Safety employee serves K-State for 42 years


Larry Zentz remembers a different K-State. It was a K-State whose dairy barn sat where Throckmorton Hall now exists and whose hospital was in Dykstra Hall. It was a K-State whose practice football field sat in the current location of Rathbone and Durland halls. But as Zentz will tell you, the campus might be larger and farther north, but its citizenry isn’t much different since he started working in 1966. “Campus hasn’t changed a lot as far as the people,” Zentz said. “Most people are real nice to work with. I enjoy my work, and with the people I work with it makes it easier to stay longer.” Zentz is one of the longest-serving classified employees at K-State. Classified employees include those in office and clerical, technical and professional, and service and maintenance positions. Zentz first came to K?State after serving in the Marine Corps. His father worked at K-State, so Zentz started work with the Division of Facilities with the construction crew. Two years later, he would start a job working with fire extinguishers that would occupy him for the next 40 years. Zentz is a fire prevention inspector. He tests and documents different fire safety equipment like fire extinguishers and emergency lights in campus buildings. A clutter of red fire extinguishers line the walls of his office waiting to be pressure tested. The fire extinguishers that can be found throughout the campus buildings aren’t the same from when Zentz began working with fire safety inspection in 1968. Then the campus used foam and soda acid extinguishers that were large brass cylinders. After K-State no longer used them, Zentz made the last two into lamp-shades that now sit on his desk. One could learn much about Zentz looking at the rest of his desk. Several fire certifications line his shelves along with a picture with Gov. Kathleen Sebelius from a ceremony where Zentz was recognized for his more than 40 years of state employment. Besides the subtle pinnings around his office space, a large display surrounding parts of the room illustrates his long-time hobby. Models of German, American and Japanese fronts from World War II are laid out across countertops; he has added careful paintings and details on the models since his early days at K-State. Zentz said he started the display by coming to work 30 minutes early to work on the ongoing project and continuing the hobby on his lunch break. Some of the pieces in the collection of models have 500 to 600 pieces of assembly, he said. “Now that’s dedication,” said Paul Wilson Jr., an environmental technician who shares the office with Zentz. During his time at K-State, Zentz was part of the campus fire department that used to exist. He also was a part of the security in Bramlage Coliseum when Ronald Reagan gave a Landon Lecture. “I can remember the police on the roof tops around here,” Zentz said. “It was interesting meeting the secret service guys and to be a part of that action.” Zentz said he plans to continue working at K-State at least until he can say he has been here for 45 years. “And as long as I don’t mind getting up in the morning and going to work, I’ll be here,” he said. Wilson Jr. said he considers his relationship with Zentz to be symbiotic because they offer knowledge to one another through their areas of specialty. “If and when he decides to retire, it will be a great loss,” he said. “It will be up to myself and others in the department to pick up the slack.”