Steve "Stevie" Prockish walked into Thornton Edwards' office at the age of 19 to apply as a dishwasher at Kansas State University's Derby Dining Center. Now, 42 years later and at the age of 61, Prockish is still on the job.
"I really like it here," Prockish said. "I wouldn't know what to do without Derby. I've found something that I can do and that I like to do."
Prockish decided to apply for the dishwasher position shortly after graduating from Manhattan's Luckey High School. He heard about the opening from his father, who worked on the K-State campus at the time. Derby had only been open for two years before Prockish started work there. Since being hired in 1968, Prockish has seen a lot of K-State history. In fact, K-State's Edwards Hall is named after Prockish's first boss, Thornton Edwards, who was director of housing from 1946-1973.
In his 42 years as a dishwasher and janitor for Derby, Prockish has managed to wear out two dishwashing machines, one hip and 10 supervisors. His current supervisor, Mark Edwards, has been the director of Derby Dining Center since 1991. "Mr. E," as his employees call him, has nothing but great things to say about Prockish.
"What I like about Steve is he's just very even-tempered, humorous and easygoing, and that's just the personal part," Edwards said. "He's knowledgeable about ware washing and custodial tasks. He wouldn't still be here if he didn't do great work, and that's the important thing to remember."
For Prockish, the thing he likes most about working at Derby is getting to know the students and feeling a connection to the K-State community.
But when not working, one of his favorite hobbies is attending K-State sporting events.
"I'm a big K-State fan," Prockish said. "I like football and basketball. I have season tickets for basketball, but for football I work every third weekend so I just pick the games I want to go to."
Some of his best K-State sports memories include heading to Nebraska to watch the K-State football team take on the Huskers during the pre-Bill Snyder years. "We were the only purple sitting in a whole sea of red," he said.
Prockish also was lucky enough to score the autograph of Jordy Nelson, the former Wildcat football standout and now a member of the NFL's Green Bay Packers. But his fondest memories came from watching his all-time favorite K-State player, Steve Henson, who played on the Wildcats basketball team from 1986-1990.
"He wasn't a star player, but man, was he one of K-State's greatest," Prockish said.
When not sitting in the stands cheering on the Wildcats, Prockish is an avid reader. But even with his hobbies outside of his job, Prockish said he would not know what to do without Derby. Although he said he plans on retiring soon, he doesn't seem too excited about it.
"I'm going to retire at 65, if I hold up that long," Prockish joked. "I'd like to get a part-time job some place, maybe even here at Derby. I wouldn't be able to just sit at home and do nothing, because that's just not who I am."
Edwards said that it would be hard to imagine Derby without Prockish around. He has become part of Derby culture.
"It definitely would be different here without Steve," Edwards said. "Steve is a big reason why Derby is known as a place that serves great food and is a great place to work. He is vital to the mixture of people who work here. Our quality would probably not be as great without Steve being here, and it certainly wouldn't be as fun."
Photo: Steve Prockish, right, poses with his supervisor, Mark Edwards, during a recent award ceremony, during which Prockish was honored for his long tenure with Derby Dining Center.