WKU facilities maintenance team member Jim Hopwood talks with dispatch to alert them that he is about to replace a fire alarm in Schneider Hall on Wednesday, April 10. (Photo by Preston Jenkins)

Jim Hopwood: The man behind WKU’s technical systems

“Security Systems Specialist” isn’t just a job title to Jim Hopwood — it’s a passion. From working with fire alarms and access control to sound systems, Rockfield native Hopwood said working for facilities management on the Hill is an honor.

Hopwood said his primary responsibility is the campus firewall network system where he gets to explore his passion for fire alarms.

After finishing electronics school, Hopwood said he landed a job for three years at Simplex, a fire detection company. He said the challenge of troubleshooting fire alarms became a personal love of his because he learns new things all the time.


WKU facilities maintenance team member Jim Hopwood shows the breakers that flipped during the fire on the 14th floor of Pearce-Ford Tower on Wednesday, April 10. The fire occurred on Monday, April 8. (Photo by Preston Jenkins)

“There were three technicians at my old job who were spectacular at working with fire alarms,” Hopwood said. “I remember thinking that if I could ever be like they are, then I would really be something in this world.”

Hopwood said he has worked for facilities management at WKU for 16 years and has enjoyed every second of it. He said he is at almost every basketball game on campus setting up the sound systems and has come up with his own saying when checking for sound quality.

“Over time I started saying, ‘Check check, cash credit, check check’ at every game when I am checking the sound systems and people seem to love it,” Hopwood said.

One of Hopwood’s most recent tasks was assisting at Pearce-Ford Tower after a fire broke out on the 14th floor on Monday, April 8, he said. 

After coming into work the morning after the fire, Hopwood said he saw a completely black heat detector, a smoke detector and a sprinkler head on a workbench and immediately scoped the scene to see what occurred.

Stains from fire damage are left on the walls of the 14th floor kitchen in Pearce-Ford Tower on Wednesday, April 10. The fire started when someone was cooking and their pan caught fire. They then threw the pan on the floor, causing the fire to spread to the rest of the kitchen. (Photo by Preston Jenkins)

After observing the damage, he said he immediately replaced the sprinkler head and got the fire alarm panel back working again. 

Hopwood said working with fire alarms isn’t necessarily easy. When students moved out of Hilltopper Hall for construction issues, he said he helped adjust a fire alarm in a deaf student’s new room.  

“Sometimes making special accommodations is necessary, and I never hesitate to help people,” Hopwood said.

Maintenance supervisor Herbert Hess said Hopwood’s work ethic is “top-notch,” and he is good at taking a stressful situation and making people feel at ease.

“Jim is very quick on his feet and has quick thinking,” Hess said. “He is able to be empathetic towards people’s concerns, and I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like him.”


WKU facilities maintenance team member Jim Hopwood talks with dispatch to alert them that he is about to replace a fire alarm in Schneider Hall on Wednesday, April 10. (Photo by Preston Jenkins)

Hopwood said another one of his responsibilities is dealing with access control, such as making sure the accessible doors on campus are all operating efficiently.

“I love doing access control because there are so many ways to make a door operate – whether it is from a button or a lock,” Hopwood said.

Hopwood said he also enjoys helping set up sound systems at special events. Rachel Goodman, Director of Campus and Community Events, said that Hopwood often helps her department by providing electronic support for all major events on campus. She said he sets sounds for commencement, special events and provides direction for inventory needed such as microphones or speakers.

Goodman said she describes Hopwood as a “bright spot on campus,” as he always walks with a smile on his face everywhere.

“Jim is the essence of the ‘golden rule,’” Goodman said. “He treats people as he’d like to be treated, and our events would look vastly different without his expertise and care.”

Goodman said she has noticed that Hopwood often stays late on campus for work. Knowing Hopwood personally, she said she admires his ability to steady his relationship with his wife while still working long days.

Hess said Hopwood’s normal work day is normally from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., but Hopwood often stays beyond scheduled hours until he gets the job done.

WKU facilities maintenance team member Jim Hopwood shows water damage after the Monday, April 8 fire on Wednesday, April 10, in Pearce-Ford Tower. (Photo by Preston Jenkins)

“Jim and his wife balance their schedules by being super involved in their land and her floral design business,” Goodman said. “Whether it be chickens on their land, flowers for her business or microphones for Jim, they are truly each other’s support system.”

Hopwood said his wife is his “pride and joy.” He said she always supports him and his passions while he does the same by supporting her flower business.

“I wouldn’t have made it as far as I have without my family,” Hopwood said. “My wife is truly amazing and I don’t know what I would do without her and her unconditional support and love.”

Hopwood said the nature of maintenance is that he has to go where the service calls take him, even if it means working longer hours. Sometimes he gets phone calls and work orders that let him know something needs attention, and other times he said he simply notices things that need attention.


Insulation around a pipe is falling off on the bottom floor of Pearce-Ford Tower on Wednesday, April 10. (Photo by Preston Jenkins)

“I responded to a work order one time in a dorm room, and the resident asked me to look at her commode,” Hopwood said. “While I am no plumber, I did fix her toilet just out of kindness.”

Hess said he has never seen Hopwood without a positive attitude, even while doing a difficult task. Hess said Hopwood works well with everyone, and he is grateful to work with as good of a person as Hopwood.

“If everyone tried to be like Jim, the world would be a better place,” Hess said.