Armed with Wrench and Smile: How David Prendiville Keeps our Circle Warm


On an unassuming Sunday morning earlier this January, David Prendiville woke up to a notification—it was the powerhouse, and there was a problem. Braving the brisk four-am morning, he hurried over to the modest brick building with a towering chimney—the powerhouse— that sits right across Farmers Row from Groton’s campus. 


The clock had yet to strike 5 am when David and two of his fellow mechanics were already working away at the issue. Since the Powerhouse is the source of much of the heating on campus, the situation was urgent—with temperatures in single digits, students could be waking up to frigid showers and chilly rooms. 


Despite being faced with the daunting task of fixing the powerhouse, David attacked the problem with an unfettered enthusiasm. David and his coworkers, Russ and Jason, managed to locate the source of the issue—the electric motor that drives the pressure to create the steam that provides the heat on campus. Ultimately, David, armed with the aid of his colleagues and his characteristic optimism, managed to get the Powerhouse up-and-running again by 9 am. This optimism, he says, “comes from his dad,” who taught him to “instill positivity in those around [him].” Jack Sperling ’22, who met David after a cake-baking, pipe-splitting, kitchen-flooding mess his second-form year, has “never seen David without a smile.”


As the campus plumber, David shares warmth in another, more literal way. He describes how his job “almost resembles a surgeon’s,” maintaining the systems—gas, oil, and geothermal—that keep the heat running all throughout the circle. In the Powerhouse sits two large turquoise canisters—filled with natural gas and oil, they serve as the campus’ “beating heart,” sending steam through its underground “arteries.” 


To maintain these intricate veins and arteries that heat the Circle requires a special perseverance. According to David, he covers “a distance close to five to six miles a day” in order to keep the entire system in check. 


If a problem with heating occurs in the Dining Hall, for example, David and his colleagues will rush over to the powerhouse first. After analysing the pressure gauges and making sure that steam is being delivered to the building in the first place, they head over to the building itself. They then check the steam converter in the Dining Hall that delivers heat to the whole building. Finally, through a complex system of temperature sensors, they locate a specific spot in the building that might need to be repaired. David’s job is by no means stationary, and according to him, the “hands-on” aspect is his favorite part of serving as campus plumber. 


No matter how dire a situation may be, David has never faltered in his positivity. “He was always quick to crack a joke,” Jack ’22 notes, and David’s colleagues unanimously agree. While he does not spend a lot of time at his desk, which sits only a couple feet away from the Powerhouse, it provides a glimpse into who David is. Adorned with printed memes and a Captain America poster, the desk is slightly messy—a testament to David’s characteristic willingness to “wing it” sometimes. 


David and the rest of the B&G staff have definitely been underappreciated for the work they do. For David, however, the lack of recognition does not bother him much: “If people don’t notice the work we do, we’re doing it right.” But without question, David has contributed tremendously, even bringing in his homemade jambalaya or gumbo for his B&G colleagues. As person, plumber, and even home-cook, David Prendiville brings a one-of-a-kind warmth to our Circle.