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In honor of Emory’s Service Awards, meet two staff members demonstrating 40 years of impact
craig and victor

Craig Watson (left) and Victor Jackson know and admire each other. Watson is retiring after 45 years of leadership with the Emory Police Department, and Victor Jackson marks 40 years of helping to make the university’s research buildings second to none.

Long, productive staff careers are a feature of Emory’s culture. They speak not only to significant individual contributions but, equally, to all that these staff members have observed about the university’s growth through the years.

Craig Watson and Victor Jackson know and admire each other. Watson is retiring after 45 years of leadership with the Emory Police Department, and Victor Jackson marks 40 years of helping to make the university’s research buildings second to none. Alongside them are 175 other employees with similar stories of committed service honored at the Nov. 7 Service Awards Luncheon held at the Emory Conference Center.  

Craig Watson’s 45-year legacy of helping keep us safe

Credit an elective in criminal justice, which Craig Watson took at what was then DeKalb Community College, with depriving the world of a budding journalist.

Then consider what Emory got instead: an uncommonly dedicated law-enforcement officer who will retire as director of Clery Act Compliance in mid-December after 45 years of working to keep the Emory community safe. 

Though he began his studies with an eye toward journalism, “I got hooked on a career in law enforcement through that course,” says Watson. And from the start, he has viewed his calling as being to service writ large. As he notes, “Law enforcement is a small part of what I came on to do at Emory. There is so much more to providing service than writing tickets and putting people in jail.”

After earning his associate’s degree, Watson transferred to Valdosta State to complete his bachelor’s degree. For a required internship, he convinced the new campus police chief to let him learn university policing. As he was poised to graduate, he applied to Emory and Georgia Tech, describing the interview process at Emory as “normal” and the experience at Tech as being one of rapid-fire “What would you do if?” questions. 

He acquitted himself well in both interviews and got offers from each institution. Happily, Emory came forward first, and Watson started in June 1978, two weeks after his graduation. Even though the Tech offer was not far behind, “Emory already felt like home,” according to Watson. “Of course,” he adds, laughing, “I had no clue then that it would be home for 45 years.” 

From young guy on the beat to seasoned professional

Starting as what is known as a “line officer,” Watson patrolled the campus and answered calls for service. As much as he was there to take care of others, he felt that same spirit come back to him.

“The only dining option then was the cafeteria in Cox Hall,” Watson recalls. “I would often be the only officer on duty on the evening shift, and if I received an emergency call, I would leave my food on the table and run out the door. The staff working on the food line would see me leave and keep my dinner warm until I made it back. That was simply part of the culture.”

In Watson’s first year, the sitting U.S. president, Jimmy Carter, came for the groundbreaking at Cannon Chapel. As Watson guarded a stairwell in Cox Hall, Carter appeared and paused to shake Watson’s hand and speak with him.

Later on, when Carter had become University Distinguished Professor at Emory and Watson had been promoted to investigator, he would have numerous encounters with the former president.

“Carter liked to walk,” Watson observes. “My job was to make sure that he and his Secret Service detail got where they were going. There was a lot of work to do before they arrived and of course I would stay with them once they were here.”

Watson had the chance to derive tricks of the trade from the Secret Service agents and learn from Carter himself, given that he would be part of the security at classroom lectures, the annual Carter Town Hall and other events — including the 1984 conference “Avoiding Nuclear War” that Carter hosted.

Carter also played tennis on the rooftop courts at the WoodPEC. “None of these encounters are what your typical street police officer gets to experience. That just speaks to the level that Emory had attained, especially in the aftermath of the Woodruff gift in 1979,” says Watson. 

The rise to chief

Like other staff of that era, Watson watched with pride the growth in research along with the increased caliber of the faculty and curriculum — to say nothing of the many buildings rising out of the ground. 

Promotions came regularly. In the mid-1980s, he became a shift sergeant, supervising officers who were working 10-hour day or night shifts. “This role,” Watson notes, “gave me the opportunity to see the different worlds of Emory — what goes on at night versus the daytime.”

Back then, no mechanics worked overnight, so Watson thought nothing of having tools at the ready and doing whatever was required, including tending to leaky toilets that might be interfering with student slumber. 

