Spotlight on Marcel Blanchard, associate vice president for Utilities Operations

Jul 21, 2016, 08:28 AM by KirstiAnn Clifford
Marcel Blanchard and his wife, Debbie, ride a motorcycle across the Hoover Dam.
Marcel Blanchard is UTMB’s associate vice president for Utilities Operations within Business Operations and Facilities. His responsibilities include supervising a team of support engineers for capital programs and maintenance support, district energy operations, the campus sustainability program, as well as the business management of two service centers.

Blanchard began his career in engineering as a nuclear power plant operator in the U.S. Navy. After his discharge, he returned to Texas and began a career as an electrician, working his way from journeyman to field superintendent. In the early 1980s, he enrolled in the electrical engineering technology program at the University of Houston and accepted a position with its Office of Facilities Planning and Construction as an electrical inspector. Since graduation, he has served UH and UTMB in many positions.

Blanchard recently earned a Master of Business Administration from Western Governors University and holds certifications from the Association of Energy Engineers as a certified energy manager and energy procurement professional.
What does the Road Ahead look like for you?
My Road Ahead includes completing all of our recovery and mitigation projects, focusing on process improvement, and identifying and removing defects in our work flow to create a more cost-effective infrastructure for healthcare delivery. I recently completed my MBA in management and strategy and have a ton of new concepts I’d like to explore.

Since Hurricane Ike, we have been building a completely new infrastructure to make sure UTMB will be protected in case another storm comes our way. This includes a new east plant and a “hardening” of our west plant—these are the big production facilities where we make all the heating and air conditioning requirements for UTMB. One is brand new and elevated; the other will have a flood wall around it.

We also will be leveraging the new technology that comes with the new infrastructure. For example, we will be doing “combined cycle operations,” which means we will be generating electricity using waste heat to make hot water for all buildings on the Galveston Campus. We expect to be 50 percent more efficient than the way we were doing it before Ike. As an engineer, I’m really excited about this opportunity to both protect the institution and achieve operational efficiency.

What are the biggest challenges for Utility Operations as UTMB continues to grow?
The management of a multi-campus operation will be our biggest challenge. When we think about supporting the Angleton Danbury Campus, the League City Campus and our clinical enterprise, we want to leverage our size and effectiveness here in Galveston and simply duplicate what we do. Making sure we communicate between geographically separated locations will be something we’ll have to work on and get better at as we continue to grow.

What was your first job?
Right after I turned 18, I joined the U.S. Navy as a nuclear power plant operator on the USS Patrick Henry (SSBN-599). That work built the foundation for everything I have been able to accomplish. I was a child of the ’70s—it was a rebellious time and I was a pretty rebellious young man. The Navy got me to grow up and have some self-discipline—starting with simple stuff like making the bed and putting clothes away. In the nuclear power program, I learned the basics of physics and calculus, which was pretty intense stuff for a guy who didn’t plan on going to college. I also learned how to be a member of a team—when you’re out at sea, you aren’t calling a friend for help! After six years of service, I transitioned back into civilian life and applied not only the technical skills I acquired, but the leadership skills, as well. That’s helped me throughout my career.

What do you like to do outside of work?
I love spending time with my five grandkids who range in age from 5 to 11. They are all close by, so we get to spend a lot of time together, and I spoil them rotten. I’ll play on the Xbox with them, go to their judo classes and 4-H events, and spend a lot of time outdoors. They get to do things with Paw Paw and Maw Maw that they don’t get to do at home, and then my two grown sons want to know why they didn’t get to do those things.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I love riding on my motorcycle. Although I had one when I was stationed in Hawaii as a young man, I got back into it when my sons were grown. My wife, Debbie, and I once flew to Las Vegas and rented a motorcycle to ride over the Hoover Dam and into Arizona. We’ve traveled to both coasts by bike and like to squeeze in trips whenever we can.

I also have tattoos on both arms to help me remember how I became the person that I am. One tattoo has dolphins and a replica of the chest insignia that I received when I was qualified on submarines in the Navy. The other shows an eagle carrying a separate insignia I received for fleet ballistic missile boats.

What’s something you always wanted to do but have not done yet?

I want to play in the World Series of Poker. I love Texas Hold’em. We’ll go once or twice a month to casinos like the Coushatta Casino Resort in Louisiana so I can play in their poker tournaments.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
We just bought a motorhome and want to tow our motorcycle and travel to every national park in this beautiful country of ours. There is just so much to see from Alaska to the Florida Keys to Niagara Falls and Yosemite—I want to see it all. Our first trip with family this season will be to the Grand Canyon.