A very high fever robbed Peggy Neville of her hearing at the tender age of 2, but it did not quell her desire to learn and contribute to the world. Neville, who is an admissions and records officer, not only taught herself American Sign Language, she has taught ASL classes for colleagues in the Office of Admissions and Records during her 40-year career with the university. “Peggy is an extremely valuable member of the Records team because she understands the many generations of records systems we have had here,” Registrar Alice Poehls said. “We all appreciate her work ethic and her wonderful sense of humor.” In her spare time, Neville enjoys learning computer games and other programs, going fishing with her husband Terry and watching game shows, sports and old movies on television.
What has kept you here for 40 years?
Because I love working here, and of course I need a salary so I can support myself. But I never have thought about retiring. I’d much rather keep busy. I think staying at home could be boring for me. I guess you might call me a workaholic. I’m kind of hooked on my job. Now if my husband were to retire, maybe at that time I’d consider it. But even if that were to happen, I’d still like to be part of the organization, maybe by coming in and working as extra help. I don’t want to leave.
Tell me what your job entails.
I’m responsible for the name changes and any other demographic changes to students’ records. I also make retroactive changes and corrections, update all late grades and respond to notes on the records e-mail list. I’m currently learning the new Banner system. It’ll be an improvement, but it’s a process learning it.
How has your work changed over the years?
When I was first hired in 1963 as a typing clerk, everything was done manually. You would type from a ledger and then copy the information. Then you would file it. Later, probably toward the end of the semester, we used a machine that was like an iron press to transfer the information onto the record. Then you would put the grades on with black ink. You had to be really careful not to make any errors. And it was boring, too, because the process for correcting grades was really involved. Then it became automated, and everything got processed as the students registered.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I really like to learn how to work with the computer. During my breaks and my lunch hour, I’ve learned how to play some of the games that are on it. I don’t have a computer at home. My husband, Terry, enjoys radio-control cars but sometimes he has questions or terms he doesn’t understand. I look those up for him and when he asks me, I tell him how the computer can help with those.
Is it frustrating for you to try to communicate with those of us who don’t know how to sign?
Signing is difficult because it is so detailed but there are other ways of communicating like writing notes, and sometimes co-workers and I will do that, especially if it’s something really complicated. In the past, it was difficult for me to communicate with anyone on campus because they required the use of a phone and a lot of the departments did not have the TTYs or TDDs for the deaf.
In 1996, the university had a meeting about accessibility, so I went and discussed with them about having the TTY or TDDs installed, especially for emergency purposes. Some of the other workers who are also deaf were having difficulty with trying to communicate. So we got that concept implanted, and the UI decided to provide TTYs for those that asked.
I can lip read really well, but I have to be able to see people’s faces. My mom really helped me in that way: She would write the words down and help me pronounce them. I’m also grateful to my schoolteachers because I was mainstreamed, and they wouldn’t let me sign; they forced me to lip read at school. I really like using both ASL and lip reading because there are no signs for some words.
In 1967, I ordered a book and began to teach myself ASL but I wasn’t fluent in it until I met my husband, and he taught me more. A long time ago, I learned how to interpret for Terry so he could communicate with his hearing friends in the radio-control club and race.
About two years ago, I taught a group of hearing employees how to sign the song “White Christmas,” and we signed it at our Christmas party. We dedicated it to a good friend and co-worker, Zileta Coons, who had passed away the summer before. We had worked together many years. She could sign and she had taught me computer skills.
Thank you to Theresa Rear, staff interpreter, Division of Rehabilitation-Education Services, Robin Haggard, admissions and records officer, and Les Cromwell, visiting assistant director and assistant registrar, for their help with this interview.