As I walked the beautiful campus of SIU, today, I was sad when I looked at Anthony Hall, where is housed the office of the chancellor.
I walk campus, daily, and for many years I have strolled by Anthony Hall and wondered what the, current chancellor at the time, was doing?
Having worked, closely, with some of the past chancellors…I have had an affinity, for many years, for them and their struggle to return SIU to its former glory.
To work with chancellors is to know them, in part, and their humanity and vision for the campus.
I was impressed, both, with chancellor Montemagno’s roadmap for the university and his courage in the face of adversity.
Indeed, we require a leader with a vision for our future and a ‘calling’ to serve others. Being the leader of SIUC is so much more than a good paying administrative position.
The university is located in what was, at one time, coal mining and farm land. I was watching a old horror movie, the other night, about the Mummy. It was a comedy, and one of the characters announced that he was from Cairo….Cairo, Egypt asked another….whereupon he announced that he was from…Cairo, Illinois.
And, so, we are Little Egypt, and Carlo wanted us to be the, Maroon jewel, in the Academic Crown of Illinois.
The miracle of SIU is an extraordinary story!
In many ways our university can be likened to the Egyptian desert, in that it is an oasis in the midst of a land of hard working people who would have little opportunity, without it.
The burden on a chancellor is multi-faceted. Not only is the success of our students and the academic community of paramount importance…but there is the entire Southern Illinois community that relies on SIUC for both employment and as an engine to the regions economy.
For 40 years…SIUC has been a primary passion of mine. I was speaking with someone, the other day, who said that when they retired they certainly would not be returning to the job site that they had spent so many hard years at. I, on the contrary, spent over 32 years in a delightful and rewarding career and benefitted, in every way, from my association with Southern.
I think that it is healthy to discover something that you love and to consequently immerse yourself in it.
SIU would be one of those areas, for me. Both the university and my church are areas that I want, desperately, to succeed, and although I grow weary at times…I can never give up on these two, almost, life long pursuits.
Many, dedicated, staff and faculty and administrators and managers and supervisors…are working tirelessly and, often, without compensation to ensure that our great school holds its banners high…and that it is poised for a return to its former greatness!
There are civil service staff that, literally, are dedicated to SIUC…24/7.
I have known, and do know, many staff who work, on a regular basis, when they are…quite ill.
I am aquatinted with staff and administrators that, regularly lose vacation time and who do not utilize their sick time…in order to guarantee that SIUC is functioning…at its full potential.
I know, civil service staff, that regularly accomplish all of their job duties, as outlined in their classification…and seek and accomplish many, additional duties, because they love Southern Illinois University.
There is such, profound dedication, to SIUC…that I do not believe that it can possibly fail!
Chancellor Carlo Montemagno was proud of his staff…..
I was reflecting on the beginnings of my SIU career, 40 years ago, and smiled when I thought of one of my primary, take-away, memories of the decades of experience.
Few members of the university community, know, what the housekeepers understand about the daily life and its intricate nuances at SIU.
You see, the, full time, custodial staff get acquainted with a plethora of members of the university…from all areas of its operations.
In better years…we were everywhere and saw everything.
We were a bit like the FBI or the CIA…sworn to secrecy.
However, professors and administrators and staff and students…often confided in us.
In the old movies about the upper crust of society…Jeeves, the butler, and Matilda, the maid, heard and saw much more than they ever spoke of.
Simple, but compelling, reasons for the loss in our student numbers, for the past 20 years…have been, both, observed by the Building Services staff, as well as confided to us by our wonderful students.
At one time…’we knew what the president knew…and when did he know it.’
We know that hierarchal leadership structures do not work very well…anymore.
Everyone, that works, has a boss, and the boss…has a boss. However, ‘sucking-up-to-the boss,’ is painfully evident to all who observe the process…and creates dysfunction rather than unity.
When, administrators are constantly afraid of loosing their, ‘position,’ they tend to be risk adverse. If the suggestions of the rank and file…must travel through the brains and ‘verbal mills’ of several lieutenants…the ideas, likely, will never reach the leader that they are intended for… or if they do…they will be, forever altered…much as the old, childhood, game of Telephone…where the sentence begins as one idea…and arrives at the end of the telephone line…as something totally different.