Rising to investigator and then lieutenant allowed Watson “to see a wider range of the law-enforcement process.” By the late 1980s, he was serving as captain of the Emory Police Department (EPD), managing the entire uniform services division.

In 1995, Watson became chief and, as he began that role, he was asked to expand police services to the Oxford campus, which until that time had a completely separate security department. Fire safety and what is now known as the Emory Emergency Medical Service unit, or first responders, operated by students, were also under him. 

Family guy

In 1982, Watson married his sweetheart and Emory nursing school alumna, Cheryl, who would work for 20 years at Emory University Hospital. To say that the couple was busy during the early days of their union is an understatement.

She worked 12-hour shifts Saturday and Sunday. Watson, in addition to the demands of his Emory job, was pursuing a master’s in criminal justice management at Georgia State University. And, after earning his degree, he got a call from the department chair asking him to teach. 

“I taught a senior-level undergraduate class, Principles of Criminal Investigations, and had a blast doing it. I learned as much from the students as I ever taught them. But eventually I reached a point where my children were asking to see an ID when I came home,” Watson says.

Watson has two sons — one is a police officer with the city of Decatur; the other son works at Honey Baked Ham. “When my older son graduated from the police academy, they invited me to come in uniform and present him with his certificate,” he says. 

Cheryl passed away in 2009 after a long battle with cancer. About four years later, Watson received an invitation to coffee from an Emory staffer with whom he crossed paths repeatedly over the years — Ann Borden, now retired, the former director of Emory Photo/Video. Sparks flew, and in 2017 Watson proposed to Borden in front of a waterfall in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. 

As a pair, they are incredibly beloved at Emory and hitting their stride together in all sorts of ways: travel, including an upcoming trip to Mount Rushmore; deep-sea fishing — “we go at night,” says Watson, “to avoid the hot sun and enjoy the bright-green sea turtles attracted to the lights on the boat.”

And then there is just the quiet contentment of life in Decatur, close to Watson’s sons and in the house he has owned for some 40 years, which is only about a mile from his childhood home. 

The one activity that Ann has not joined is golf. Watson is an avid golfer but says, “Don’t confuse that with being a good golfer.” For that pursuit, he slips away with his sons.

To his last day, true to his promise of service 

Even in the past few years, after all he has achieved, there were still bumps up the ladder: Watson was named associate vice president of public safety. 

One major recent initiative has been securing funding for a full-time position associated with Clery Act compliance. Each year, in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security and Crime Statistics Act, Emory publishes an Annual Security and Annual Fire Safety Report. The report contains information regarding safety- and security-related policies and crime statistics for Emory’s 10 campuses (the hospitals are campuses, for Clery reporting purposes) during the past three years.

Watson went to his supervisor at the time and proposed the following, knowing that his retirement was near: “Clery has been around since 1990. It continues to expand in terms of the things you have to do for compliance. Rather than have the new position report to me, I suggested moving into it myself. I would not have been comfortable leaving something as important as this undone,” he says. 

With his last day at Emory scheduled just weeks from now, Watson brims with gratitude, noting: “The university has allowed me to have so many opportunities to do different things and experience different things.” Given that it managed to feel like home in his first two weeks, he is not sure how to summarize the emotion of leaving after 45 years.

It may be akin to leaving his dinner while answering calls as a young line officer and knowing that when he returned, still hungry, there was his food, warmed by caring colleagues. 

“We are all here to help and support each other,” says Watson, whose own record in that regard has few equals.

Victor Jackson’s 40-year record of keeping Emory’s research buildings in top condition

Victor Jackson brings new meaning to “being in the zone.”

Jackson, a facilities manager in Campus Services and a 40-year employee, sees the Atlanta campus in terms of the zones into which it is divided. Having risen through the ranks to be in charge of Zones B, D and E, which house some of Emory’s most sophisticated research buildings, Jackson is especially partial to Zone D, where his own managerial career started.

Zone D contains HSRB II and the R. Randall Rollins Building, places of fascination for someone such as Jackson, who keenly appreciates the advanced technology that he and his teams are integral to maintaining. 

“In my time at Emory, I have enjoyed watching the technology progress and learning about it,” he notes, proud that the expertise of his staff helps keep university researchers on a path to groundbreaking discoveries. “This,” says Jackson, “is the exciting part for me.”

