For a man who works hard to ensure a safe and secure campus for its students, security officer Nelson Preston sure does value his freedom.
How does he find that freedom?
By riding a motorcycle.
Preston was involved with motorcycle riding long before he started his job at the college more than 16 years ago — and long before his previous position in Indianapolis.
Before starting at the college in 2000, Preston was an operations manager for a local security agency. When the company downsized, Preston had to look for other work.
“I liked the work up there, but I got tired of the bad side of life,” he said. “Some of the places we worked were pretty tough. I didn’t want to carry a gun anymore and have all those bad, negative things that happen when you carry a gun.”
After working at an Indianapolis hotel for a year, he saw an advertisement in the newspaper for a security officer position at Franklin College.
“I thought it would be kinder and gentler than carrying a gun and working in Indianapolis, so I thought, ‘Let’s check that out,’” Preston said.
Sure enough, the position worked out perfectly for Preston’s lifestyle and family.
One of his daughters graduated from Franklin College, thanks to the tuition remission for college employees. After Preston utilized that resource, he figured he would end up looking for another security management position.
“Well, gosh darn it, I fell in love with the place and I like students,” he said. “It just is a good fit for me.”
Preston said a lot of students have misconceptions about campus security and assume the officers are out to get students.
“We are truly here to serve and help people — all students and anybody on this campus,” he said. “So many look at it in more of a negative light, but we’re really service-oriented here at Franklin.”
It’s a busy job: Security officers must handle all issues with parking, incident reports, daily tours, security cards, and sometimes, there’s only one person there during a shift.
But when Preston has a day or two off and the weather is nice, he can usually be found on his Yamaha Road Star.
He’s been on a motorcycle since he was four-months-old when his dad put him in a milk crate strapped to the front of his Indian Chief motorcycle.
Since then, he’s logged countless miles and rode through 36 of the continental states — even leaving the continental U.S. to hop the Outer Banks, a group of islands off the coast of North Carolina.
“Just the freedom of it is what I like,” he said. “The air blowing through your hair — what hair I have left. It kind of gives me still the feeling of a young man, being free and easy.”
While he used to frequently do poker runs, or rallies for different causes and charities, he now mostly rides with his partner and close inner circle groups.
Preston said motorcycles are a family affair, from back when his father was an Indian motorcycle dealer who rode with Harley and Davidson, the creators of the well-known Harley-Davidson motorcycles, to now with his two oldest daughters who are also motorcycle enthusiasts.
Preston said he will ride until his health doesn’t allow him to ride anymore.
“It’s a euphoric feeling,” he said. “It’s freedom.”