Photo Courtesy of Cleveland State


Dec. 12, 2018

Director retires after lengthy career at CSU

After 32 years at Cleveland State University, Shehadeh Abdelkarim, interim executive director for the Department of Facilities Services, has retired. University architect Bruce Ferguson will fill the role of interim executive director until the university hires a replacement. 

Abdelkarim started as an international student at Cleveland State in 1984, and joined the custodial team in 1986. From there he climbed the ladder in the Office of Facilities Management until he served as interim director, a post he held since Jack Baumann retired in December 2017. 

Senior Vice President of Financial Affairs Stephanie McHenry described Abdelkarim as having absolute commitment and passion for Cleveland State. 

"I think he was very knowledgeable and bonded with the physical facilities,” McHenry said. “He knew every nook and cranny and where the issues were." 

McHenry said the university is going to take a look at the open position and then conduct a national search starting in the first quarter of 2019. 

"For now we're going to take a look at the position description and make sure that it is still consistent — or adjusted if it needs to be to be — with the direction that the university is currently headed in,” McHenry said. 

Abdelkarim was also serving in the position of director of facilities management. McHenry said the job’s responsibilities have been spread out to a few people for the moment. 

Geneen Abdelkarim, Shehadeh’s daughter and administrative coordinator for the campus police at Cleveland State, said she remembers him bringing her to ‘bring your children to work day’ as a child. She said Cleveland State has always been a big part of his life. 

"Definitely was like another home to him,” she said. “He's been here probably since before I was born.”  

Shehadeh’s son, Alexander, also works for Cleveland State as a mover for the logistics department.  

Ferguson, who is filling in Abdelkarim’s shoes until the university fills the position, described him as someone who saw “up and around the corner.” He said when Abdelkarim was lower in the pecking order, he made it a point to show up before 5 a.m., so that he could find and start fixing the issues before most campus personnel arrived. 

“He knew that if he walked the campus from end to end from say 4:30 to 5:30 in the morning, he would see all the things that needed to be done before anybody else even got here,” Ferguson said. 

The habit of showing up early, according to Mark Cunningham, assistant director of facilities management, stayed with Abdelkarim until his last day. He still showed up before 5 a.m. every day, even as executive director.  

Cunningham started his career alongside Abdelkarim’s in 1986, when the university hired him to work in mechanical operations. He said many of Abdelkarim’s employees trusted him, and felt like he had their backs. 

"I really believe that the people who worked for him knew that as long as they were doing their jobs, he would defend them to the end,” Cunningham said. 

He also described Abdelkarim as a man with great ideas. He said whenever the idea of privatizing the custodial staff came up, Abdelkarim was able to prove that Cleveland State’s custodial staff was cheaper, and did a better job. 

"Other universities that look at our numbers, they can't believe we get the amount of work done that we do with as few of people that we have,” Cunningham said. “That to me was a tribute to Shehadeh's way — he arranged people's workload to make it happen."


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