Outside of Director of Public Safety Charles Furgal’s office is an automated external defibrillator (AED) machine. At Public Safety, the joke is that the AED is outside of Furgal’s office so it will be close in case he has a heart attack.
On the wall of his office is his Master’s degree from Ana Maria College in Criminal Justice. Before pursuing this degree, Furgal studied liberal arts at Assumption College. While an undergraduate, like many students at Wheaton, Furgal did not know what he wanted to do.
However, Furgal does not share much else with most Wheaton students as he was not a traditional student. “I never lived at school… I worked full time on midnight shift,” said Furgal. He would go to class in the late afternoon, getting out by nine or ten at night. Then he would work the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. third shift, go to bed, wake up, do homework and go to class to start the process over again.
Furgal began working in college law enforcement in his early twenties, with the hopes of becoming a police officer. While he took the police officer civil servant test, he decided to stay in college law enforcement because he enjoyed the work.
“Law enforcement is not traditionally a real positive career path, but if it’s college law enforcement, there’s a lot more good things going on than bad. We watch students come in as freshmen and make the mistakes that freshmen make, and you watch them grow up,” said Furgal. Furgal enjoys the constant cycle of meeting new people and watching them graduate.
Furgal was the Crime Prevention Officer at Worcester Polytechnic Institute for eight years, the Administrative Sergeant at Holy Cross College for five years and later, Lieutenant at the Rhode Island School of Design for two years. Following this, he came to Wheaton in 2002 and has worked here ever since. He explained at each school there were “different kinds of issues and different kinds of students.”
Wheaton students are particularly adept at fire safety. Furgal said there is a very low amount of malicious or even cooking fire alarms that go off every year. Students are always quick to clear the buildings as well.
Public Safety is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Public Safety stays busy in the summer supervising the various summer camps at Wheaton.
Furgal’s job is a difficult one: managing three shifts, never closing and never having down-time are among his chief concerns. In addition to student issues, Public Safety also deals with technology problems.
“The job’s a little bit more complicated than it appears on the surface. It’s not all writing parking tickets and opening and closing the building, like what the students see us doing most of the time,” said Furgal. However, lock-outs do keep Public Safety busy, as there are several thousand a year.
Severe weather like Hurricane Sandy and the recent storm Nemo offer fresh challenges to Public Safety and Furgal. Without dedicated staff, storm preparation and clean-up would not have gone as well as they did, he explained. “You might not think of this, but you have a family you have to drive in a snow storm, you have to shovel your own house, you might not have power at home, but you come to work anyway because that’s what we do, we are essential staff,” he added.
As a father of two, Furgal has his eye on the issues that often come up on college campuses. Closest to Furgal’s computer are two pictures of his children from their younger days. Today, his daughter is a sophomore at a local liberal arts college and his son is in eighth grade. “So, I’m pretty in tune with some of the issues… I hear from my daughter what goes on,” said Furgal with a smile.