Speaking, ‘truth to power,’ is never easy, and will never happen without a collaborative leader and an atmosphere of collegiality.
Another secret that we housekeepers knew was that the university was comprised of a multitude of; shops and offices and academic disciplines and administrative silos.
Some of these workplaces, within the university structure, are happy and productive enterprises…while other are fiefdoms…replete with lords and vassals.
I have, always, been a person who enjoys being in the background of the scene and a observer of good leadership.
However, I have worked for dictatorial leaders and have, sadly, observed the health and happiness, consequences, that they have on their employees.
When I was promoted, through the ranks, at Building Services, I never forgot that I was a member of the team…and nothing more. I was humbled and honored that my colleagues trusted me to lead them…and upon retirement…I returned to the ‘back bench’ of life…and continue to admire effective leaders.
We housekeepers know that our students seek someone who cares about them. Many come from broken homes and families where they, by and large, raised themselves. Many are worried and anxious about their futures…and many have challenges that do not fit the ‘Norman Rockwell’ paintings of the 1950’s.
Many of our students come from homes where it is dangerous to sit in your front yard or walk to the theatre or play a game of hoops…at the basketball court.
Many of our students have seen their parents argue and fight over…so many things…that they are unclear what a health relationship…looks like?
We humans have a much larger percentage of mental health issues than our society biases…make us comfortable to admit and seek help for. Our students have these challenges…and they are looking for someone who cares and understands.
When a supervisor or a manager or an administrator…fails to see a member of their staff as a complex human with a rich and, often, difficult life, outside of work…they have missed the first principle of good management.
When we reduce people to cliches or when we ‘pigeon-hole’ them into less than what they are capable of accomplishing…we have done them and the organization…irreparable damage.
James Taylor sang, ‘the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.’ ‘Any fool can do it, there ain’t nothing to it.’
I have found that the quest for happiness, that all humans engage in, can be found at your own back door or at your fingertips.
We imagine that happiness is probably residing in another state or country. It is obvious that, happiness, has taken up residence on ocean front property…or in the, beautiful ‘smokie’ mountains, or, without a doubt…in sunny California.
At times in my life, I have been sure that if I could just obtain the promotion that I was seeking…or purchase the house that looked like a dream…I would be, eternally, satisfied.
Money is not the answer to happiness. It is nice to have enough…but rich people are sad.
It is said that the famous comedian and radio/television star, Jack Benny, found enjoyment in the smallest blessings of life. One of his friends noted the Mr. Benny, went on and on about a delicious, white fish sandwich, that he had discovered in New York…and how economical that it was.
I have always found pleasure in the most trivial of items and pursuits.
For instance, I have a vintage toy collection of action figures that were popular when I was a lad. There is Johnny West and Chief Cherokee as well Daniel Boone, that has the face of the actor that played Boone on the popular television show, Fess Parker, and the most current addition of Captain Kirk, that Jonathon purchased for me…and a foot tall Mr. Spock.
I continue to enjoy my vinyl LP record collection and playing them on my new, Barnes and Noble stereo. Jonathon and I have convinced Aaron, that vinyl is the way to go…and he is getting a Barnes and Noble stereo…for his birthday.
I love to sit at the Cunetto’s Bar and enjoy a Dirty Martini with my family. Cunetto’s is located on The Hill in St. Louis and it has been my restaurant of choice for fifteen years or more. We are going there for my birthday.
Cunetto’s House of Pasta has the most generous ‘pour’ of any bar that I have been to. They make a great mixed drink!
I, throughly, enjoy viewing an independent film at the theatre located in Plaza Frontenac in St. Louis…we are going there for my birthday.
I walk the campus of Southern Illinois University, almost daily, and often take photographs…and I always see something new.
I am always ready to enjoy a slice of pizza!
I have been collecting, pocket knives, for forty years…and I constantly see another that I desire.
I am a fan of audible books. I listen to twenty five – thirty per year…and they are the ‘bees knees!’
My brother, Brock and my sister-in-law Marcy, are coming, next Saturday…and I can not wait to see them! They are a rich blessing to my retirement years!
