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Mike Whitfield and Mike Harris install equipment in a data center
In early March 2020, Mike Whitfield and Mike Harris install equipment in an ITS data center

Infrastructure & Operations’ Mike Whitfield marked 21 years with ITS on February 5. A few weeks ago, when he received his 20-year service plaque from the University, it was family tradition.

Whitfield comes from a long line of relatives who served a couple decades or more at Carolina, going as far back as his great-grandfather, who began his 24 years at the University in 1945. Over his career, great-granddad Ernest Dollar worked for the Building Department and Woollen Gym in maintenance, according to Whitfield’s family. Family recalls that one of his projects was constructing rock walls around campus.

Among Whitfield’s family members, the University’s Office of Human Resources records list, for permanent, full-time service, his grandmother Ruby Mae Scurlock (18 years), step-grandmother Susan Whitfield (39 years), aunt Sarah Whitfield Jonczak (29 years) and uncle Chris Sparrow (28 years). Family remembers Ernest’s wife, Helen, worked at University Laundry, perhaps for a couple decades, but HR has no record of her.

Whitfield also has a cousin, Erin Leach, with Kenan-Flagler Business School, who is a mere four years away from hitting the 20-year milestone. Other relatives worked for and retired from UNC Health, Whitfield said.

Computers instead of roofing

Mike Whitfield installs equipment in the ITS Franklin data center
Mike Whitfield installs a new Cisco Nexus at the ITS Franklin data center in 2017

Growing up, Whitfield knew from family that working at Carolina was a good career choice. Sure, he could have gone into the roofing business — his dad still works at his own roofing company after 45 years.

“I always knew I wanted to do something in computers,” Whitfield said.

Whitfield figured he could work with computers at Carolina and attain that longevity that has appealed to his family these many generations.

Applied to UNC for 5 years

After five years of applying to various jobs at the University, Whitfield landed a job with ITS in 2000. Whitfield has worked for Infrastructure & Operations’ Ray DeCristofaro ever since, although the tasks and the shifts have changed. Whitfield’s never applied to go anywhere else.

“Ray really values families,” said Whitfield, who is married with six kids, ages 6 to 25. Plus, he said, “everybody’s nice” at ITS.

Mike Harris, Charles Woody and Mike Whitfield move computing equipment in March 2020
Mike Harris, Charles Woody and Mike Whitfield move server equipment to ITS in March 2020

Whitfield, who went to school for programming, works on a team with Mike Harris and Charles Woody. They manage three data centers and one networking space on campus, which includes power to and cooling of these spaces and “racking and stacking” equipment.

A lifelong Tar Heel

“I’ve always wanted to work at UNC since family did,” Whitfield said. “I’ve been a Tar Heel fan my whole life.”

Not many people, he noted, stay with the same employer for 10, 15, 20 years.

Next generation eyes Carolina

“I feel that my family has had the mindset and motivation to stay at and retire from UNC,” Whitfield said. “I think it is awesome and am very happy to be a part of the UNC legacy.”

Several of his children, in fact, said they hope to eventually become their family’s fifth generation to work for the University.

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