NIU secretary bids farewell after 43 years of service to university

By Aquantonice Benison

NIU said goodbye to longtime employee Joyce A. Gardner after 43 years of service to the university at her retirement reception April 26 at the Holmes Student Center’s Clara Sperling Skyroom.

Gardner started at NIU on July 6, 1960, when she spent five years as the only secretary in the Educational Television Office, working for Blanche Owens.

For the next 13 years, Gardner worked as a receptionist in the office of the president.

She eventually became the main secretary and served under presidents Leslie A. Holmes, Rhoten A. Smith and Richard J. Nelson.

Gardner’s current title is the administrative assistant to Executive Vice President and Provost Ivan Legg, a position she has held for the past 26 years.

Last year, Gardner received the 2003 NIU Operating Staff Outstanding Service Award.

Gardner was raised on a farm in Malta and graduated from Malta High School with a graduating class of only 23 students.

At the age of 35, she married John Gardner, and by the age of 36, she gave birth to her first child, Lyle. Two years later, she gave birth to her second and last child, Meg.

In 2000, her 23-year marriage ended with the death of her husband, John.

Even though she was devastated, she continued to work.

“Working helped me deal with my pain,” Gardner said. “It kept my mind busy.”

Gardner’s official day of retirement is Friday, she said, which she will follow up with quite a busy schedule.

In May, Gardner plans on going to Dresden, Ohio, to weave baskets and will visit her daughter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“I am really going to miss NIU,” Gardner said. “You say you are going to keep in touch, but you never do.”