Henry Bowser, with Eastern Mennonite University's facilities management team, takes a new riding mower for a spin. The two Hustler zero-turn mowers and ATV arrived on campus this fall with the help of Bob Mullet and Cal Redekop of Excel Industries and Russ Parkinson of Rockingham New Holland. (Photos by Macson McGuigan)

Facilities equipment gets Hustler upgrade, thanks to Excel Industries donation

Three new pieces of equipment have arrived on the Eastern Mennonite University campus, much to the delight of the employees who will use them most.

Hopping onto the new Hustler zero-turn mowers, Henry Bowser couldn’t resist popping a small wheelie before racing off with Kendall Wenger for some exhibition mowing on Bomberger Field. And later John Dudley, a senior working with EMU Facilities Management, was given the honor of taking the Hustler MDV all-purpose vehicle for a little spin around the parking lot. 

The equipment, all produced by Excel Industries in Hesston, Kansas, arrived from local dealer Rockingham New Holland, as part of a beneficial deal with Excel principles Bob Mullet and Cal Redekop. Mullet is chairman of Excel’s board and former COO of the family-owned business (his son Luke Roth-Mullet ‘01 is the company’s former director of manufacturing). Redekop, a former Hesston College professor, helped to found Excel. Both men live in Harrisonburg.

The arrival of new Hustler equipment brought a crowd out to Bomberger Field at Eastern Mennonite University for demonstrations and celebration. From left: Braydon Hoover, director of development and annual giving; Kendall Wenger, EMU facilities management; Cal Redekop and Bob Mullet, principles of Excel Industries; Henry Bowser, facilities management; Melissa Parkinson, Russ Parkinson, Derrick Parkinson, Loretta Parkinson, all of Rockingham New Holland, the local Hustler dealer; and President Susan Schultz Huxman.

Hustler products are a favorite of EMU Facilities Management, though Wenger, a Hesston native, admits his proclivities may be partially due to geographic loyalties.

“We’ve really tried all the major brands,” he said, “and Hustler just stripes the best and runs cleanest.” 

During the growing season, Wenger and other employees contribute some of the 30 hours it takes to keep 30 acres of campus lawn and athletic fields trimmed neatly. The new mowers will help minimize those hours, said Ed Lehman, director of facilities management. 

Redekop was especially pleased to make a contribution to broadening EMU’s color palette. “I affirm EMU’s wisdom in increasing yellow color on campus,” he said, with a grin.

Lehman says the new MDV will be especially useful, considering that EMU’s equivalent vehicles for all-purpose maintenance duties until then was a small fleet of “heavy-duty golf carts.” The new four-wheel-drive MDV is a precision-built utility vehicle with a specially engineered drop-down dump bed called a LeveLift. 

“That bed is really helpful when there’s only one person to do the job,” said Loretta Parkinson, youthful salesperson and daughter of Russ Parkinson, manager of Rockingham New Holland, who stepped in to answer questions from a bystander. 

Her brother Derrick had earlier helped to move machinery in the proper line-up for a small thank-you reception that included university president Susan Schultz Huxman, Director of Development and Annual Giving Braydon Hoover ‘11, and nearly the entire facilities management staff. The pumpkin bars and the cider were a treat, but it was the exhibition synchronized mowing, with accompanying drone action to capture the event, that drew the entire crowd out into the fall sunshine.

“Wow, these are fast,” Bowser said, as he zoomed past, perhaps thinking of all the time next spring, when mowing resumes, that he might save for other projects (and there are always other projects). “This is great!” 

And then he popped one more wheelie.

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