John Hilary in front of MU

Fall 2017 — Before you reach the Memorial Union (MU) Basement, you’re sure to hear the clatter of bowling pins from the staircase. James Hilary is the student responsible for making sure the bowling alley keeps clattering.

Hilary studies forestry at Oregon State University. When he’s not in class or doing homework, he works as the MU Basement lead bowling mechanic and assistant manager, keeping the ten bowling machines running smoothly. “I never really thought I’d become a bowling alley mechanic, but it turns out to be probably the best job on campus,” Hilary said, having worked at the bowling alley for almost two years. “It’s awesome.”

It’s hard to disagree, watching students either roll strikes at the back of the room or challenge each other to a game of pool. The atmosphere is both fun and carefree. But Hilary adds an element of responsibility to the mix. His job requires him to take initiative since it doesn’t have a set schedule — he can work whenever he wants, but he has to make sure the work gets done.

“Some people need to be told when to come in and when to do stuff. That was really me a couple years ago.” Hilary said. “But this position teaches you to come in and take initiative to fix stuff and learn how to do it yourself.”

Hilary is no stranger to taking initiative. Not only a student worker, he’s been part of the Marine Corps Reserve for almost four years. When he first came to Oregon State, he was already thinking about the Marines. At the beginning of his first term, Hilary decided to enlist.

“Being in the reserves … brought out my leadership skills that I didn’t really have before I joined,” he said. “It taught me a lot of things about being prepared, professional.”

Through the reserves and his position at the MU, Hilary’s leadership skills have only grown. And he’s not the only member of the armed forces that has continued to hone skills as part of the Memorial Union staff. In fact, the Memorial Union employs six staff members with prior service and many ROTC student staff and active reservists, including MU Operations Manager Mike Mayers. Mayers credits the MU for supporting the demanding schedules of employees called away for military training.

This support hasn’t gone unnoticed and the Department of Defense Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) program bestowed the Memorial Union with two awards. Sid Cooper, who supervises and was nominated by Mayers, earned the Service Member Patriot Award. The MU organization earned the Seven Seals Award, which recognizes significant organizational effort in the advancement of ESGR’s mission.

It’s a win-win situation, as MU employees who serve take the skills they learn in the armed forces and apply them to their positions.

“The reserves definitely taught me how to take pride in what I do,” Hilary says. “And take focus, and put hard work into everything.”