The last time that Brock and Marcy visited us…Brock and I got matching tattoos of a ‘B’ on our forearms…I suggested that we get ‘skull’ tattoos this time…yet to be determined?
Each time that I attend church…I feel better…more grounded and appreciative for the experience of life.
I think of my life long friend, Steve, and the many financial and survival challenges that we experienced in our youth.
Steve and I did not have two nickels to rub together and worked, constantly to aid our pastor and the little church that we attended in Elkville, Illinois. One day as we were driving through DuQuoin, Illinois…Steve said that he was hungry of biscuits and gravy at the Maid-Right Cafe…and so he pulled in the parking lot of the restaurant. We entered and sat down. The waitress came over and asked us what we wanted and we replied that we would begin with two, ‘piping hot cups of coffee!’ as the waitress departed, Steve asked me if I was, springing’ for the breakfast…and I replied that I did not have a penny on me. He responded that, indeed, he did not have any money, either.
We arose…before our coffee arrived…and exited the establishment…before we were compelled to wash dishes!
I love to see a hungry person…fed.
I love to see a lonely person…befriended.
Mary Jane and I became friends of Jo Ann and Peter Argersinger, after her untimely termination as the chancellor of SIUC. The friendship lasted for ten years…and I enjoyed it immensely. I received nothing but the ‘glow’ of wonderful fellowships with our friends and the, memorable Christmas Season, visits around their majestic Christmas Tree….and the Irish Coffee!
I enjoy hearing from my friend, Ryan, and sharing the, Joke of the Day, with him.
I have loved Christmas since I was a child. Since the days of Mom and Dad giving me the Laughing Santa. Laughing Santa had the most jovial beatific face and a crank on his back, that when turned, produced the most uproarious laughter!
Everything about the Christmas Season…is home to me.
I enjoy hearing from my friend, Elizabeth, and her struggles and efforts on behalf of the civil service staff at SIUC.
Mary Jane has made me an art aficionado.
I bond and connect, by default, with SIU leaders…due to my, many years of working with former leaders of the university. I was saddened at the, untimely passing ,of chancellor Montemagno.
I, throughly enjoy, vintage radio shows that I listen to on my satellite radio in my Camry.
I love the, pleasant sound of, Mary Jane’s laughter.
I love when Aaron and Jonathon are happy about their accomplishments and opportunities that are available to them.
I like rye bread and dill dip…anytime…anywhere!
I enjoy Halloween movies…and Christmas movies…’Christmas Vacation is a panacea for my soul!
I reflect on England and London and Oxford and York and Edinburgh…and I am transported there…once again.
I think of my friends, Jeff and Margo, who I had not seen for over twenty-five years…and I am happy!
I watched my former pastor, Janice, on a live feed from Africa…where she is working to aid in the installation of wells for africans who have not, previously, known clean water…and I rejoiced that I know her and her tremendous work!
Life is a chain of the little occurrence in our lives…that creates a kaleidoscope of events that construct our story!
In 2011, we visited Rome, in two installments.
We flew into Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport, after a 13 hour flight from the United States. We had a packed schedule of visiting the catacombs, that evening and the Vatican the following morning, before being taken, by Bob’s Limo Service, to the port city of Civitavecchia, that afternoon to board a Holland American cruise ship…for the purposes of cruising the Mediterranean.
We toured the catacombs, Jonathon and I reluctantly, due to our extreme jet lag.
Aaron and I napped in the hotel room, upon our arrival at the Monte Carlo while Mary Jane and Jonathon indulged in lunch, at what became our favorite Roman Ristorante, during our visit.
The following morning, after I showered in a tube that was big enough for half of me, we proceeded to the Vatican, with an extremely friendly driver…who loved the ‘Boss’…and who exclaimed to us…that ‘to him…he was the best!’
Our private tour guide, Sergio, was waiting for us and escorted us into a side door of the the Vatican Museum, while we passed long lines of tourists waiting to enter the facility.
Sergio took time to explain many of the works of art to us…as well as physically guarding Mary Jane from the pressing throng that were in the other tours.
Sergio, simply, made the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica…come alive for us!
