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Mehmet Gokcek: Painting with a purpose

Mehmet Gokcek
Since 2005, Mehmet Gokcek has spent his days in a paint speckled uniform keeping the Loop Campus looking fresh and clean. (DePaul University/Jamie Moncrief)
From the 17th floor of the Lewis Center to the theatres in the basement of the Richard M. and Maggie C. Daley Building, there isn't a room on DePaul's Loop Campus that Mehmet Gokcek hasn't touched with a brush. Since 2005, Gokcek, the paint foreman at DePaul, has spent his days in a paint speckled uniform keeping the Loop Campus looking fresh and clean.

"I've always loved painting, both professionally and as a hobby," Gokcek recalls. "That artistic side comes from my father, who was an avid trombone player. I grew up in a fairly artistic house. Painting is my way of sharing art and bringing people together."

On any given day, Gokcek, who leads the paint team of two, is working on hundreds of projects across campus. From small tasks, such as quick touch-ups on a door frame, to long-term projects that can take several months, Gokcek puts his 30 years of professional painting experience to work.

But the foreman's job is more than picking the right paint or wood stain shade. He is in charge of ordering and organizing materials for the Loop Campus, including painting related items needed for the electric, engineering and custodial teams. Gokcek also has worked with Facility Operations over the last 12 years to slowly adapt each of DePaul's six Loop Campus buildings from regular to environmentally friendly paint.

"My coworker, Jimmy Phillips, and I have a lot of wall space to cover, but we're getting there," Gokcek says. "DePaul is dedicated to keeping up with the latest sustainability practices. It's been great to do our part and work with the Facility Operations team toward making this campus and the environment better for everyone."

Born in Turkey and raised in Germany, diversity has always been a key theme in Gokcek's day-to-day work. Because of that, he notes, DePaul has been the perfect fit for him.

"I was an immigrant even before I moved to the United States in the 1980s, so finding small connections with people who are different from me has always been something I enjoy," he says. "DePaul is a large and diverse school. I love being able to chat with a Chicago native, and in the same day communicate with one of our international students and understand their desire to learn a new language and connect with a new culture. I love painting, but the DePaul family makes my job that much better."