No one could accuse Phyllis Jones, secretary IV in the Division of Rehabilitation-Education Services, of breaking with tradition. Not only has Jones held the same job for more than two decades, she also is an Illinois alumna, lives in the house that her parents once owned and sings in the church choir that she sang in when she was a child. Jones, who earned a bachelor's degree in education from Illinois, worked as an elementary school teacher for several years before joining the university's staff in 1977. Jones first worked in the department of clinical psychology and in the Center for the Study of Reading before she moved to her current job in 1981.
What does Rehabilitation-Education Services do?
We handle everything but the academics for student athletes with disabilities. We have Delta Sigma Omicron, the fraternity-sorority for disabled students. We handle adapted athletics and the driver's education program, which is available to the general public too. We have a person who evaluates people with disabilities to see what aids, if any, they would need to drive and teaches them how to use those aids. We get a lot of high-school kids and have had a few older drivers who suffered strokes and were trying to learn to drive again. We've also taken over the general recreational activities for students with disabilities, such as football, broomball, cooking classes and camping trips.
We also offer summer camps. This year we have five camps for young people with physical disabilities: four wheelchair basketball camps and one track and road racing camp. We have camps for 10- to 14-year-old athletes, for 15- to 19-year-old athletes and an elite basketball camp for people up to age 22 who have the potential to be on the U.S. national wheelchair basketball team. Last year, we had about 150 campers.
What are the duties of your position?
Basically, I'm the detail person. I handle all the records and registration. I mail out forms to all the campers who apply and make sure the completed forms get filed with the appropriate camp. We have a lot of repeat campers, and it's interesting to watch how the kids change from year to year.
I also handle the paperwork for all the university's wheelchair athletic programs, things such as class excuses, travel vouchers and money advances. Every fall and spring I have to get the paperwork in to Admissions and Records to check the students' grades and verify they're eligible to participate, and then turn in the records to the commissioner of the Wheelchair Basketball Association. I also keep the procedures manual on the sports camps up to date from year to year so that someone new coming in to this position would be able to coordinate it all.
I also coordinate the annual sports awards banquet for our wheelchair athletes with the sponsors, the Optimists Club and American Legion Post 24.
What's your favorite part of what you do?
Contact and interaction with all the students. They're interesting. They keep you young and keep you on your toes. It's interesting to see how they grow and change between the time they come in as freshmen until they graduate. Some of them we keep into graduate school even.
What are the most important skills or qualities for someone in your position?
Being able to handle detail work and making sure everything's accurate. Not be frustrated with it, being able to deal with students.
What has induced you to stay in your job so long?
Good people to work with. We work as a team and everybody has their specialty. It’s varied. My job has changed over the years. Sometimes some rather "unsecretary-like" duties crop up, such as fitting uniforms and retrieving shot puts and discuses for wheelchair athletes during practice.
Besides the church choir, what other hobbies and interests do you have?
I enjoy flower gardening, especially perennials, and typically spend a good eight hours on a weekend in the garden. However, the squirrels carried away most of my tulip bulbs this year. I also like to read science fiction, medieval fiction and the "Harry Potter" series.