Debbie Kemphues, administrative assistant to the Provost, has worked at the UI for 28 years.
Kemphues (pronounced KEM-fews) was born in England to an English mother and an American father stationed abroad with the military. She and her family moved back to the United States and settled in Illinois. She grew up in Fisher and graduated from Fisher High School.
Kemphues started at the UI at the College of Medicine in 1981 and worked there for three years before moving to University Housing. She took a break from campus life and worked at State Farm in Bloomington before returning to the Office of Business and Financial Affairs in 1996. She worked in the department of speech communication and in the Graduate College before moving to the Office of the Provost in 2004.
She has been married to her husband, Jerry, a building service worker with Facilities and Services, for 33 years. They live outside of Mahomet in a 130-year-old farmhouse.
They have two daughters and two grandchildren and another on the way in September.
Tell me about your job.
I manage the day-to-day operations and activities of the Office of the Provost, including the provost’s calendar, e-mail and the steady stream of phone calls the office receives.
My job is to assist the provost and manage everything that comes through the office. With the provost functioning as the budget and academic officer for the campus, there are a lot of processes that come through this office.
Right now is one of the busiest times of the year on campus with the academic year coming quickly to an end.
At this point, we’re wrapping up the promotion and tenure process, where a campus committee reviews all assistant to associate professor promotions, as well as all associate to full professor promotion requests. This is one of the most important processes submitted to the provost for approval.
We’re also in the process of meeting with all academic units that report to the provost regarding their budgets for the 2009-2010 academic year. This is always an important process but is especially so with our current economic situation.
What’s your average day like?
There’s never a typical day here. It’s a job where there’s so much going on and at such a fast pace, you leave at the end of the day and wonder where the day went. But I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I have worked with some pretty amazing people in my time on campus, but I have to say that the administrative and support team in the provost’s office are some of the most professional and effective leaders I have had the pleasure to work with on this campus.
What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your job?
I like the variety, the people and the pace of work. I took a six-year break away from the university and worked in the corporate world, but I found I missed the energy that the students bring to campus, along with the unique intellectual and educational environment that’s provided on campus. There is definitely a different kind of energy when you walk across campus. You can’t get that anywhere else.
What do you like to do off the job?
I haven’t had much time for hobbies with my current position and especially with what’s happened during the past year. I was pretty ill with leukemia, but I’m happy to report that I am in remission and feeling much more like my old self again. I have been looking forward to working in my garden for the past year, so hopefully I’ll be working in the yard again soon.
How did you cope with your illness last year?
I feel very fortunate to have had the help and support of so many people. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the support from the university community, as well as my hometown of Fisher. I also had very strong support from my family, especially my husband and daughters.