Margaret Kevin-King

“I’m grateful to be working at a place that’s going to make a positive difference in the world."

— Margaret Kevin-King

Title & Department: Building and Grounds Manager, Facilities and Site Services

Year started at PPPL: 1990

Originally published in March 2023

At times, Margaret Kevin-King seems like she is everywhere at once at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). As manager of buildings and grounds, Kevin-King is in charge of the team that keeps PPPL beautiful, both inside and out. This keeps her on the run.

And if that doesn’t keep her busy enough, she also advocates for staff at the Laboratory, whether it’s organizing yoga classes for employees or chairing a new employee resource group.

Kevin-King’s attributes her commitment to working for positive change to her parents, who were both active in their communities, and to her grandmother, a Methodist minister in Liberia, who helped raise her during her early childhood years. “What she taught me and my siblings was service to humanity,” Kevin-King said. “If you are a leader, you do service. We do a lot of service. We volunteer.”

A childhood in Liberia and Nigeria

Kevin-King attended elementary school in Liberia and secondary school in Nigeria. She moved to the U.S. to stay with a brother after high school and attended Queens College in New York, where she graduated with a degree in sociology. While going to school in New York, she worked for National Car Rental and later Continental Airlines. When her family moved to New Jersey, she interviewed with a temp agency for a job at PPPL. Her first job at the Laboratory was as a work order coordinator, inputting data into the work order computerized system and distributing them to the maintenance techs. After three years, she was promoted to building and grounds supervisor, a job in which she supervised 18 custodians and was in charge of landscaping maintenance, solid waste and recycling contracts. 

Kevin-King now supervises half that many custodians, but the job has expanded to include overseeing landscape design, tree service, pest control and deep cleaning contracts. She supervised custodians from home during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. And she and her group were among the first to return to work onsite in June 2020.

A leader of African American ERG

As chair of the newly-formed African American Employee Resource Group (ERG), she helped organize events with other members that included a day of service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The group hosted lunch and learn events for Black History Month, including a panel discussion with prominent members of historically Black colleges and universities. “We’re trying to highlight Black excellence and to showcase African Americans’ contributions and successes,” Kevin-King said. “For a group that’s just coming together, we’ve done well so far.”

Advocating for sustainability

A tireless advocate for sustainability at work, she helped spearhead PPPL’s conversion to greener practices, including the use of bio-based green cleaning products. She has continued to lead the Green Team, a group she helped found in the late ’90s. The group organizes America Recycles Day and Earth Day programs aimed at educating staff about sustainable practices. And the results have been excellent. In 2022, PPPL recycled 78% of all its waste compared to 67% in 2021. The Green Team also advocated for electric vehicle charging stations, a proposal that PPPL’s leadership team is strongly considering.

Kevin-King also was part of a group that oversaw the creation of a new courtyard outside the engineering building. She successfully lobbied for PPPL leadership to fund free yoga classes for staff members twice a week. She has been a regular volunteer for PPPL’s New Jersey Regional Science Bowl and the Young Women’s Conference.

But of all her activities, Kevin-King is most proud of her work with colleagues from different departments to develop PPPL’s core values of responsibility, innovation, safety and engagement (RISE). “It’s amazing that you had leadership looking to staff to develop our core values,” Kevin-King said. “And we’re in a good place. We’re not perfect, but we’re given a voice, and a lot of people don’t see that.”

Kevin-King married her husband, Al Joel King, in the early ’90s, and they have three grown children: two daughters and a son. They live in Marlton, New Jersey.

Three things about yourself:

  1. I love to do yoga and dance. I used to run, but my knees said to me you need to stop. Now I go for a walk.
  2. I love family time, whether it’s going to the movies with my kids, watching TV at home or going on a family vacation.
  3. I like to travel, though unpacking is a chore.

What do you like about working here?

“The Lab means a lot to me. I’m grateful that I’m working at a place that’s going to make a positive difference in the world. What inspires me about PPPL is that it’s doing research that’s going to make a big difference not only in this community, not only in the United States but worldwide: clean energy for the future. I’m also inspired by what the Lab aspires to be, the people who work here and our efforts to be diverse and inclusive and to make sure that people are heard and that they feel they contribute to the Lab. Having those core values keeps you more engaged. And when you feel that way about your job, it’s easy for you to be engaged with people to get things done.”