Thanks to the diligence of UI housekeeper Denise Shroyer and a small staff of caretakers, the university president's house is where dust bunnies go to die.
Shroyer, who officially is the house's coordinator of operations, has served five presidents and countless visiting dignitaries, cleaning and caring for the 14,000-square-foot Georgian Revival home on Florida Avenue in Urbana for the past 16 years.
The 80-year-old house and surrounding grounds are kept in immaculate condition, something Shroyer said the staff of one full-time housekeeper, one half-time housekeeper and a full-time gardener take day-to-day pride in.
"We're like family here - we're really close," she said of fellow employees. "It really takes a village to keep this house so beautiful." That village, she said, includes extremely responsive maintenance assistance from Facilities and Services employees and impressive catering presentations by the university's food services.
"There's a lot of traffic that goes through this house," Shroyer said, despite the fact the current president, Bob Easter, doesn't live in the residence. "It really does get used a lot."
It's estimated that 4,500 guests a year stay or attend events at the house, which features four floors that include a large kitchen and cooking area, sleeping areas, a solarium and a recreation room. Historical dignitaries have included Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt and a bevy of other well-known guests.
"We have lots of formal dinners and events like the Eberfest Opening Night Gala," she said. "The Easters always stay overnight when a university guest is staying here. They've been terrific to work for because they have a great attitude and they're a lot of fun."
Shroyer is in charge of developing and following a cleaning and maintenance schedule designed to cover every aspect of keeping the house in such good condition. Dusting is prescribed in certain rooms at regular intervals, while more-detailed work like silver cleaning comes up on the schedule less often.
"I'm an organizer, so that part of the job goes well with my personality," she said.
One of the biggest challenges, she said, is the house doesn't have an elevator, which means stairs are the only floor-to-floor travel option.
"The stairs are a challenge for sure," she said. "It's a spacious, beautiful mansion for sure, but it's also a hard, physical job."
Perks of the job include developing relationships with the presidents and their families, and meeting traveling dignitaries visiting campus.
"All of the presidents and their wives have had their own wonderful qualities and they all brought something different to the house," she said. "It's very interesting meeting the people who come through here; they're all different and they all have different needs."
She said the staff's regular day-to-day work is often affected by guest arrivals or special events. She estimates about 80 percent of her daily work revolves around cleaning.
"After everything is over, that's when things have to be moved back around to where they were," she said.
Shroyer said she enjoys being inside the house, which is filled with historically significant or specially designed furniture, accoutrements added by past presidents and art pieces on loan from the Krannert Art Museum. She said the inside and outside spaces of the house are affected by seasonal lighting.
"There are so many touches inside and the views from every room of the house are spectacular," she said, referring to the views of the immediate grounds and neighboring gardens of Japan House, the Idea Garden and the university Arboretum's trial gardens. "Each season comes with its own unique beauty."
Shroyer, a lifetime resident of Philo, worked as a housekeeper in the private sector while raising her three children, who are grown and still live in the area. Now she keeps busy with her grandchildren when she's not working.
She said her work at the president's house has been a dream job.
"This is my first and only job at the university," she said. "When I first looked into the job it had just become available on that very day. I think it was meant to be."