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Eddie Elgonitis - Wilkes' "Mailroom Marvel"

Eddie Elgonitis Delivers Spunky Attitude During 40-Year Career
By Bill Schneider MA '14

“Where is he?” asks Mark Mullen, a 20-year veteran of FedEx, whose route includes a daily stop on the Wilkes campus. He peers through the loading area to find the 76-year-old part-time employee talking to a female MBA student at the mailroom counter. “There’s my buddy,” Mullen says.

“You’re late,” says Eddie Elgonitis. It’s a two-man scene that plays out nearly every morning on the second floor of the Henry Student Center.

Although he has only worked in the mailroom since 2004, Elgonitis has been on campus for nearly 40 years. Prior to being hired in 1996 as a custodian, Eddie worked for many years as an employee of ABM, a private company that Wilkes contracted for custodial services.

“Robert Capin had just been named the third president of Wilkes,” he recalls about his early days. He reflected on his tenure, which has outlasted three other presidents -- Francis Michelini, Christopher Briseth and Tim Gilmour. He has a special affinity for Wilkes’ current leader. “President Leahy is someone I really admire,” he says. “Pat is down-to-earth.”

Their bond goes far beyond the mailroom. Last April, having undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatments for lymphoma, Elgonitis participated in the seventh annual Relay for Life. The event helps increase awareness about cancer and raises money for the American Cancer Society. Elgonitis joined the relay in a wheelchair navigated along the Fenner Quadrangle by the president. “Having Pat Leahy push my wheelchair was one of the greatest thrills in my life,” he says.
 
Elgonitis and his wife, Paula, reside in Wilkes-Barre, They are married for 54 years and have four children, three of whom still live in the city. Although his wife is battling Parkinson’s disease, he vows not to send her to a nursing home. “It would break my heart,” he says.

What keeps him going? “A good attitude,” he says. He loves people and sports, religiously following football, basketball and baseball every season. He is a fixture at Wilkes’ home basketball games, always sitting in the same place. “I sit in the corner, by the cheerleaders. I like to aggravate them,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. “We have fun.”

“He would hide our pom-poms, and then mention to one of us there was mail waiting for us,” says former cheerleader Lauren Pluskey ’06 MBA’10 and director of annual giving. She is taken by his loyalty. “Eddie never misses a game,” she says.

"Even when we're losing, and the student section dwindles, you can always count on Eddie to be at the games," says senior Craig Thomas of Woodbridge, N.J., who has been a guard on the men's basketball team for the last four years.

Jimmy Yeninas works with Elgonitis in the mailroom. “Eddie is one of the most dependable people,” he says. “You can always count on him. Eddie is always there for us.”

“What is most remarkable is Eddie’s relationship with the students,” says Yeninas. “They just love him.”

Photo caption: President Patrick F. Leahy and Eddie Elgonitis at Wilkes University’s Seventh Annual Relay For Life held on April 20-21, 2013 on the Fenner Quadrangle. Photo credit: Christine Lee.

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