In the early hours of the morning, when the science complex is nearly empty, the sound of whistling and the outlines of a white coat in the distance can only mean one thing: Dave Carey and his warm aura are approaching. The next thing you’ll hear is a jolly “Hi, there.”
Carey, the college’s former chemical hygiene officer who was a long-time friendly face in the science buildings, retired this summer. He took care of all the chemical-related jobs – ordering, storing and disposing of them – as well as the safety equipment.
Alum Jami Robbins ‘18, who spent a lot of time working with Carey during their time as a student at Albion, has replaced him.
Carey’s departure is bittersweet for many science majors, as his role was essential for their labwork as well as research. Carey was known to go above and beyond his role in connecting with students.
Zerick Dill (‘20), a Biology graduate and FURSCA alum, built many memories with Carey while a student at Albion.
“One of my first times getting in trouble in undergrad was by Dave,” Dill said with a laugh, recounting a time he left unlabeled flasks in the fume hood.
“He was the kindest person ever, but when you didn’t follow the rules, he made sure that you knew you were wrong,” Dill said.
Dill, who is currently working on a Pharm.D. at the University of Michigan and researches in the chemistry field, has high praise for Carey.
“Before [Carey] came to Albion College, he actually worked in the chemical industry for a while, so I think Dave’s relationship with me was more of an industry type of relationship, rather than an academia relationship,” said Dill. “I really valued that about Dave and the stuff he would talk to me about. A lot of it applied to the real world and I don’t think he got enough credit for that.”
Carey was also a member of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), overseeing animal care in research facilities, which is a rare position for staff members, said Dr. Kevin Metz, Professor of Chemistry. While Carey’s talents will be missed, having a recent grad take up the position makes his big shoes – or rather his big lab coat – easier to fill.
Robbins, who was in contact with Carey during summer research through Albion’s FURSCA program, draws some inspiration from his work ethic.
“When I was here, Dave was always running around in the background and I kind of got the gist of what he did,” Robbins said. “I’ve always thought I would like to do something like that.”
The timing of Carey’s retirement and the position opening was serendipitous for Robbins.
When the opportunity came up, “it was kind of perfect,” said Robbins.
“The day that I decided I was going to start looking for new jobs was actually the day that this position was posted,” Robbins said. “A member of the Albion community who I’m friends with sent me the link to the job listing and I knew immediately that I wanted to apply.”
As someone who worked at Albion for nearly two decades, Carey’s retirement meant that there would be a lot of change in the department. Metz, who has worked alongside Carey for 15 years, described his presence as institutional, citing his reliability and availability, but he is confident that Robbins will step up to the role.
“He was always here, he was always present, he was always helping people. It was scary to think about having to replace Dave because of the fact that he was always here and always helping people,” Metz said. “I think Jami has the ability to do everything that Dave was doing so that is exciting.”
Robbins, a resident of Battle Creek, is excited about this opportunity to return to Albion.
“I’ve always liked Albion’s campus and it’s always kinda felt like home,” said Robbins. “It feels nice coming back.”