After working for 20 years at the UI, most of them in the Housing Division, electrician John DeHaven now specializes in setting up sound equipment for events around campus. For example, during the recent Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival, the sound of Ebert and others at an Illini Union news conference was courtesy of DeHaven and his traveling van of microphones, amps and other equipment.
Did you get this job because you had experience working with sound equipment?
Not really. I'd worked in housing for about 11 years, and about a year and a half ago, they needed some extra help so they asked me if I'd like to help set up some equipment for some of the functions after work. Then one of the guys retired and they brought me in last fall. So far, I love it. But you've got to be willing to work a lot of overtime because most of the events are either on the weekends or after normal business hours.
What kinds of events do you do?
Well, we do a lot of things for MillerComm at the Levis Faculty Center, because it doesn't have its own in-house PA [public address] system. We did the fashion show at Lincoln Hall for Moms Day. We'll do several different commencement exercises. We'll set up the PA and also make audio tapes or videotapes if they want.
Do you work a harried schedule?
When you get going three or four days [in a row] you can really get tired because we're working regular daytime hours from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and then we go out to these events that go on after 4:30. For a medium-size equipment order, it usually takes about two hours to pack up everything in the van, unload it, set it up and test it
And then do you stay until the event is over?
Sure, sure. We take care of any technical problems that might come up throughout the program. But at the end of the night, after you get the equipment loaded back into the van, you're ready to quit. You're ready to head home. But it's still fun because you see a lot of interesting events and interesting people.
What do you do at home?
I have an antique car that I'm preparing to restore when I have the time. It's a '47 Packard. It's in fairly good shape. I bought it in 1971 from a guy in Champaign. I heard about this guy and I thought he had just a parts car, and when I went to see it I thought 'My gosh! This is beautiful.' I was still in high school at the time so I went to my father and told him he had to help me buy this car. So I got it and I've never let go of it. I've had quite a few offers for it.
Does it run?
Yes, I drove it home. It only had 40,000 miles on it. It hadn't been driven much. And it's been garaged since the day I bought it. I used to drive it every now and then. I'd drive it in the summer and stuff. I had it in the Fourth of July parade once.
What attracted you to a '47 Packard?
I always had a thing about Packards. I always loved 'em, and when I was a kid my grandfather had a car of that same year, almost the same color, so when I saw the opportunity to get this one, it brought back good memories.
Have you had a brush with fame doing this job?
Well, I do see a lot of distinguished people across campus. Especially for some of these seminars where they have special speakers come in -- world-renowned speakers and experts. And these are pretty important events, high-profile events -- and that's when you don't want to look bad or make them look bad. And it can be educational. Especially at the MillerComm events, you get to hear a lot of interesting topics. Some of them aren't real interesting [to me], but for the most part they are.