Terrible news out of Duke University Medical Center this week with the death of 63-year-old master steamfitter, Rayford Cofer, in a steampipe explosion under one of the university’s largest research buildings. Not just any man, but one of the best at what his did:
Cofer, a Franklinton resident who began working with Duke’s Facilities Management Department in 2001, was known by his co-workers as one of the “go-to guys” who overcame obstacles on difficult assignments. He was twice honored with one of Duke’s top employee awards for meritorious service. (See, “A Generous Man and A Master Craftsman.”)
While the incident is still under investigation, we wish to draw attention to the unsung heroes like Mr Cofer whose efforts make all of our research possible.
If you’ve never been under your research building or up on the roof, you likely have no idea how complicated the infrastructure is that supports your work. Although I did a little pipefitting and conduit work as an undergrad for work-study, putting me in front of a huge HVAC system is like putting me in front of a 900 MHz NMR. The folks who keep your buildings running smoothly may not have advanced degrees but they can do things neither you or I can, and they do it with the same creativity, work ethic, and determination that we all try to instill in our sci/med trainees.
So if you have a chance today and see one of your blue-shirted colleagues busting their butts around your campus, offer a handshake and a thank-you for making your life a little easier. Regardless of whether you see their efforts or not, you would not be able to progress in your work without them.
And we all extend our deepest condolences to the family of Mr Rayford Cofer.