Photo by Lee Pellegrini
On a recent fall afternoon, Al Travaglini was in Newtonville on an errand having to do with an enormous pipe organ. The instrument, once installed in the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Boston’s South End, where Boston College’s original campus was located, was disassembled ahead of the building’s conversion to luxury condos in 2016. Travaglini, BC’s director of support services and university properties, has been overseeing its storage in 100+ crates ever since, while working to secure a new home for the piece of BC history.
“It’s been quite a saga,” he said. “St. Paul’s Choir School hired a prominent organ assembler but right now we’re waiting for the opinion of a structural engineer to determine if their loft is sufficient to support the weight of it. That needs to get figured out.”
Organ rehoming might seem like an odd assignment for a senior employee responsible for the upkeep and renovation of the University’s many properties, but for Travaglini, fielding offbeat requests has kept him motivated for more than 36 years on the job. He’ll retire at the end of this month, along with colleagues Thomas Rourke and Jamie Slattery in the Grounds Maintenance Department.
“I got tired but never bored,” Travaglini said of his career. “Any task that was thrown at me, I’ve always been able to get it done.”
A native of East Boston, where his mother still lives, Travaglini was the first in his family to attend college when he enrolled at Boston College in 1969. He rode the MBTA to campus every morning, often hitching a ride from Cleveland Circle to cap off his 90-minute commute. Years later, as an employee of the University, he tried (unsuccessfully) to return the favor.
“I would be driving and see kids in need of a ride so I’d pull over and say ‘You need a ride to school?’ but nobody ever got in the car,” he recalled with a laugh. “The culture had changed and it didn’t take me too many odd looks to just stop offering.”
Travaglini graduated with a degree in English and a goal of becoming a high school teacher. Instead, he spent a dozen years in the private sector, “made several mistakes along the way,” and emerged in need of a new beginning. He found it at Boston College, where he was hired in 1983 as a custodian on the overnight shift. His first week on the job, he cleaned the locker rooms where he had once spent time as a walk-on member of the men’s basketball team.
“You want to talk about humbling? That was it,” he said. “I would put on my Dickies and have my paper bag lunch at 3 a.m.”
Travaglini quickly rose through the ranks, distinguishing himself with his work ethic and ability to identify inefficiencies. As a custodial supervisor, he served on one of the first Activity Value Analysis teams, identifying ways to streamline and improve services by adjusting the frequency of some tasks and reassigning others. By 2009, he was associate director of support services and university properties, overseeing buildings in Newton, Brighton, Weston, and Dover as well as the University’s storage facilities and mailroom operations. Six years later, he took over as director.
“I’ve never looked at the facilities as just buildings. Everything I’ve done was on behalf of making someone’s experience at BC better and easier.”
Travaglini’s mind is an encyclopedia of facts and figures related to BC operations: the cost to replace windows and flooring in a historic building on the Pine Manor campus; the number of packages coming through the University mailrooms per academic year (roughly 240,000 in 2021 thanks to Amazon); the price he negotiated for a hydraulic lift in the new warehouse—but it’s the human impact of his work that means the most to him.
“I’ve never looked at the facilities as just buildings,” said Travaglini, now 70. “Everything I’ve done was on behalf of making someone’s experience at BC better and easier, whether it was a student who needed accommodations to learn or a faculty member who needed office space.”
Vice Provost for Finance & Administration Joe Carroll marveled at the speed with which Travaglini would accomplish tasks, whether it was modifying dozens of offices in Stokes Hall or cobbling together furniture for a new employee.
“I realized early on if you wanted something done, call Al,” said Carroll. “He bailed me out more than I care to admit. Personally and professionally, I am going to miss him.”
Travaglini was a key part of top-to-bottom renovations to the Saint Columbkille Partnership School in 2006, and has remained a consistent supporter of the BC-affiliated school ever since, said Head of School Jen Kowieski. When the pandemic struck, he brought a University air quality expert to the Brighton school to ensure the appropriate air filters were installed.
“Al Travaglini is like the favorite uncle here,” said Kowieski. “When he oversees a delivery to our school, he makes the time to check in with everyone in our main office. He represents what we try to be as a Catholic school—a place where people are known and loved.”
Alix Hackett | University Communications | December 2021