As we were touring the Sistine Chapel…the majesty of Michelangelo’s paintings were breathtaking. Vatican staff, who were dressed in black, constantly admonished the large crowd, ‘silencio’, and we were soon to experience, first hand, that the admonishment was extremely serious.
As Sergio, who was speaking in a whisper voice, guided us through the facility, a woman admonished him to be silent. He then explained to the lady that he was a tour guide and that he was only doing his job. She proceeded to regularly berate him for his speaking…and he became, quietly, angry with her persistence.
I neglected to mention that on our first night in Rome we walked to the ristorante that Mary Jane and Aaron had visited for lunch. We passed several embassies on the three block journey. The complexes were guarded by serious looking soldiers with sub-machine guns hanging from their shoulders.
The most delightful waiter asked us what we would like to order and I told him that I would like to have his specialty. He responded that his speciality was not on the menu but that he would make the dish for each of us…if we desired.
The special dish…was to die for.
When we left the ristorante we include a 20% tip for the kind gentleman…and as we were walking away from his business…and already out in the street he hurried after us. He implored us to come back to his eatery…and we assured him that we would…as three of us were returning to Rome and the hotel, Monte Carlo, for several days after the cruise.
Upon our return to Rome, and after our cruise of the Mediterranean, we took a 7 hour tour to Assisi. The tour was by bus and our guide spoke 3 languages, fluently, and proceed to tell us what we were passing on our 2 hour ride to Assisi.
We first stopped at a little Italian village to see a church. We walked up hill for about a half of a mile. When we arrived, exhausted, our guide, announced, that, ‘there is the church and I will be under the tree.’
A woman from South Africa, chastised our guide for the majority of the journey and exclaimed to him, in all of our presence, that he was not doing his job and that she had been in charge of all tourism in South Africa…and that he could be better!
Our guide responded, on the countless occasions of constructive criticism, ‘Madam…Madam.’
Mary Jane, felt sorry for our, reluctant guide, and gave him a very generous gratuity.
We were looking for a red suitcase in Rome. As we gleaned, bits and pieces, from the Romans that we met on the street…as to where the suitcase stores were located, they spoke Italian and we spoke English…and somehow we communicated.
When we finally found the store that had the red ‘gem’ we used a combination of hand gestures and smiles to purchase the clothes carrier and pay the proper amount of Euros.
On our last night in Rome we dined at a ristorante that was just across from our hotel. I was so tired…but I revived when, Jonathon presented me with a book by my favorite author, Ernest Hemingway. He purchased it in an old Roman bookstore that had some English titles.
We admired the Colosseum from the outside…but did not enter.
The traffic in Rome is the worst that I have ever seen or experienced! There are Priests riding red Vespas and cars that are half the size of our economy models. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the rules of the road…and I could not distinguish if there were even lanes that the crush of vehicles were driving in. It appeared that each driver or motorcycle rider or Vespa rider or bicyclist…was searching for the….crack in the spacing of motorized madness…to place their vehicle in!
Our driver, for Bob’s Limo Service, told us that you must not make eye contact with the other drivers…as it was a signal to them that you were yielding them the right of way.
To dine in Rome…or throughout Europe…is to dine al fresco. Often we sat on the sidewalk that adjoined the ristorante on the left and the, busily traveled road, on the right.
I observed that most of the men that I saw had a bag that hung over their shoulder…called a ‘man bag.’
We visited a leather shop where the owner, handcrafted leather bags and satchels, and the work was well done and intricate and expertly fashioned.
I told a young woman that was working in the store that I wanted to purchase a ‘man bag’ but that my friends in America might think me, different, for doing so. She insisted that I purchase the bag and wear it proudly…and I did as she instructed!
Romans are warm and friendly and inviting of tourists.
The first morning that we awoke at the Monte Carlo Hotel…we were blown away by the luxurious breakfast that we had displayed before us. It included the finest of salamis and cheeses and croissants and chocolate and the hotel was immaculate.
The young waitress asked me if I wanted my water, ‘con-gas’, and I responded that I wanted no gas…but only water. She looked at me in a perplexed manner…and I soon learned that she was inquiring as to whether I desired regular water, still, or carbonated water?
