Visitors to BYU’s campus often notice the meticulously kept grounds — the neatly edged grass, the colorful garden arrangements and a general feeling of serenity that comes from being surrounded by nature’s beauty. For 35 years, Roy Peterman has overseen and orchestrated each of these components as BYU’s director of grounds. On June 25 he announced his retirement.
Peterman uses a quote from Brigham Young as inspiration for himself and others: “Progress, and improve upon, and make beautiful everything around you … render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labors you may do so with pleasure, and that angels may delight to come and visit your beautiful locations.”
Peterman’s goal has been just that.
“When you create order, peace comes and allows angels a place to come and minister,” Peterman said.
This order, however, is not created effortlessly.
Peterman is well-known for his daily 6 a.m. bike rides all over campus to inspect the grounds and construction projects. He oversees 33 full-time employees, 20 part-time, non-student employees and 320 student employees. He has a hand in all of the grounds department’s responsibilities — from budgeting and book work to lawn maintenance to sprinkling systems and snow removal — and he takes these responsibilities very seriously.
“He’s a perfectionist, and he’s dedicated to detail,” said Ole Smith, vice president of the physical facilities department at BYU. “Roy is as dedicated to BYU as anybody has ever been. He spends his life making sure that BYU looks great.”
Peterman’s dedication has helped BYU earn recognition for its 667.2 acres of well-groomed landscape. This includes 72 miles of 12’ sidewalk, 12.6 miles of roads, 212 acres of parking lots, 226 acres of lawn, 280,000 annual plantings, approximately 100,000 shrubs of over 500 varieties, 16 – 18,000 trees of 877 different species, and 27 acres of athletic facilities. This year, BYU was ranked by The Daily Beast as the 17th most beautiful school in the nation.
“He has an expectation and a standard, and he makes sure it’s met,” said Stacey Meldrum, Peterman’s administrative assistant. “It’s not just a job to him; it’s a calling.”
While his efforts have produced visible results, Peterman’s calling is not solely aesthetic. He originally studied psychology with the intent to use farming as a form of therapy to bring peace into the lives of troubled boys. Instead, he now helps provide a spiritually nourishing work environment to hundreds of college students. He finds joy not just in the beauty of the landscape but in the happiness that beauty brings to others.
“The projects that mean the most to me are the ones that put smiles on people’s faces,” Peterman said. “It has been a privilege to serve the university community. My only hope is that I have done it well.”
Peterman will retire on Oct. 1, after which he plans to spend time with his 23 grandchildren, working on landscaping projects around Provo, and hiking the Santa Fe and Appalachian Mountains.