan departmental moves.

After five years as a draftsman, Chambers moved from the Physical Plant into the University Architect’s Office under the Office of the Vice President for Capital Planning and Facilities. Chambers would move departments several more times, but found his place in the Construction Management Division, which oversees and delivers university buildings and projects in a cost-effective and timely fashion.

In that role, Chambers has been involved in the remodeling of nearly every single building on the Bloomington campus. He identified being part of projects in: Jordan Hall, the Chemistry Building, the IMU, Lindley Hall, all of the historic Old Crescent section of campus and more.

“If the building was built before the last 10 years, I was probably involved,” he said.

Chambers’ goal is to provide a beautiful campus for staff and students, in part because two of his granddaughters attend IU Bloomington. He likes to keep them in mind when remodeling dorm rooms and food courts.

His work expands beyond the Bloomington campus, however. Chambers has also headed numerous projects at each of IU’s regional campus. One of his favorites focused on constructing Adirondack-style dorms on the IU Southeast campus.

One of Chambers’ clearest work memories was when the Bloomington campus experienced an energy crisis and could not get coal for the Central Heating Plant. He recalled being asked to work from home for a few days to help save electricity.

Throughout much of his IU career, Chambers held a dual role. He was a member of the U.S. Army Reserves for 28 years, achieving a rank of command sergeant major. 

Chambers described his colleagues in the Architect’s Office and Physical Plant as his second family, and they in turn admire his positive demeanor and hard-working attitude.

“I have never seen him upset. He’s unflappable," said John Lewis, associate vice president for capital planning and facilities. "You could call him at 4:30 in the afternoon and tell him there was an emergency and Gary would say, 'All right, let me see what I can do.'"

Chambers has no immediate plans to retire because he loves his work too much.

"You’ll know when it’s time to retire, that’s coming up next for me," he said. "I’m taking it one day at a time and am still having fun."

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