WHEN THE University of Alabama overpowered the University of Texas last month to win college football's National Championship, Bill May was one of many cheering fans in Tuscaloosa. But for May, UA's director of Printing Services, the victory was made even sweeter because of a wager he had made with another in-plant manager.
Thanks to the Crimson Tide's triumph on the field, Richard Beto, director of document services at rival school UT-Austin, now has to hang a large 'Bama poster on his office door for a month, enduring jeers from Longhorn fans all the while.
"He's supposed to send me photographic evidence of him hanging it," laughs May. (IPG can confirm that the poster has been hung. Beto's fate, however, remains unknown.)
After 23 years at UA's in-plant, May is a certified Tide fan, though his roots stretch back to Mississippi. Born into a printing family in Charleston, Miss., May could run a press almost before he could tie his shoes. His father printed The Mississippi Sun newspaper.
"I grew up working in the shop with him," May recalls. "When I was 12 years old...I was responsible for printing the church bulletins on a Heidelberg windmill."
This set him up with the skills that would carry him through life. In 1979 he found himself working full time in the print shop at Mississippi State University while taking business classes. After four years there, and a one-year stint teaching graphic arts at a junior college, May got married and moved to Tuscaloosa.
For three years he worked in the private sector, but that taste of university life he had gotten at MSU made him long to return to higher-ed. So he applied for a print supervisor position at UA and was hired in 1987.
Seven years later, he was promoted to manager, a title that was eventually changed to director. In the ensuing years May has transformed what was a 20-employee, $850,000 operation when he arrived, into a 30-employee, $4.4 million provider of high-quality four-color printing.
"When I came here, it was primarily a quick copy type shop," May reflects. "There wasn't any high-quality printing being done."
In 1990, the in-plant added the first of two Omni Adast two-color presses and started doing four-color work. Demand increased, so the shop installed a 29˝ four-color Sakurai press in 2002. Just four years later, May added another one, a 26˝ Sakurai 466SIP two-over-two convertible perfector. The presses allow the in-plant to play a crucial role in helping the university increase its enrollment: "We're constantly printing recruiting materials," May says.
Still, despite the shop's success with four-color, May is most proud of some of his other initiatives that received university-wide buy-in. For example, he established a cost recovery system for student computer lab printing to eliminate waste and save money. Using Pharos Uniprint software, the in-plant now manages 96 printers in 48 computer labs, plus 25 in other public locations.
"Last year we returned in excess of $170,000 to departments through this program," May proclaims.
He also successfully introduced copier fleet management to a campus that had previously been purchasing copiers from eight different vendors. May created the RFP, and the contract for about 600 machines was awarded to Océ Imagistics. May's copier program is saving UA about $300,000 a year, he says. The program was honored as one of the best in the country by the Southern Association of College and University Business Officers.
What's more, May shrewdly negotiated his in-plant's production equipment into the contract. So now the shop pays only a click charge for its Océ 6150 monochrome printer and its Konica Minolta 650 color unit.
In addition to printing, May oversees mail processing, on-campus paper sales, sign making and academic publishing, in collaboration with the book store. May is proud of how efficiently his in-plant runs. He's quick to credit his employees for this: "I'm very proud of the professionalism and the expertise of our staff," he lauds.
Though outside of work, May enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time with his teenage daughter, it's been his professional life at the University of Alabama that has brought him the greatest feeling of accomplishment.
"I don't have any regrets," he proclaims. "I feel like I've been extremely blessed to have been able to spend my career at one of America's great universities." IPG