Custodial Manager Jim Benes, affectionately known as “Mr. Jim,” is one of the most familiar, kind faces on Furman’s campus. Though many students have seen Mr. Jim on his golf cart with a personalized sticker and phone camera ready for selfies, students do not always realize his contributions to Furman University’s campus. His management of custodial services for both athletic and academic buildings requires phenomenal delegation skills, strong leadership of his staff, and a determined attitude to complete tasks.
Mr. Jim began his career in 2011 as a member of the custodial staff, coming from a manager position at Publix in south Florida. When asked why he made the large-scale transition, he said, “When I moved down to Furman, I took advantage of the opportunity because I knew there were reasons why I was being drawn here.”
After reflecting on how he started his career at Furman, Mr. Jim said, “I wouldn’t have been able to meet as many students as I have if it weren’t for the recycling club. I love sustainability, and I love preserving the planet for all of you guys so that was my reasoning for choosing to help start this club!”
Mr. Jim tends not only to Furman’s campus but also the world around him as he supports sustainability efforts, particularly during move-in days when he collects as much cardboard as possible to recycle. His involvement with the recycling club, which is an unofficial club he started with a group of Furman students, is an extension of his love for life and his affinity for people. Through these Mr. Jim’s giving heart allows him to live out his personal values daily at Furman.
Mr. Jim recognizes that his engagement with students increased exponentially after the Recycling club began several years ago. Especially with the arrival of Gracie Carroll ’25, he began to know students in a more personal manner outside of his job.
He said, “Huge shoutout to Gracie Carroll who started all of the stickers, golf cart decorations, and more! She is truly awesome, and I am so happy to have met her.” Though Carroll’s relationship to Mr. Jim is unique seeing that she invested time in creating merchandise for him, variations of this story happen with students across campus.
Mr. Jim feels a sense of closeness with his students to such an extent that he said, “Graduation is tough because I lose my seniors. However, when students come back in August, I get so excited because I get to form those same types of relationships all over again!”
Mr. Jim’s affinity for cultivating meaningful relationships is astounding to observe and makes him a key figure of the Furman community. Even amongst his peers, his love for people is evident. When asked about her relationship with Mr. Jim, Nancy Cooper, director of Heller Service Corps, said, “Jim Benes has been one of my dearest friends at Furman. His heart is pure and he really loves what he does. I cannot say enough amazing things about him, and he is too humble to receive any of the credit that he does.”
Mr. Jim recently started an Instagram account where he showcases students and different aspects of his job. “I didn’t ever have social media before this until Hayley and Lexi on the women’s soccer team jokingly told me to start an Instagram, and here I am!” he said.
Now, he regularly compiles photos, particularly selfies, throughout the week and meets on the library steps on Friday afternoons to receive help from Carleigh Steel ‘26 in creating different posts. This Instagram account has increased his ability to engage with students and provided him a new way to connect with them.
Mr. Jim loves his job first and foremost because of the relationships he builds through it. “I love my job mostly because I love the people. Furman is one of the most amazing places and I say that because of what kind of people it has introduced me to. My staff, the students, and other workers make this an awesome place to be. Furman is my family!”
Mr. Jim not only finds pride in serving and connecting with the student body but also in the strong relationships he has cultivated over the years with his staff.
“I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without my staff. They truly are super-duper! They make me look like a hero every day,” he said.
Mr. Jim’s uplifting spirit and passion to serve those around him create a working environment where people value their jobs and, as a result, value themselves. His leadership, infused with love and encouragement, has allowed him to create an outstanding staff over the past few years.
Mr. Jim’s love for Furman stems from a deeper place, and it shines through his leadership and care for people. To anyone he interacts with, he always offers his phone number and ensures that they call him if they need absolutely anything.
Furman is privileged to have such a hard-working, dedicated employee who loves his work and those he encounters. Without Mr. Jim, we might not have such a warm, inviting campus.