On one of our last evenings in the hotel, we were enjoying a drink from the bar, and made the acquaintance of a man and his sister, who were from England. The man told us that he had been robbed on the train and that if it had not been for his sister…he did not know what he would have done. He was quite friendly and jovial and the next morning when we spoke to him…he did not seem to remember us.
‘All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
And one man in his time plays many parts,….’
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII William Shakespeare
Life can be likened to the seasons of nature.
We, first, are young and blooming and the sap is rising and we are ready to meet the challenges that life has for us.
Then, we excel under the bright sun shine of summer. We grow and flourish with each passing day…and we, even, have to engage in some weeding…on a regular basis.
And, in the autumn of our lives…our colors are most brilliant…and our accomplishments are great…and we feel the slowing process of time.
In the winter we warm ourselves by the fireside of our memories and we lean on our faith and our family.
I woke up to the sad news of the passing of our universities chancellor, Dr. Carlo Montemagno. Chancellor Montemagno had announced to the university community, in June, that he was battling cancer.
I had the privilege of hearing him speak, on more than one occasion, but the last time that I had the honor was at a Presbyterian Men’s group meeting, last month.
I had always been inspired by the chancellor’s words…but never more so than that, evening, meeting of our church group and my connection with Carlo and his care for others and his struggle and humanity.
I could see that Carlo did not feel well…and that a lesser man and leader…probably would have not been there.
His words regarding his desire to see SIUC, flourish once again, and to ensure that the faculty and staff were considered and protected and valued by him…in the most difficult times that our university has experienced…were heart warming.
Many times the greatest of leaders…are the most misunderstood.
My friend, Jeff, asked me that last time that we visited he and Margo, if I thought about my mortality…much?
I said that I often considered our earthly lives…the foyer of the house of our dreams.
It is the audition for something much greater than we can imagine or conceive.
When the door opens…we will think…what was I worried about?
I have always enjoyed a good ghost story.
The yarns regarding; Dracula and Frankenstein, and the Wolf-man or the Creature from the Black Lagoon, were fascinating to me.
I had, models made of plastic, that I bought at our local Ben Franklin Dime Store, for $1.50 or less, that I glued together and hand painted. For me…they were works of art!
The movies that these monster characters were depicted in, were highlighted in what was called Monster Magazines.
My cousin, Billy, had amazing and realistic rubber masks that fit over your entire head and that looked like the; Creature or Frankenstien or Dracula and the Wolf-man.
During my first years as assistant superintendent for Building Services at Southern Illinois University, we had a ghost sighting at the administrative building for the university, Anthony Hall.
In those days, the 1980’s, the majority of our student custodial worker staff, were Malaysian.
One night, a Malaysian, female student, was working in Anthony Hall and proceeding to the third floor, by elevator, to ensure that the lights were shut out and the office doors locked. When she walked off of the elevator…she saw to her right…a woman that was dressed in a white blouse,that was buttoned up to her neck, and a long black dress, and her hair in a bun on the back of her head. The student noted that the woman did not speak to her…and thus being frightened…she got back on the elevator and, raced, to find her boss to tell him of the unusual occurrence.
The Malaysian student had no idea that Anthony Hall had originally been constructed as a women’s dormitory and that it was named after the famous, suffragette, Susan B. Anthony.
The crew supervisor, that she reported her strange encounter to, later took me into the attic of Anthony Hall and showed me, old photos, of women dressed just like the woman that the student described.
After the students, ghostly visit, word spread rapidly throughout the Malaysian community and the campus community. Not only would no Malaysian student students work in Anthony Hall…but, also, the Vice President for Campus Services requested that I write a full report, for him, regarding the ethereal encounter.
When we were in Stratford-upon-Avon in England, we were staying at a lovely hotel that had a great garden,that was ideal for smoking some English cigars in.
As I sat in the garden of the hotel and awaited my sons, Aaron and Jonathon, and my life long friend, Jeff, I noticed the image of a young woman, in the window of a room on the the top floor of the hotel.
The image did not move and was out of place and…creepy.
When I returned, a few minutes later, the young woman in the window…was gone.
