When John Adams took on the job of KSU internal coordinator three years ago, the Wardroom was in debt, the King’s Galley wasn’t an inkling of an idea, and the King’s rugby team couldn’t scrounge up 15 players.
A lot has changed.
“As a person, I think that he’s grown a lot in the past three years,” says Stephanie Duchon, former Wardroom staff manager.
“He’s definitely matured and become an adult that you would enjoy having a conversation over a cocktail with, rather than four years ago when he was this student and a sort of wild child who would just get obliterated drunk, and it’s been nice to watch that evolution.”
He started at King’s the way most students do: the Foundation Year. He continued on to study international development and political science, contributing on campus with various committees; hiring, advisory, elections. It wasn’t until his fifth year when he ran for and became the member-at-large that he started working with the KSU.
“When I came in it was a good time,” says Adams. “There were a lot of other good people and we focused on making the various institutions we were responsible for more prolific, more accountable. There’s a sense that we wanted to better all the institutions.”
He applied for internal coordinator on a whim, not expecting much from the flyer he found walking around King’s. He couldn’t play rugby at the time and hadn’t applied for any graduate schools; the job sounded like a great way to stay in Halifax.
“A lot of the work has been accounting work and tracking sales and that kind of thing,” he says, “And I didn’t do any economics classes beforehand. I remember when I was applying for the job, like two or three weeks before, I had a friend teaching me Excel.”
The position was made that year, combining the part-time health plan administrator and the part-time Wardroom manager on top of the office duties.
“Our executives are simply too busy to be constantly in the office and cleaning up, so we wanted a full-time office manager,” says Duchon, who sat on the hiring committee four years ago.
“In the first year, we needed to get the Wardroom back on track. In the second year, it was supposed to be more about the office but then the Galley started up. And so a lot of his time went to that.”
“The Wardroom was in pretty rough shape,” says Adams with a forced laugh and a straight stare.
“Our fridges had broken, our dishwasher had broken, so we needed to replace those. We owed a considerable amount of back taxes because previous managers just hadn’t paid sales tax to the federal government. So we had to get those paid while at the same time getting it out of a deficit, which it had ran for a number of years.”
The Wardroom had faced years of mismanagement, he says, and wasted considerable amounts of alcohol and money, while making little back by selling too cheap. Having someone responsible for the bar and around full-time gave the KSU an opportunity to bring the Wardroom out of the hole it had buried itself in.
“I was interviewed on a Friday, hired Friday afternoon, and hiring staff for the Wardroom on Saturday and Sunday. I hadn’t even finished my degree yet and I was doing this full time,” says Adams.
The bar had to change: it cut hours, raised prices, and took out a sizable loan from the KSU to pay back taxes. By improving transparency and efficiency, the bar was able to pay back that loan that same year—its first fully repaid loan in living memory—and now makes a profit.
“There was a long history of the KSU just bailing out the Wardroom…and we had to put a stop to that.”
– John Adams, on Wardroom changes
“There was a long history of the KSU just bailing out the Wardroom,” says Adams, “And we had to put a stop to that.”
It’s been a long three years for the Wardroom. Beers have been switched more than once. It wasn’t always as easy as tapping the keg and seeing how it went.
“I remember when we brought Labatt in,” recalls Adams.
“People started saying that we sold out, and all I could say was ‘Shut up, what, we’re only going to do business with companies that don’t make a certain amount of money?’ I even got complaints that it wasn’t transparent.
“When they brought Garrison in, no one said anything. We got rid of Moosehead and brought in Garrison and no one said anything. No one raised a finger about that. The uproar was… I think someone called it corporatizing—which I’m pretty sure isn’t a word—the Wardroom. That was one of those things, where if I had to hear one more thing about it. Like just shut up.
“Corporatizing! We’re just selling beer.”
“To be clear,” says Asher Goldstein, friend and teammate of John Adams, as well as Wardroom manager and employee, “By ‘shut up and drink the beer’, that meant John and I drank the beer, because no one else would. And people up in arms? That was mostly Dave Etherington.”
The King’s Galley
Both unpredicted and challenging, the Galley was the unexpected result of the loss of a community member, Zona Roberts. Tensions rose between the student body and Sodexo, which originally provided a canteen in the Wardroom, when Roberts ended up leaving left the company. Then came the idea of starting an independent food service, run by the KSU.
“The Galley is interesting in that it really came from a student initiative,” says Adams, sipping Galley soup as he speaks.
“And momentum around it built and built and it became obvious that this is what students wanted done with their money. My role in the Galley was taking the want and the ideals and translating that into what we needed to get it done. It was definitely not a one man show; there was a committee, Simon Kaplan was an absolute catch, and everyone else helped a lot.”
Kim Kierans, vice-president of King’s, says she watched Adams put a lot of work into making the Galley a reality. She recently wrote him a letter of recommendation to send to graduate schools, having worked beside him on the Wardroom and seeing the work he put into the Galley.
“He did a lot of the research, applied for the licenses. He went and did the training then trained and hired all new staff, made and working on the inventory by trying new, sustainable foods,” says Kierans.
“The Galley is one of the most wonderful things at the college right now.”
– Kim Kierans, vice president of King’s, on the university’s independent food service
“The Galley is one of the most wonderful things at the college right now.”
One year in, the Galley has introduced debit, widened its variety and hours, and can be certain it will still be here in September.
“A favorite saying of John’s when he was the member-at-large was ‘the ship is sinking’, just generally referring to whatever at the time,” says Goldstein. “Now I think she’s doing just fine.”
2012 rugby champions
When Adam’s started with the King’s rugby team, the team sometimes couldn’t scrape together enough guys to make a team. When they did, they played well, but not great.
Adam’s career as a player was cut short in his fifth and final year as a student after he injured his knee. He did not leave his team, though.
He stayed on as a sometimes-adviser, sometimes-coach. As the team grew and the culture improved, Adams became a full time coach with friend John Choptiany. Through campaigning to alumni and associations, the team gained financial support and received an anonymous donation to buy a scrum machine. Many say focusing on that aspect of their game that is what earned them the championship this year.
“I’m sad to be leaving that right now. I feel like we finally just got it right, and here John and I are moving on to other things,” says Adams.
“I would really love one more year. My absolute dream would be for King’s to embrace rugby as something we could excel at. I’d like to see us consistently put out thirty excellent rugby players and make us a hotbed for rugby development. It could be an amazing niche for us to explore.”
“I hope he knows how proud he, and Choptiany, should feel,” says Goldstein, another lifetime King’s rugby team member, despite a hip injury.
“It’s a real nice keystone for him to have that on the last year. You always want to go out on a win.”
John Adams, first internal coordinator
Adams is leaving King’s after eight long years. Through rugby he made lifelong friends, like Goldstein and Choptiany. The team has the resources to be great, and this is in part thanks to Adams.
“When I broke my hip, John bought the crutches,” says Goldstein.
“When I was in the hospital, he was there. When I got out of the hospital, John drove me home. I must have seen every member of my team twice, and it’s a 60 person team, but I’m sure he had something to do with that. ”
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Second time’s a charm
“I think the one thing everyone should do at King’s is ask when you’re gone, what kind of King’s are you leaving?” Adams says.
For now, Adams heads off to a new adventure, leaving behind a stable Wardroom, a growing Galley, and a thriving men’s rugby team. He’s taking his Excel skills, writing application letters, and waiting on graduate acceptance letters.
“I can feel confident saying that I left it better than how I found it.”