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Austin Petzke, former manager of Building Services at MIT, dies at age 67

A leader in operations at the Institute for more than 30 years, he considered his custodial staff the eyes and ears of the Institute.
Austin Petzke
Austin Petzke

Austin Petzke, who served for many years as the manager of Building Services in Physical Plant, died on Nov. 23 in Saugus, Mass. He was 67 years old.

Petzke was born in East Boston and later moved to Saugus where he and his wife of 46 years, Geraldine (Venuti), raised two sons. His son, David, works at MIT as a driver for Copy Technology Center.

Petzke started out in Facilities, then Physical Plant, as a supervisor on the night shift and after seven years moved to evenings before ultimately working the day shift. As manager of Building Services, he was responsible for the mail and shipping areas as well as grounds and custodial services.

He was also a training supervisor and created and taught a custodial training program. “I always told the custodians that they are a very important part of MIT,” he said. Before the building facility control systems were put in place the custodians served as a security force on campus. They would watch for floods or for trespassers on campus. “We’d put the night shift workers on the first floor so that they could see who was entering a building,” he recalled.

“Austin was such a marvelous individual,” said former Chief Facilities Officer Vicky Sirianni. “He filled our days at MIT with laughter, but also with great wisdom, excellence and good will. He was a very special person to me and so many others.”

Upon his retirement in 2004, Petzke said, “I consider MIT home and everyone here is my friend.” He came back to the Institute in 2007 and worked part time in the Property Office’s satellite area in WW15.
He had a passion for hunting and enjoyed spending time in Maine where he had a second home.

A memorial service was held at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Saugus.

In addition to his wife, Petzke is survived by David Petzke of Melrose; Brian Petzke of Saugus; two grandchildren, Kasandra and Andrew Petzke; and a brother, Steven Petzke, of East Boston.

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