I took some photos of the fire that was generated by lighting charcoal for my grill in the preparation of grilling out…and the results had more than one ghostly image in them.
Being a science fiction fan I have often wondered about the quantum physics test that illustrates, that microscopic images…seem to appear in two different places…simultaneously….until they are looked at by the observer?
We are all made of the elements that construct our universe. Scientist assure us that energy never dies…we are made of energy….
Is the life after death…experience…closer to us…than we have ever imagined?
Tomorrow, October 10, 2018, marks my 40th year of caring about all things at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
I remember, clearly, looking and listening and hoping for a call from the Superintendent of Building Services, George O’Hara, with an offer for a position as a Building Service Worker I.
When I received the telephone call with the offer of my carer opportunity…I was thrilled!
I was speaking with an extremely interesting student, this morning, who happened to be disabled and in a wheelchair…and joyful to be a member of the SIUC community.
I am transported back to the first evening that I worked at Southern. It was a chilly October night and I could not believe my good fortune to have become a part of the university family.
My conversation with my friend, today, reminded me of why I love SIU and Southern Illinois. He mentioned that he had come from Chicago, 20 years ago, to attend university and that he liked the surroundings and the people, so much, that he never left. He went on to say that he considers himself, more a Southern Illinoisan than a Chicagoan.
SIUC has brought financial stability and a secure life path to me and my family.
The university has brought the world to my doorstep! On my first night of work I was placed on a crew that had student workers from several countries. Being exposed to the gift of diversity…my world view was expanded exponentially.
Southern Illinois University taught me that there is something, rare and glistening and worthy of caring about and fighting for and attaching yourself to…for life…in Southern Illinois…SIUC!
‘The Saluki or Persian Greyhound is a dog originally bred in the Fertile Crescent and ancient Iran. The Saluki classed as a sighthound and is typically deep-chested and long-legged. Salukis are sighthounds–hunting by sight-and run their quarry down to kill or retrieve it.’ Wikipedia
A Saluki can run 42 miles per hour.
The Saluki is the mascot of SIUC.
And, so, the young man from Eldorado, Illinois came to university. My childhood friend, Jackie Brooks, had enrolled at SIU…but never attended.
My mother encouraged me to go to Barber School…because it did not seem to her that I enjoyed studying.
Yet, as I came in the door of the housekeeping department…I immersed myself in the total university experience and ultimately became friends of chancellors and presidents and even gave them advice…from time to time.
The Building Services staff are among the most dedicated people that Southern Illinois University has…and the university should be honored to have them.
The sacrifice that I have, personally witnessed up to and and including this day, is unparalleled in commitment to the success of our university!
Building Services staff’s dedication to excellence…knows no bounds. They struggle to keep the university, immaculate, with a skeleton staff.
The mentorship that SIU’s housekeeping staff exhibits for their, custodial student colleagues…is an example for the entire campus.
Over the past 40 years…many have asked me what I did at SIU…and have often guessed that I was a professor. When I respond that I worked my entire carer in the custodial department…they proceed to tell me how needed the housekeeping services are.
What they do not realize…is that being a member of the Building Services family….was the greatest honor of my life!
The story of our life is the story of our memories.
As time passes all to quickly and days are filled with activity that changes more rapidly than the flying of a weavers shuttle…our memories of the joys of our days and who mattered and matters to us and our, ‘fuel,’ that fills our engines of motivation…can be replaced by the current cares and concerns and politics of the moment that we are experiencing.
I often reflect on my dear mother and what an advocate that she was for me. One afternoon, when I returned from school and the second grade, I mentioned that the teacher had taken my arm and shook me, when she became so upset that I did not understand her ‘new’ math.
The next afternoon, just after the last bell had rang and I was proceeding out of the classroom…there was mom entering and she was visibly upset. She asked my teacher if she had grabbed my arm and shook me…and she replied that she had.
Mom told Ms. Blackwell that if she ever touched me again…that she would ‘kick her ass!’
Ms. Blackwell apologized profusely…and she never shook me again.
My mother never had a lot of money…but if she knew that her friends or family or neighbors or fellow church members were in need…she would quietly give them money….and tell no one about it.
