“Despite all the plumbing problems, floods, emergencies, air handler issues, arguments and so on, I haven’t had a bad day here yet. I have peace of mind here at Towson that I wish everyone had.” Enviable attitude to have, isn’t it? For Maintenance Supervisor of Academic and Administrative Facilities Sonny Luebben, it is his truth and the basis for his loyalty to TU.
Sonny’s journey to Towson in 1991 came after years of working in construction and the help of some good friends along the way. Originally planning to be a social worker, Sonny attributes his empathy for others to his mom. “[My mom] was one of those people that anyone could talk to – she found humor in everything, and she was always helping others. A lot of my traits come directly from her.”
A career in social work was not to be, however; Sonny’s career took a different tack when a neighbor with an electrical business needed help, and Sonny needed a job. Leaving college as a junior, this was a match made in economic heaven that provided him with the training required to get a job in construction, which he did for 20 years.
Married with two children and looking for a more stable position that didn’t depend on the weather the economy and the relationship variables with the boss, Sonny acted when offered an opportunity by another friend. That friend, Kevin Dunton, had been working at TU for some time when he advised Sonny to apply for an opening in maintenance. Prevailing in the interview process, Sonny landed the job and learned new skills under the mentoring of his supervisor Mark Woerner. “I needed to be proficient not only in electrical skills, but also plumbing, masonry work, HVAC, carpentry, lock issues, elevator problems and other facets of maintenance as the first responder,” Sonny explained, “and, at the time, you had to manually operate services; now a lot of it is handled by computers, which means my technical know-how had to increase, too. ”
Having good supervisors who were good teachers made a big difference to Sonny, who related how former TU housekeepers were transitioned into maintenance workers in the early days of his tenure. “Some of those guys really bloomed into maintenance and became great employees because of the patience and tutoring of their supervisors,” he said. Watching how TU handled that changeover of duties without losing jobs made an impression. “Seeing how the administration saved those jobs was impressive and made me feel even better about Towson,” he said.
However, loyalty to his employer comes second to that of his family. “I’m a family guy – family always comes first for me. I love my wife of 37 years, Lorraine, my son and daughter, my three grandsons and two granddaughters.” Having family obligations can take time, but Sonny ensures that he also has time for his other love – music. “I guess I’m sort of a late bloomer…I didn’t join a band until I was 50” laughs Sonny, who began singing in junior high, continued in the boys choir in high school, and then he learned how to play guitar.
Another “friend connection” accounts for his current position in “The Bristols,” a band started by his best friend back in 1967. Sonny caught their revival session at a benefit for child abuse victims a few years ago and when offered the lead guitar position shortly after, he joined enthusiastically. Based on the sound of British Rock bands, The Bristols have performed at the Fells Point Festival, at “Beatles” tribute themed concerts in DC and in Louisville, and at several local venues. They are preparing to play at the Hard Rock Café on September 22 for the 7th Annual Ride for Life Motorcycle and Music Festival benefiting the Baltimore Child Abuse Center. He and his friend have taken to writing and performing their own music. They wrote a song called “Becky Sue” specifically for the Ride for Life benefit. It will be included on The Bristols’ CD being released on November 15.
Having such a busy schedule, Sonny has yet to achieve his foremost “bucket list” wish – that of having a tour of the White House – but qualifies it with “having a chance to look at everything – not just what they show tourists.”
Was he ever tempted to leave Towson? Sonny admits to looking at another opportunity years ago, but couldn’t take it because he didn’t feel right leaving Towson. His current supervisor, Rene Florendo, has a lot to do with that. “I really respect and like Rene,” Sonny said. “I just couldn’t ever leave – I feel like I won the lottery having this job and working with people I enjoy so much. “ Better lyrics testifying to a satisfied life have never been written.