20, No. 8, Oct. 19, 2000
Coombs enjoying retirement to its
Becky Mabry , Assistant Editor
(217) 244-1072; firstname.lastname@example.org
by Bill Wiegand
If anyone is enjoying
retirement more than Pat Coombs, shed like to know who it is.
Coombs, a 55-year-old former administrative aide in the math department,
said shes having the time of her life.
"I really loved my job," she said of her 35-year-career in
math. "But I absolutely love being retired."
Her last day was Jan. 31, and shes spent the past nine months
getting up in the morning without an alarm clock, cleaning her house
when she "feels" like it, and starting a new part-time, second
career. She has her real estate license and works for a company in Champaign.
That keeps her out among the public, but allows her the freedom to work
as much or as little as shed like.
All of the 35 years that Coombs worked at the UI, she worked in the
math department in Altgeld Hall. She started as a clerk typist I in
February 1965 and advanced through the ranks to the top position of
"The math department people are really super nice," she said.
"There were a few times over the years when I did think about looking
for other positions, but for me, the math department was kind of a second
She worked in various offices in Altgeld, and in fact, worked in the
same office three different times in her career path.
"I just kept moving up and down the hall as the jobs changed,"
Her lunch hours for the past 25 years were frequently spent in the break
room in the basement of the Henry Administration building, where she
played bridge with other UI employees.
At one time they played five days a week, but in recent years they got
together just three times a week. As people would retire, new players
would join the game. Coombs estimates 25 to 30 people filtered in and
out of the bridge games.
"I still play bridge quite a lot," she said. "In fact,
some of the people I play with now are the same people I played with
at noon. But I probably only play about four times a month now."
Though shes away from campus now, she often sees her coworkers
and other UI friends for lunch dates and other get-togethers. On the
first day of new student week this fall, she was feeling pangs of homesickness
for her former job.
"I thought, Oh! All those new freshmen and new graduate students
and new faculty! How exciting. I thought I was really going to
miss all that until about 10 oclock that morning, and then I thought
Nope. Its fun being retired. "
The casual pace of life these days feels fine, she said. She plans to
do some traveling, including a trip to Ireland.
"I had an identity in the math department, and I think I had an
identity across campus with my peers, and thats gone," she
said. "But I guess the bottom line is I worked 35 years and I was
ready to retire. I think if I wouldnt have been ready, I wouldnt
be this happy."
She is reminded of how fortunate she is when she overhears friends who
never worked at the UI worry about health insurance and retirement benefits.
"I look back at the day I started working for the university and
at the time, I was young and I didnt think about tomorrow. But
it was the best thing that ever happened to me, " she said.