I can see the big tears in my dad’s eyes when a team of doctors examined me and told him that I had a heart murmur.
I, vividly, remember the mystery and excitement and adventure of being newly married and having my sweet wife on my arm…and our dreams for the future.
I can see Aaron in his bassinet in the nursery at Carbondale Memorial Hospital, with his little blue hat on…and how he cried the loudest in the nursery and the attending nurse telling me that he had character!
As we were walking around the DuQuoin Fairgrounds and eating ice cream cones, Jonathon told me that we must save some for Aaron.
I remember being so very poor…and hungry at times…with no money to pay the electric bill and the fear of having my power shut off.
I was so grateful when I was hired at Essex International factory and was assigned to make wire harnesses for Chrysler trucks. I was paid $1.75 per hour or $14.00 a day.
When I began working at SIU I was amazed at the compliments and kind remarks that I received from both my customers as well as my supervisors. I knew that I was going to have a wonderful carer with the university.
In Bible School, when I was 7 or 8 years old I was asked to say what I knew about Moses and the exodus of he and the Hebrew nation out of Pharaohs cruel captivity.
When I had finished my little speech…the instructor told me that she had never heard anything like what I had said…and that she thought that I might become a preacher. The experience made such an indelible impression on me…that I have remembered it until this day…and mark that occurrence as the time that I became a christian.
It is easy to not be able to ‘see the forest for the trees.’
Sometimes as we travel the winding and circuitous road of life…we must climb a hill and look backward at the many twists and turns and priceless experiences that have led to our present moment.
I recall being a member of the Civil Service Council at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale for over fifteen years and then a member of the State Universities Annuitants Association, as the Council’s representative on that Board, for four years.
During those times I spent nearly five years as the president of the group.
We had attempted, for many years, to have Veteran’s Day, recognized as a holiday at the University. We felt, strongly, that our precious veterans, deserved a day where the university shut it’s doors in remembrance of their sacrifice.
Finally, we were able to succeed in convincing our university leadership that, Veteran’s Day was appropriate for a university holiday, when it fell between Monday – Friday.
The quest to accomplish this innovative was about twenty years.
Chancellor Wendler asked me to chair a committee regarding excellence in the civil service community. This committee examined the viability of pay raises for civil service staff…that were out of season and were based upon excellent performance and job duties that encompassed areas outside of the employees job description.
We were able to obtain this powerful enhancement to the lives of civil service staff, and many benefited from this needed, financial, recognition.
The hourly pay for many in the AcEs Union was below par, as regarding the comparison to other similar jobs at Illinois State Universities.
When we took the issues of many of our civil service staff being eligible for food stamps, due to their low hourly rate of pay, we were able to obtain a pay increase for those classifications, that fell below the norm, of compensation, for Illinois Universities.
When I became a member of SIU Building Services…it was basically a white man’s club.
There was one woman foreman and few women that worked as crew supervisors or Building Service Worker’s.
There were few African Americans in the ranks of the housekeeping staff.
There was one disabled employee.
There was one, openly Gay, employee.
As the years passed…I was determined to change the complexion of Building Services…if I ever had the opportunity.
Prior to my retirement I had promoted women to leadership positions at both the crew level and the foreman level. Five of my eight foreman were women at the time of my retirement.
African Americans were actively hired and promoted and the recommendation for my replacement, by me, was an African American woman.
At the time of my retirement I was humbled and proud to, be recognized, at both the state and national level for the hiring and advancement of persons with disabilities, both intellectual and physical, and they were among our finest staff!
I knew of several Gay staff that felt comfortable and welcomed in Building Services…and I was honored to call them my friends and colleagues.
And, so, our political leaders are telling us that they felt for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford…and that they thought she had a compelling testimony…and that they believed her….but that they just can not believe that Bret Kavanaugh… is the guilty party.
Our president, ridiculed Dr. Ford and mimicked her and was received with uproarious applause and laughter.
God forbid…if it is your daughter or your wife or your mother or your sister…who is sexually abused…do you anticipate that you will be laughing?
Is it the reality that many of our politicians believe Dr. Blasey Ford…but do not believe that Judge Kavanaugh is the culprit…or is the cold and hard fact that….they really do not care?
