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On the job: Nancy Quinn

Nancy Quinn
Click photo to enlarge
Nancy Quinn has worked at Japan House since August 2000. Her job responsibilities include planning the tea ceremonies and other events.

Tucked away behind a grassy knoll next to a small pond, Japan House is a tiny oasis of tranquility and natural beauty seemingly far from the traffic on South Lincoln Avenue only yards away. Nancy Quinn is one of a handful of lucky staff members who work at Japan House. Quinn’s job responsibilities include planning the tea ceremonies and scheduling other events – experience that may come in handy as she helps plan a large August wedding for her son, Patrick. Quinn, who began her career at the UI and at Japan House in August 2000 as an Extra Help secretary, joined the UI’s staff in August 2001. 

Tell me about your job.

I am the secretary for Kimiko Gunji, the director of Japan House, who performs the tea ceremonies. I’m a jack-of-all-trades. I type up letters, file, order supplies, set up appointments for maintenance. I schedule the tea ceremonies that we offer here the second and fourth Thursdays of the month for school groups, business organizations and the general public. We have tours every Thursday, also. We try to get volunteers to give the tours, but if we can’t, then I give them.

How many visitors does Japan House have every year?

Around 3,000.

What a lovely place to come to work every day. What do you enjoy most about your job?

It’s something different every day. And I like working in this serene environment. It’s fun getting to plan events and do the things that I do. I like being able to interact with everyone.

One day after I’d been here three or four years, I went outside in the garden to eat my lunch. It was a nice spring day like today. And I looked around and thought, ‘Wow! This is beautiful! And I work here every day.’

What were you doing before you came to the university?

I had taken two years off to care for my mother while she was ill. Before that, I worked at Christie Clinic in their patient accounts department for three years. I’ve always worked in some customer service position, dealing with the public.

I’m originally from Rantoul. I graduated from Rantoul High School and went to Southern Illinois University for a short time before we got married. I got married at 19. If my kids had come to me and wanted to get married at 19, I’d have thought they were crazy. But my parents were pretty good about it.

My husband and I lived in Rantoul for 10 years, and I worked for the Village of Rantoul before we moved to Florida. In Florida, I worked as a customer service representative for a cable television company. My parents retired down there and we wanted our kids to be around them. We lived there for six years and then moved back here. I really miss the warm weather.

My son, Patrick, is 28 and is getting married in August in St. Louis. The bride’s mother and I are trying to plan things over the phone. There will be 350 guests and seven attendants, but it’ll be fun.

My daughter, Lauren, will be 26 next month. She just graduated from Eastern Illinois University in December with a degree in business.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I have a good group of friends that I get together with a lot. I travel, and I like antiques.

Where have you traveled to recently?

In November, I took a cruise with some of my friends to Cancun and the Bahamas.

I go to Florida quite a bit because I lived there and I have a lot of friends there. Patrick got a job in West Palm Beach about a month ago, so I’ll have another reason to go to Florida.

My husband passed away five years ago, so since then I’ve been adjusting. I took a psychology class and some cut-glass classes where you make stained glass windows. I also took an art class and dancing lessons.

What kind of dancing?

I’ve taken ballroom dancing and swing dancing classes. 

Right now, I’m taking salsa dance classes. It’s really fun. I go with this couple who are good friends, and we’re the oldest people in the class. The guy who teaches the class is probably in his 20s, and at the end of the class, he was concerned (because of my age) and came over and asked, ‘Are you OK?’

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