Otis Lee Buckner, the grandfather of Columbus Academy rising junior Jerome Buckner, began Buckner & Sons Masonry in 1990 with just $1,000. He had hoped that his four sons would join him in the venture but only his third-oldest, Jerome’s father (who also goes by Jerome), eventually would do so.
When the elder Jerome was just 8 years old, he stared out the window of his father’s truck parked at a construction site and noticed something was wrong. So he interrupted his father’s meeting to say, “Hey dad, something isn’t right out there,” to which Otis told his son to get back in the car. Sure enough, though, when Otis came back outside and looked at the wall, he ordered his crew to tear it down and start all over because the wall was leaning slightly. Ever since that day, the elder Jerome has been a part of the business and now serves as the construction manager.
We bring you this story and the accompanying Q&A below in a continuing effort to recognize those who are playing key roles in the construction on our campus. Previously featured were (click on name to open link) Academy’s Director of Facilities and Grounds Doug Bennett, Board President Kevin Reeves, Head of Middle School Karla Long, Project Superintendent Matt Arnold, Board Facilities Committee Chair Jim Klingbeil ’85, PreK Teacher Sarah Hansen, Assistant Head of School for Development and External Relations Erich Hunker ’81, Lower School Art Teacher Lloyd Cicetti, Architectural Project Manager Tony Malik and Cornerstone Erectors Crew Chief Lester Eicher.
Responses from the elder Jerome are noted with JB while answers from his project foreman J.T. Spencer begin with JT.
Q: How many of your employees are here on a daily basis?
JB: We have about 30 employees total within the company. On this site, some days we’ve had 20 here but on others only four or five depending on the workload.
Q: With all of the new exterior walls up now, is your part of this project finally winding down?
JT: We started here a year ago, and we’re getting very close to the end. As of right now, we’re down to the last couple of weeks.
Q: Can you give us an idea of how much material has been used?
JB: We’ve set about 130,000 bricks and probably 70,000 block. There’s also mortar, grout and rebar (reinforcement steel), so it’s a lot of material.
Q: What has it been like working so close to students almost every day?
JT: The students have behaved but are curious, so they love to try to see what’s going on. I’ve been asked a lot of questions by kids. The forklift, in particular, gets a lot of questions about how much it can lift. The parents also have been great for the most part.
Q: Do you take any extra satisfaction in the work being done on this site since you are a part of the Academy community as a parent?
JB: When we got the job, there was a sense of: “Wow, how many people get to build on their son’s school!” I’ve been blessed to be in this position in more ways than one with my father being who he is and starting the company, and with my son being who he is and being able to come to this school. I’m kind of like the middle guy at this point. I thank God that not only my son but we all have received opportunities to kind of dwell in the moment and be a part of it.
Q: Since your son came to Academy as a freshman, how has the transition been for him and for your family?
JB: I guess the biggest surprise was the increase in homework, which I can’t help him with (laughing). At his previous school, Great Western Academy on the west side, he was challenged but not to this level that Academy has challenged him. It’s paid off for him because that mentality when you’re 13, 14, 15 years old… a lot of us didn’t learn until we were 28, 29, 30 that if you want something you’ve got to work for it. You’ve got to push and do what you’ve got to do to get it. You’re going to have a lot of sacrifices, but that’s what it takes. This is a special place, and I take true pride in being a part of it. It’s just a blessing to be involved in the Columbus Academy community. The parents I’ve come into contact with and the administration from the top down, everyone has been pleasant and very welcoming. I’ve received their advice, care, love and even criticism – both positive and negative – with open arms. This is life. Everything is an opportunity, and it’s up to you what you do with it.
Q: Have you been surprised at all by your son’s athletic success (All-Ohio First Team in football, state champion in track) so early in his prep career?
JB: Am I proud of him? Excuse my French, but hell yeah. And I’m excited for him, but I don’t expect any different. I don’t expect any less. I expect him to do well. I expect him to excel at what he puts his heart into, just like in school. Is it going to be easy all the time? No, but it will pay off. Will you make it to that top level? That’s yet to be seen but it boils down to the character that you build during that time. What you gain out of that is priceless. You can’t put a dollar amount to it, and you can apply that to life. Wherever Jerome goes and whatever he decides to do, with what he’s been taught here and what he’s gained throughout the years, it won’t be replaced.
Q: What will you take away from this particular project when it’s completed?
JT: Just being out here with these guys, working with guys who you get along with is just great. When the end of the work is done, we’ll all take great pleasure in looking at it and saying, “Wow, what a nice-looking school!”
JB: Any time you finish with a building, you ride by it and say, “You know what, I was a piece of that work.” At the end of the day, it’s a piece of art to us. This is how we paint our picture. Instead of brushes we use trowels, bricks, mortar, block and grout. This is what feeds our families and makes our world go round, so we take great pride in it.
We are oh-so-close to showing you brand new spaces that have been completed. We’ll do our very best to keep you updated throughout the rest of this summer as the construction finally winds down and areas are opened!