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JJ Harkness

JJ Harkness’s heart for people is just as powerful as his work ethic


John Harkness hasn’t missed a day of work for about a decade. 

Harkness is a tireless, unflappable employee of The Budd Group, which provides custodial and landscape services for Anderson University. But he’s much more than that. In fact, he’s probably the closest thing the University has to a celebrity among AU students, staff faculty and even President Whitaker! 

You probably know him better as JJ.

“He makes a point to know and speak to everyone,” said Associate Director of Marketing Shelli Rutland. Rutland said that Harkness checked on her often during her first summer working in an office alone. “He was one of many people that made me realize that Anderson University is more than a university. It is home.”

President Whitaker often refers to Harkness as a model of hard work, commitment and kindness. “He’s an extraordinary person. His example inspires everyone, beginning with me,” President Whitaker said. “I can’t imagine AU without JJ Harkness,” he added. 

Harkness pressure washes buildings and empties trash cans and recycle bins throughout campus. His supervisor, The Budd Group site manager Justin Faile, said Harkness has a great rapport with Anderson University staff and students. Harkness has won the Student Government Association Second Mile Award twice.

“He’s real in tune with students and staff,” Faile said.

Harkness says that checking on people is what folks should do.

“You got to let people know you love them,” he said.

Before working at AU, Harkness was a sanitation worker for the City of Anderson. But for the past 15 years, he’s called AU home, his employment predating The Budd Group’s
contract with the University. He is the longest-serving member of The Budd Group’s campus crew, Faile said.

Harkness, a self-described workaholic, does side jobs on the weekends and when he’s not on campus. 

“I enjoy it,” he said before correcting himself. “Enjoy is just not strong enough.”

“I love it,” he said.

He makes a point to know and speak to everyone. He was one of many people that made me realize that Anderson University is more than a university. It is home.

— Shelli H. Rutland

AU Associate Director of Marketing

Harkness said he has been a hard worker since he was a boy; he will be 61 in February.

Anderson University Executive Director of Facilities and Campus Safety Charlie Dickerson said his celebrity status is earned—even if most people don’t realize just how important he is to the campus community. 

“To many of us, his work can go unnoticed, but it’s a really crucial job to keep our campus looking beautiful,” Dickerson said. “Can you imagine these things only haphazardly completed—or not completed at all? JJ takes this job very seriously. And while this job is very laborious, having to be completed rain or shine, cold or hot, JJ does it with as positive of an attitude as anyone on campus. He’s always smiling and going out of his way to speak to everyone he encounters. We should all work to put as much passion and commitment into serving AU as JJ does.”