One need only look at the wall next to Kelly Collier’s desk in Everitt Laboratory to know that Collier is a cat lover. Pictures of her two feline “children,” Purrfect and Duke, each nearly 18 years old, adorn the wall along with other photogenic felines. In addition to caring for her own cats, Collier, along with her sister and niece, spent a week’s vacation during February volunteering at Best Friends Animal Society, a no-kill animal shelter in Utah that provides a safe haven for dogs, cats, horses, potbellied pigs and other homeless pets, including many animals rescued from the Gulf Coast region as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
Tell me about your career at the UI.
I started in 1979 as a receptionist in the Career Development Office in the basement of the Student Services Building. In 1982 I moved to the department of mechanical and industrial engineering as a clerk-typist. I was there until 1985, when I transferred to the department of architecture for a year as the secretary to the department head. Since 1986, I’ve been with electrical and computer engineering, first in the Publications Office and now I’m the secretary in the Optical Physics and Engineering Laboratory. I work for the director of the lab, J. Gary Eden, a visiting professor, and student employees.
Tell me about your job responsibilities.
As a secretary, I handle all of the regular office duties, which include being a travel agent. I also do a lot of typing: journal articles, manuscripts, exams, class notes, overheads and correspondence.
Do you have plans for your retirement?
Oh, yes. I plan to retire in April 2009. I’ve been a member of the Champaign-Urbana Theater Company, and I hope to be more available to help with that. I also want to volunteer with the Champaign County Humane Society and want to spend more time tending my garden and house.
CUTC is now in production for “Oliver!,” which will run Aug. 24-27. I’m an understudy for Mrs. Bedwin. It’s a small part, but she does sing a portion of a song by herself; that will be a first for me. The understudies will perform the show for the Saturday matinee. In all the other performances, I’ll be in the adult chorus.
Have you had parts in other productions?
Yes, I’ve been in several CUTC productions, usually in the chorus, but I have had speaking parts in a few shows. When I’m not on stage, I try to help in other ways. I’ve assisted with props and set construction and been on the stage crew.
CUTC performs in the Virginia Theater. We can’t rehearse in the theater because we have to rent it from the Champaign Park District. We rehearse in Busey Center in downtown Urbana until the week of the performances. Our costume shop and the company manager’s office are also in Busey Center. CUTC rents a warehouse where the sets are built and then moved to the theater.
How long have you been involved with CUTC?
CUTC has been in existence since 1991, and I attended the productions since the beginning and was very impressed with the professional quality of the shows. I finally got the gumption to audition in 1998. “South Pacific” was my first show. I was one of the nurses in the chorus. It’s so much fun to be part of the company that you get hooked once you get involved in a show.
What other shows have you been in?
“Cinderella,” “Brigadoon,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Once Upon a Mattress,” “Gypsy,” “Music Man,” “The Sound of Music,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” I was onstage for those and worked backstage for lots of others.
What do you enjoy most about theater work?
The applause, of course! And the feeling that maybe someone in the audience is really enjoying the show and that you’re making them happy.