25, No. 9, Nov. 3, 2005
members recognized for long service and retirement
and long-serving staff employees will be honored at the 2005 Staff Service
Recognition Program Nov. 7 in the Illini Union Rooms A, B and C.
The program will honor 191 employees who retired between Sept. 1, 2004,
and Aug. 31, 2005. In addition, employees will be honored for service
completed during that time: 123 employees who completed 25 years, 33
who completed 30 years, seven who completed 35 years, and two who completed
40 years of service with the university.
A Web site for the Staff Service Recognition Program is available through
the Personnel Services Office home page at www.pso.uiuc.edu/service.
Retirees and service honorees are listed alphabetically by name, department
or number of years served.
For more information about this year’s program, call 333-3101.
Buenting goes back to school
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
photo to enlarge
byL. Brian Stauffer
Buenting, who retired from the UI on May 31, is
working temporarily as a teacher’s aide at
Gifford Grade School, where she helps students with
reading and math and monitors the lunch room and
playground. During her 31 years on campus, Buenting
especially enjoyed working with students and leapt
at the opportunity to work with young people again.
As some retirees
find out, they need not worry about finding things to do when they leave
their jobs, because family members, neighbors and others know they’re
no longer working and eagerly seek them out with pleas for help with
all sorts of projects.
And so it was for Diane Buenting, who retired from the UI on May 31
as an administrative aide in the Graduate College.
After 31 years on campus, “I was really looking forward to retirement,”
Buenting said. “I’ve been really blessed to have had a great
time during my tenure at the university, but I also felt like it was
time that I did something else.”
During the first few weeks that Buenting was enjoying her eagerly anticipated
free time, the phone kept ringing with people asking her to help out
here or there – and she happily filled in when she could, such
as when the secretary at her church, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
in Gifford, was on vacation.
But when the phone kept ringing, and ringing, Buenting soon became more
concerned about over-committing herself than about having too much time
on her hands, at least during the summer months, when the property that
she and her husband, Earl, a database administrator at Administrative
Information Technology Services, own at the edge of Gifford kept her
busy with mowing and landscaping.
However, with autumn coming and outdoor work starting to taper off,
Buenting said she began to wonder what she would do during the winter
months, aside from refinishing woodwork and painting inside their house,
two of the things that were on her wintertime to-do list. But a phone
call from the principal at Gifford Grade School – who asked if
she would fill in temporarily as a teacher’s aide – took
care of that.
After visiting the school one day to observe classes, Buenting was hooked,
and now for five hours each day she works with third-, fourth- and fifth-graders,
helping students with reading and math, grading papers, and monitoring
the lunch room and the playground.
“They are good kids and just so smart and eager to learn,”
Buenting said. “I’m happy to have an opportunity to influence
some young minds in a small way. It’s just really fun.”
Working with young people was one of Buenting’s favorite parts
of her job at the university too, she said. Buenting was a clerk-stenographer
III in the unit that was then-called correspondence courses, now called
Guided Individual Study, when she began working on campus in Illini
Hall during June 1975. A promotion to secretary to the director of Continuing
Education and Public Service (which later became the Office of Continuing
Education) brought added responsibilities working with the department’s
budget and handling human resource matters – tasks that would
become the mainstays of Buenting’s responsibilities throughout
her career. And Buenting enjoyed the challenges to learn and grow professionally,
but in June 2003 accepted a position in the Fellowship Office of the
Graduate College and moved to Coble Hall.
“I wanted to go back to working with the students,” Buenting
said. “For me, that’s what the university is all about.”
Ironically, Buenting said she only agreed to test for clerical jobs
at the UI’s Urbana campus when a peer in the secretarial program
at Danville Area Community College during the mid-1970s asked her to
go along. At the time, Buenting had no idea that not only would she
be accepting a job at the university but also she would spend her career
In retirement, Buenting
is devoting more of her time as a hospice volunteer and to church activities,
such as serving on the congregation’s Care Committee, visiting
parishioners whose ill health keeps them from attending worship services.
“I always said I would give back to the community in some way
or another when I retired,” Buenting said. “I just really
enjoy being in the community. I enjoy the young and the more mature
and the social interaction.”
