“Blessed and Grateful …”: Longstanding UAB employee reflects on life and career

UAB shop administrator Jerry Sewell is celebrating 85 years of life and 59 years with UAB.

Inside jerry sJerry Sewell
Photography: Brantley Bargerhuff
Jerry Sewell, a shop administrator in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Physics, is celebrating 59 years at UAB and 85 years of life.

Sewell was born on Feb. 15, 1938, in Gadsden, Alabama. For nearly 60 years, Sewell has been a devoted member of the UAB family.

“I’ve been here since some of the people the current buildings are named after were here,” Sewell said.

Before his time with the UAB College of Arts and Sciences, Sewell was immersed in construction at an early age. Beginning formally with an apprenticeship in carpentry, Sewell later attended a trade school in Gadsden where he learned metalworking.

“I’ve always worked with my hands. At 12 years old, I was driving nails into houses with my daddy and uncle,” Sewell said.

Sewell started with UAB in July of 1964. He was hired on as a machinist working in the Lyons-Harrison building, which served as a research machine shop at the time.

Sewell acknowledges the vast scope of his time with UAB working with machinery, noting the difference in each of the areas of research and departments he has worked for.

Inside J. SewellFrom left to right, Ilias Perakis, Ph.D., Mark Case, Jerry Sewell, Kelly Gwarjanski (daughter), Kristy Pearman (daughter), and Jerry Keith Sewell (son).
Photography: Brantley Bargerhuff
“I’ve seen it all, and I’ve worked with a lot,” Sewell said. “I’ve gotten to work on oxygenators and heart blood pumps to help develop the open-heart surgery research. I’ve dealt with machinery for laser research, X-ray and radiology technology, and fiber optics. I’ve touched medical, dental, biology, urology and many more departments.”

On Saturday, Feb. 4, Sewell was recognized for his many years of employment and his unwavering dedication to the university during halftime of the men’s basketball game and was presented with a plaque commemorating his near six decades of service.

“I was caught off guard,” Sewell said. “My daughter Kelly told me to follow her to get popcorn and a hot dog from the concession stand. Next thing I know, she’s walking me onto the gym floor, and I had no idea what was going on.”

Sewell was presented with the plaque by Ilias Perakis, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Physics, and Mark Case, financial assistant of the Department of Physics. Sewell’s wife, Patricia, and family were also in attendance.

IMG 0108Sewell's Employee of the Month "Jerry has been supporting the Department of Physics efforts to become famous for research and student training on Advanced Materials Under Extreme and Non-equilibrium Environments," Perakis said. "Our faculty and staff are grateful for his service and expertise."

In addition, Sewell recalls being named Employee of the Month more than 20 years ago and expresses his gratitude with being honored then and now.

“All I can say is I’m blessed and grateful,” Sewell said. “I’ve gotten to live my whole life doing what I love every day where I love. That’s a life not many people get to live.”

As Sewell’s position prepares to be transitioned out, Sewell affirms he is not leaving immediately.

“I haven’t gotten to an actual date just yet,” Sewell said. “I’m part time now, but I still enjoy coming in here and working, so I’m going to enjoy it as long as it lasts.”