Huber Simons, Kasteel Well Facility Manager
By Michelle Gaseau
Photo by Mark David
Whether it’s securing the Castle windows during a storm or ensuring a student returns safely to their room after an evening in the village, Huber Simons is on top of it.
Simons is the resident jack-of-all-trades, security sage, keeper of Castle secrets, and go-to authority for all things operational at Emerson’s 14th-century castle and study abroad center in the Netherlands, Kasteel Well.
It’s a job he manages with a paternal approach, both for the Castle itself and the students who study there each semester.
“If I were to send my kids over the ocean to another part of the world, I would hope someone would treat them like their own children,” said Simons, in a recent interview from the Castle.
Though his title reads facility manager, it doesn’t fully encompass all facets of the job. Simons, like many staff at Kasteel Well, is a Swiss Army knife in his interactions with students or his work at the facility.
With a warm and welcoming demeanor, Simons, who hails from the village of Well where the Castle is located, is one of the first friendly faces students encounter when they cross the Castle moats. As part of facility operations, he ensures students’ technology runs properly, manages campus security, is on hand to fix anything that malfunctions, can help students find most anything they need in the village, and even plays the role of travel agent when needed. (He is happy to share thoughts on hot spots for inexpensive European travel.)
The beloved Kasteel Well staffer made the move from the military to Emerson’s European outlet 26 years ago, and has enjoyed every minute of it since.
The variety within the job was certainly one attraction for the former career soldier and father of three, but hands-down the most gratifying aspect he said is the opportunity to observe the students’ development and maturity as the semester progresses.
“It is very rewarding to see the young people come over every semester and you see them grow. You hear it in their responses after the semester; the experience does them good,” Simons said. “I appreciate that we can contribute to their experience.”
Simons and his fellow colleagues guide and support the students on a daily basis because of the close-knit nature of the experience. The regular exchanges between students and staff provide many opportunities for connection and relationship building.
Dulcia Meijers, senior academic executive at Kasteel Well who hired Simons more than two decades ago, says his organizational skills and uncanny ability to learn about and fix just about anything is key to providing a memorable academic and cultural experience for Emerson students.
“He’s proud of the Castle,” said Meijers, adding that the care and attention he gives to the inner workings of the Castle make it clear that he cares deeply about the building and about those who inhabit it each semester.
“His heart is with the Castle, the program, and the students’ safety and security,” she said.