During June, the Buentings were on the road a lot – traveling
to a family wedding in Nashville, Tenn., to a church conference in North
Dakota and to New York City. In July they took their travel trailer
to Wisconsin Dells and camped with friends.
But, as they did when both of them were working on campus, the Buentings
also like to get away without straying very far from home. They sometimes
take their trailer to campgrounds in Rantoul and Mahomet that are just
a short commute to Champaign-Urbana, although only one of them has to
make the trip to work there nowadays.
begins second career as grill chef
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
photo to enlarge
by L. Brian Stauffer
Gwenda Davis, a member of the Coach’s Cooking
Team catering company, prepares for hungry football
fans outside Memorial Stadium. Davis, who retired
on June 1 after a 30-year career at the UI, and the
team also compete in barbecue cook-offs, including
the Super Bowl of barbecue contests, the American
Royal Barbecue Competition at Kansas City, Mo., where
they earned a perfect score but placed third last
If football fans
leave Memorial Stadium hungry for more, don’t blame UI retiree
Gwen Davis. Davis and other members of “Coach’s Cooking
Team” keep the fans well fed, especially if they love barbecued
pork. The team operates three concession stands at the stadium, selling
hundreds of slow-roasted pork chops on a stick and country-link sausages
(made of ground pork with Hembrough’s signature spices). They
also serve pulled pork and various side dishes at the Champaign County
Fair and recently catered a wedding with 500 guests in Monticello.
The business name is derived from leader Gary Hembrough’s previous
line of work as a football coach. Hembrough and Davis, who are neighbors
in west Champaign, have been cooking together informally for years and
cooking for football fans and other customers for about five years.
Their culinary interests complement one another: Hembrough focuses on
barbecued meats and Davis specializes in desserts.
Davis’ apple caramel cake, prepared over indirect heat on a Weber
grill, claimed fourth prize in the dessert division at the second annual
Central Illinois Bragging Rights Barbeque Cookoff in Arcola on Oct.
8, where they were one of 50 professional teams who competed for more
than $8,000 in prizes.
At the end of September, the team also competed in the American Royal
Barbecue Competition at the Kansas City Royal, in Kansas City, Mo.,
where Davis’ carrot cake earned a 22nd place. Last year, her German
chocolate cake placed third. The American Royal competition is an extravaganza
that attracts amateur and professional cooks from around the world and
is arguably the Super Bowl of competitions for grill chefs. Coach’s
Cooking Team was among the 500 teams that competed, preparing a variety
of dishes on site, including an assortment of roasted meats –
including pulled pork, sausages and brisket – baked beans, stuffed
potatoes and a stir-fried dish.
When Davis isn’t tending the grill, she is tending her yard and
garden, growing flowers and canning the produce she harvests. She also
reads mysteries – authors Michael Crichton and James Patterson
are her favorites – and enjoys sewing and embroidery.
A mother of two, Davis also is a grandmother of three and cared for
her 9- and 12-year-old grandchildren during the summer.
Since Davis’ retirement on June 1, her constant companion is Max,
her elderly yellow Labrador retriever, who has lost his eyesight and
consequently sometimes gets “lost” inside the house.
“He’ll stand somewhere and bark until I say ‘I’m
over here, Max,’ and then he’ll follow the sound of my voice
to where I am,” Davis said.
Davis began working at the UI in May 1975, shortly after moving to Champaign,
and spent her entire career in Student Affairs, where she was the administrative
aide to William Riley, now interim vice chancellor for student affairs
and dean of students, and handled the budget and human resources issues.
During Davis’ 30-year career, she worked with three different
accounting systems, the most recent being SCT Banner.
“We had different kinds of things happening all the time,”
Davis said. “You never knew what the day was going to bring you.
I enjoyed the people, especially the students. The best part was seeing
the students grow into wonderful adults while they were here, and I
loved keeping in contact with them.”
Although initially apprehensive about retiring because she was concerned
about having too much time on her hands, Davis said she has adjusted
well “and now my time is filled with all kinds of things.”