PUBLICATIONS Inside Illinois Vol. 27, No. 10, Nov. 15, 2007
Staff members recognized for service, retirement
Recently retired and long-serving staff employees will be honored at the 2007 Staff Service Recognition Program Nov. 15 in Illini Union Rooms A, B and C.
The program will honor 202 employees who retired between Sept. 1, 2006, and Aug. 31, 2007. In addition, employees will be honored for service completed during that time: 83 employees who completed 25 years, 44 who completed 30 years, three who completed 35 years, one who completed 40 years, and one who completed 45 years of service with the university.
A Web site for the Staff Service Recognition Program is available through the Staff Human Resources 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.
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
It was a bet with her husband that led to Molly Hackney’s joining the university’s workforce. “He thought I couldn’t get a job or make it for six months if I did,” Hackney said. “I think I kind of proved him wrong.”
Indeed she did. Hackney officially retired this year after a 30-year career at the UI, all but 17 months of which she spent as a secretary in the Office of Instructional Resources, now part of the Center for Teaching Excellence. Hackney began her career in the Office of Admissions and Records, but found her niche when she moved to instructional resources, where she did much of the unit’s billing. “When I first started, everything was done manually, by typewriter,” Hackney said. “Later, I learned how to operate the PLATO system and did the billing through it, and then of course, (technology) just exploded.”
When Hackney joined the unit, it was on the fourth floor of Engineering Hall, which had a small fire station behind it at the time, a feature that came in quite handy on those occasions when Hackney arrived at work and discovered flooding from broken water pipes and other minor emergencies. The instructional resources unit later moved to its present location in the Armory.
What kept her so long in one department? “I liked the people: the students, the vendors, the people from Facilities and Services Division,” Hackney said, adding that she occasionally meets her former co-workers for lunch now that she’s retired. With a bubbly, infectious laugh, Hackney recalled how she and her co-workers celebrated Halloween in costumes at the office; one Halloween, Hackney dressed as a California Raisin.
Perhaps, most of all, she misses the many students who worked in the office over the years. She became a surrogate mom to some of them, and kept cans of soup in the office to ensure that her harried students would have meals available if they couldn’t find time to eat during the blitz of end-of-semester projects, research papers, work and other activities.
Hackney was one of the founding members of Local 3700 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents nearly 1,600 clerical workers on campus. Hackney said she was attracted to the union after observing a lengthy, record-setting teacher’s strike in the Homer school district.
“I spent many months on the outside looking in, working on (the teachers’ strike) and I decided at the time, that if there was ever going to be anything that was going to affect me and my kids,” she would not be a bystander or an outsider. “I wanted to know what was going on, who was doing things wrong, and who was doing it right.” So Hackney became one of the union’s contract negotiators, striving for better pay and promotional opportunities for clerical workers across campus. She would have been on the negotiating team to help hammer out the union’s most recent contract, if she hadn’t been sidelined by health problems that prompted her to go on disability.
During the past three years, her independent spirit has kept Hackney striding toward recovery through a series of four knee-replacement surgeries – one of which landed her in a nursing home for two months and another that kept her bedridden for a month over the Christmas holidays. “That’s every woman’s dream, but it’s not what it’s cracked up to be,” Hackney said wryly.
Not wanting to be dependent on a walker, Hackney has pushed herself until she can walk with a cane, and she keeps up her twice weekly water aerobics sessions, a fitness regimen that she took up more than a decade ago.
Hackney and her husband, Howard, have lived in the same house in Homer for 30 years, where they settled after Howard’s job transfers bounced them from Danville to Chicago and back to Central Illinois again within a few years. Howard, now retired, works part time at the Casey’s convenience store in Homer as an early morning doughnut-maker and is off work by 8 a.m. so he can go fishing.
The Hackneys’ son, Terry, now lives and works in downtown Chicago, a lifestyle choice that clearly perplexes his mother. “I’m a small town girl,” said Hackney, who added that she grew up in the little town of Oakwood and considers Champaign “the big city,” which she traverses only when necessary, for her aerobics classes, grocery shopping and appointments. Terry, who works for the telephone company ATT-SBC, got married about a year ago and finished his bachelor’s degree in June.
