Marjorie Gamel, an administrative aide in the physics department and a former U.S. Air Force member, still performs her duties with military precision.
She just doesn't salute as often.
Before coming to the U. of I. in 1983, Gamel was in the Air Force for six years, stationed at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois. That's where she met her husband and started a still-thriving family.
"I became interested in the military while I was in junior high school," she said. "My brother had been drafted in the Vietnam era, and I did a lot of reading about the military and what he might be doing and where he might be going."
Originally from Maryland, she went to basic training in San Antonio in 1977, which included specializations in security policing and law enforcement. At Chanute, she was a sergeant with gate security and patrol duties, and she processed identification and security clearances for military and civilian personnel.
She credits a scouting leader who also was a police officer for her interest in law enforcement. She said he would take the kids on ride-alongs and let them assist with other police department functions.
Gamel met her husband, Hank, who also was involved in law enforcement as an airman at Chanute. They were married in 1978 and had the first of two children in 1979.
He left the Air Force in 1980 and was hired by the Rantoul Police Department, retiring in 2010 as deputy police chief after 30 years of service. He is the executive director of Hope Meadows, a multigenerational living community in Rantoul.
She left the Air Force in 1982 and was hired by U. of I.'s Cooperative Extension as a program assistant for its expanded food and nutrition program.
The job involved going to a client family's home and sharing techniques for stretching a food budget further to include more nutritious food.
She said she liked the one-on-one contact the job entailed and felt she was doing something valuable. The only drawback was she seldom saw co-workers, and which made her feel a little detached from the rest of the world.
"It was a little different, because I was used to being a part of a team," she said. "There were days when I wouldn't see any of my co-workers."
That team feeling returned in 1985 after she took a job in the physics department that had her working in the busy print shop. It was a pre-computer and paper-intensive job requiring many different skills and plenty of teamwork.
That led to another position in the physics department electronics shop, where she processed and logged work orders.
In 1990, she moved to the department's undergraduate office, where she helped prepare 100-level examinations, made section changes and was responsible for a number of support functions for large-enrollment classes. After seven years of that, she took a similar position in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences general curriculum office.
In 2000, the head of the physics department left, and she was asked to return to aid in the transition.
Her current duties include maintaining the department head's calendar, faculty searches, promotions, sabbaticals, senate elections and other administrative duties.
"Until I took this job, I never realized how much is expected from faculty members," she said. "They teach, they serve on three or four committees, they do research and have research groups, and they travel to present talks on their research."
She said all of her U. of I. positions have been perfectly varied, allowing her to learn every side of a multitude of departmental and college processes - all within the precise annual orbit of an academic calendar in which students are always the fixed point.
"Each step I've made has been a learning experience, and every job I've had has kept me interested and engaged," she said. "I've never not liked a job I've had here."
She said she has enjoyed the transition from paperwork to computer work, as have the legs under her once-cluttered desk.
"I used to be buried alive in paperwork," she said. "Now it's all electronic. It's wonderful. It's nice that I don't have to run across campus anymore just to get a signature."
She said she even likes the location and configuration of her department's office, because it invites interaction.
"We have a glass front, so people always come in, even if they're just asking where the restrooms are," she said.
At home, she is happy just to be grandma to her two grandchildren, ages 5 and 8. She said they are the main focus of her life when she's not at work.
"They used to live out-of-state, but now they're here and we have a relationship," she said. "I get to be grandma all of the time now, and it's wonderful."
She also likes gardening and keeping her yard's landscaping inviting.
"It keeps me out of the mall and I've learned a lot," she said.
Gamel also likes to take as many walks as she can find the time for, a habit that started as therapy for a broken foot but now has become more or less an addiction.
She has a second daughter who attends college and majors in marketing.
"Right now she's at Illinois State University," she said. "She's very focused on her studies and at the same time trying her best to drain all of our resources."