“Zone D is my pride and joy; it feels like home,” he says. But he plays no favorites where customers are concerned, observing, “I love them all.” Jackson vowed, from the start of his days in leadership, that he would do two things well: “I was determined to set a standard for how to treat staff and grow their skills as well as provide A-1 service to our customers,” he says.

Today, supervising a staff of about 40, he moves among the three zones every day, conducting building inspections and meeting with customers to address their issues. “It is important that I show my face, let them know that I am here for them,” he says.

A recent large project involving Jackson and his team was the conversion of some of the older labs in the O. Wayne Rollins Building to wet labs, akin to what is found in a cutting-edge facility such as HSRB II. 

With Jackson’s level of responsibility comes the possibility of a ringing phone no matter the day or time. “It is a 24/7 commitment for any zone supervisor,” he acknowledges. “As we all know, things go bump in the night.”

During COVID, Jackson had to manage providing maintenance in the research buildings for a year with a skeleton crew. “We followed all safety precautions to try to keep everyone well,” he says.

A man with a plan

When Jackson, an Atlanta native, first came on board at Emory, his tenure began with a six-year stint in Staging, one aspect of which is the herculean responsibility of setting up the Quad each year for Commencement.

After then working seven years at the steam plant, he realized the first major goal he had set for himself: to become a building mechanic. The next step was to senior mechanic and, from there, Jackson wanted to explore a supervisory role.

“Having worked alongside my peers until that moment, the transition wasn’t the easiest,” Jackson admits, noting: “I also, for the first time, was managing a budget. The administrative side of it was completely new to me.”

He would prove skillful at mentoring people and ensuring their good work is recognized; among a number of examples, he points to the pleasure he took in promoting a former building mechanic to his current role as a zone supervisor.

Jackson admires the investment Emory makes in its people. “The university has built in training for my staff, which gives everyone a leg up to seek their next level. I have the ability to send people out for training or bring in contractors to do so. In this way, staff are being paid to learn new skills and readied for higher levels of responsibility,” he says.

One big family

Jackson strives for what he calls a “family feeling” among the staff he manages. For him, family has a literal component. At one time, he was bumping into family members all across campus, each of whom served Emory with distinction. 

When Jackson joined Emory, his sister, Cecil King, was a staffer. Now retired after an impressive  35-year career, King started in Human Resources, became director of Staging, and then director of Building and Residential Services. During Jackson’s time in Staging, they overlapped. 

And though Jackson has been inspired by a number of managers, including former Vice President of Campus Services Robert Hascall, King was his greatest influence. 

Another sister, Verdelle, worked at Emory University Hospital as a nursing assistant. His brother, Sam Brown, was director of Building and Residential Services. When he passed away in 1995, the Sam Brown Award was named for him.

Jackson’s mother, Erma, was just down the street, working as a cook for five years at the American Cancer Society when it was located on Clifton Road.

Even now, Jackson has a car-pooling buddy who lives with him: his wife, Bridgette Jackson, who works as a customer-service representative in Campus Services.

Perhaps because of the support Jackson has felt from his own family, he goes out of his way to bring the best aspects of “family” into a work context. “I let my staff know that motivation is key. Love what you do, do it well and Emory will reward you. It is important to me to contribute to a sense of pride and mutual connection in working here.”

More “A” work to do in Zones B, D and E

Even with 40 years under his belt, Jackson still has working years ahead that he welcomes. Having had a role in 70% of the research buildings that have come online here, Jackson will be excited — and well prepared — for the next one.

Meanwhile, asked about the quirky alphabetical system that Emory follows for its zones — there is no Zone A — Jackson laughed. “With so much to tend to in Zones B, D and E, I am not sure I have time to solve that mystery,” he confessed.

  • The annual Service Awards Luncheon was held Tuesday, Nov. 7, at the Emory Conference Center. 
  • At this event, employees who were celebrating 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 years were recognized by President Gregory L. Fenves and other university leaders.
  • In 2023, 177 Emory University staff employees achieved these service milestones. 
  • You can read about some of the staff who are being celebrated.
  • View the full list of employees being celebrated.

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