Hackney’s daughter, Sherry Cler, works at Bergner’s, and her husband, Greg, is the mayor of Tolono and runs a car repair business. They have three sons and three grandchildren.
Daily phone calls also keep Hackney connected to her brother, who lives in St. Louis, and whom she visits when she can.
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
For Robert Walker Jr., a soldier who joined the U.S. Army straight out of high school, Vietnam was a life-changing experience. A demolitions expert specializing in booby traps, Walker had graduated a semester early from Champaign Centennial High School and was granted leave to return home to graduate with his class and accept his diploma in person. Amid the horrors of war, Walker made a pact with God: If he were allowed to go home alive, he would devote his life to serving God and helping people who couldn’t help themselves.
In the more than 30 years since he made that pact, Walker has done that through the National Council of African American Men, a nonprofit organization that coordinates and works in partnership with other organizations to address issues that impact African-American men and to promote their positive contributions to society. Walker is a co-founder of the Illinois-chartered chapter of NCAAM and, chairman of the board of directors, oversees the chapters throughout Illinois.
His retirement from the UI’s Facilities and Services Division on Nov. 1, 2006, has offered Walker the opportunity to devote himself more fully to NCAAM, which is his passion.
A tall, solidly built, fit man at the age of 56, Walker said he is living the American Dream, as a result of knowledge, education and hard work. He spent 30 years at the UI as a steamfitter, retiring as a supervisor. He also attributes his success to “living a clean, honest, healthy life and serving the community.”
“I want NCAAM to be construed as a positive entity, where African-American men are positive role models and citizens of this community,” Walker said. “To do that, I must lead by example, showing them that it is possible, maintaining a level of hope for the men. I am living what I want them to live.”
Most males don’t know what their roles in society and interpersonal relationships should be, oftentimes because they had no positive role models at home when they were growing up to teach them those skills, Walker said. Through counseling, education and training, NCAAM teaches men how to handle themselves and problems they face in marriage, in the workplace and other aspects of life.
Walker, who specializes in teaching about relationships, modeled his life after that of the most influential figure in his life – his father, Fred Walker Sr., who forged a career in the U.S. Air Force as a refueler until he retired from the military for a second career in federal Civil Service. “My father was the biggest hero I ever knew,” Walker said. “I knew no one greater than my dad. He never denied access to himself. His passion, love, concern, focus and determination were shown by his willingness to put his time in to force us to succeed. As a result of his teachings, I live a better-than-average life.”
The fifth of nine siblings, Walker saw the Army as his opportunity to serve his country and to get an education, knowing that his father could not afford college tuition for numerous children simultaneously. Walker earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Berlin.
Walker joined the UI’s staff in 1977 and completed a five-year apprenticeship as a journeyman through the plumbers and steamfitters union Local 139. Repairing and maintaining the campus’s massive steam system “was something that I enjoyed, that I was good at, that afforded me the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with all kinds of engineers, to meet people from the university’s president to the building service workers, and that made me feel as if I were helping.”
Likewise, Walker’s work with NCAAM has brought him access to many people, including Carol Moseley Braun, a former U.S. senator; Emil Jones, president of the Illinois Senate; and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. In addition to mentoring adults, Walker serves as a “community father” to many young people, reassuring anxious parents that he is keeping watch over their offspring (including one of Jackson’s sons who attended the UI) as they traverse the sometimes rocky terrain of young adulthood.
A trainer in kung fu, Walker also is an expert archer and marksman, earning many first- and second-place awards in regional championships over the past nine years. An avid outdoorsman, Walker has hunted, camped and competed for the past 23 years in Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois. He planned to spend two weeks there during November. “There’s nothing like Mother Nature to soothe your soul,” said Walker, and added that being in the wilderness relieves him of any tension he feels and renews his faith. He also is a member of American Legion Post 559.
News Bureau, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
507 E. Green St., Suite 345, Champaign, Illinois 61820
Telephone 217 333-1085, Fax 217 244-0161