Custodian inspires kindness and curiosity


Erin Powell, Staff Writer

Hiding beneath the quiet presence of staff in monogrammed green or black shirts scattered throughout the Davis Center are some incredible stories.

One Davis Center staff member is custodian Jaques-Paul Marton, also known as JP.

Given time to learn his personal story, one will see just how complex and influential these staff members are to the UVM community.

JP has been working in the Davis Center since its opening in 2007.

Before coming to UVM, he owned a small cleaning business which closed after he suffered from a nervous breakdown, Marton said.

Marton’s family moved him up to Vermont and he began looking for stable employment, trying a number of “odd jobs,” he said.

UVM popped up on a website designed to help find jobs for those with disabilities,  and with a few applications and meetings JP landed the job in the Davis Center, he said.

JP is not the only Vermont resident who has found a welcoming place of employment at the school.

The University supports 11,287 jobs in the state and is committed to providing resources to the state of Vermont and our local communities, according to the UVM Outreach website

“It was something going from my own little world of owning a business to going to a large place of employment like this university,” Marton said, “and it took a while to adjust.”

Marton entered the job with low expectations, aiming only to prove he could stay employed, he said.

“But it didn’t take me long to see the benefits of being on a campus,” Marton said. “There is an energy that you can’t get anywhere else.”

Now, after 10 years, the University is more than an employer for Marton.

“UVM has given me stability and a sense of place,” Marton said. “Every day I find a way to get a smile on my face, whether it simply comes from a student saying hello or a coworker.”

The University holds a place close to his heart, not only for giving him a job, but for its representation of the pursuit of knowledge, he said.

Marton planned on pursuing his PhD when he was younger, but limitations due to his mental health prevented him from doing so, he said.

His intellectual curiosity ended up helping him during the most difficult parts of his life, Marton said.

“I found that reading was really starting to heal me,” he said. “I think that is what really saved me in the end. I read some amazing books that showed me I really am not that different from humanity.”

Marton cited Don Quixote and Wuthering Heights as some of his personal favorites.

His generosity and love for books lead him to start the Book Nook at UVM.

When Brennan’s was first built there was an empty bookshelf in the back, and Marton decided to put some of his own books on the shelf for students to take he said.

The books started to disappear pretty quickly, and Marton started running out of books to replace them with, he said.

“Now my library at home was almost gone, so I had to ask for donations because we couldn’t keep up with the demand,” Marton said.

Now the Book Nook is multiple shelving units, and stocked with donations from mainly alumni, he said.

The Book Nook is not the only project Marton has created: He has been building rock statues in a field in South Burlington for six years now, he said.

Marton did an interview with Seven Days VT in July about the cairns, showing the many local connections he has made through these random acts of beauty, according to the article.

With an already lengthy career at UVM, Marton expresses his desire to continue his position at the school.

“I hope I can stay here at UVM, and manage the book nook,” he said. [I want to] continue to see it grow and make connections, and be graced by wonderful young people who have given me so much to live for.”

JP cares about the students at UVM, their education and their happiness, he said.

Learning from his struggles and years of experience he advises students to “stay as active an as curious as you are now,” he said. “Always leave yourself open to new opportunities.”

“The definition of a successful life is that you left the world doing more good than harm, that you’ve actually enhanced people’s lives and tried to live your life in the best way you can,” Marton said.

In the end, “I want students to know I’m right behind them.”