Yes, the criminal standards for guilt are that you are innocent until proven guilty.
Are the criminal standards for guilt…the same for a job interview?
It would be increasing difficult to be caviler regarding a woman who has been sexually assaulted or harassed…if they were a member of your family.
I have taken the temerity to mention some of the successes that our civil service community at SIU were able to obtain and enjoy…and I can attest that I was told, by intelligent colleagues, that we would attain none of them.
I was labeled a friend of African Americans and the disabled and women…and I wore those titles as a badges of honor!
‘Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!’ Isaiah 5:20 KJV
We humans are great mimics.
My mother said to me, on numerous occasions, ‘monkey see…monkey do.’
Being social, and by default, tribal creatures…we often identify with our small group.
We tend to reflect the ideas and biases of our neighbors and friends and fellow parishioners. We identify with our geographic location and the customs associated with it.
Simply put, our reality can be a small as a snow globe…or it can be ‘Global.’
We were in Venice, Italy. We were staying in a lovely, flat, with our dear friends, Margo and Jeff, and the flat adjoined a busy courtyard.
Venice is magical! It is over 120 islands that are connected by pedestrian bridges. You may climb twenty steps, ascending the bridge and subsequently descend fifteen steps to the other side. This is due to the varying levels of the two islands that are being joined by the bridge.
Each Venetian shop has tall rubber boots to facilitate the continued operation of the business when it is flooded. Yes, the shops and courtyards flood on a regular basis…as apparently did the flat where we were staying, by evidence of the four pairs of rubber boots that were in the closet. Water was in the foyer of our building, many mornings of our stay.
One day, in Venice, I was sitting outside our flat, without my friend, Jeff, who was ill. I was smoking an Italian cigar and enjoying the, ever, passing throng of tourists and natives.
I became interested in a group of young people who were filming various people that they encountered. They, posed a young man and his girlfriend, and took several shots of them.
Then they came to me. A gentleman asked if I would allow them to film me…as I was, ‘very beautiful.’ At that point I was 57 years old…and had never been referred to as beautiful…and so I let them film!
It turns out that the Italian students were filming for the Venice Film Festival…and my moment in the sun consisted of a one second clip of me taking a puff of my Italian cigar and uttering the word, ‘yeah.’ Oh, I was also wearing my hat from Nice, France.
Outside our flat was a beggar, with the face and demeanor of an angel, who sat, on the steps, near our door each day. Jeff, gave him food and he was humbly grateful.
Venice has wonderful and and intricate, hand made, masks. They are customarily worn during the Carnival of Venice, ‘forty days before Easter, on Shrove Tuesday (Martedi Grasso or Mardi Gras), the day before Ash Wednesday. The festival is world-famous for its elaborate masks.’ Wikipedia
We took a Ghost Tour, one evening, during our stay. The chilly rain magnified a mysterious atmosphere as it landed on the ancient cobblestones. We visited Marco Polos home as well as the location of a murder…a decapitation! Our tour guide told us that some people see the floating head of the murder victim in the water that was just off of the dock that we were standing on…I looked!
Probably, one of the most enjoyable Venice experiences was Mary Jane and I riding in a gondola. There are so many gondolas that the narrow canals can become quite crowded and it was enlightening to observe our gondola driver expertly maneuver between the other boats and buildings.
If you have seen Venice on television or the internet, you may have wondered if the buildings, along the canals, are sitting in the water…they are.
We visited a bookstore that had books stacked from floor to ceiling and steps made out of books that led up to a wall made out of books…that you could stand on.
We boated to the Venetian island of Murano to observe the world famous Murano glass being made. Murano led Europe in glassmaking for hundreds of years. It is mesmerizing to see the glassblowers working with the molten glass to fashion items of delicate and multi-faceted beauty and wonder.
On our last evening in Venice, we had dinner at our favorite restaurant and were served by our favorite waiter, a Mr. Bean lookalike, and I reflected on what it would be like to live in this beautiful place?
I also could not help but think about Jeff and I watching, the real, Mr. Bean, on his iPad and laughing at his escapades.