“This department changes pretty much every time you turn around,” remembers Jane McIlmail, who is retiring as Department Manager after fourteen years with Brown CS. “Partly it’s the field, but partly it’s the energy and vision of our faculty and our wonderful students. I’ll miss it all. I love the little things, like the Halloween party and seeing everyone’s kids in costume, and I love when our people get recognized. I’m a geek, so seeing things like a faculty member being named to a professional society is exciting to me.”
Hired by Professor Eli Upfal in 2007 and starting work at Brown CS on the same day that Professor Roberto Tamassia became Department Chair, Jane’s prior position was Executive Assistant to the Dean of the Faculty. “I knew it was a substantial opportunity,” she says, “and I went to Dean Rajiv Vohra and showed him the job and said, ‘Can I not apply for this?’ And he said no, I had to apply, and the rest is history.”
Looking back, Jane hopes the faculty feel that they were well-supported by her and the AStaff team. She loved leading, she says, and working with such a smart, dedicated group of people. Jane thinks that her wide-ranging institutional experience (twelve years in Art and Visual Arts, followed by four years at the Scholarly Technology Group, then a half-decade at University Hall) helped her handle her work at Brown CS. Once here, she found that she enjoyed the challenge of managing a robust research program. “I love grant budgets!” Jane says. “I know that sounds horrible, but I do. Sometimes that enjoyment got tested, like when DARPA would ask us to redo a budget ten different ways. But they’re puzzles and they were fun for me.”
“Jane is one of the most dedicated people I've ever worked with,” says Department Chair Ugur Çetintemel. “On any given day, she was one of the first people to arrive at the CIT and the last to leave. Her expertise was invaluable, and I counted on her to always stand up for what she believed. We're going to miss her.”
In retirement, it’s unclear if Jane will be stopping to smell the roses, but she tells us that she’ll be stopping to watch the birds: getting up early in the morning with her binoculars ready on any day of the week that she wants. She’ll probably do something else, she says, but after 36 years, she’s looking forward to a bit of a break.
She has no plans to leave Rhode Island, either. “Why would anyone? What’s the matter with them?” she jokes. “I’ve always loved talking with new students and telling them what a great state they live in now, and that they need to get out and see what RI has to offer.”
Another favorite interaction with students was in the Brown Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Club, founded by Professor Daniel Ritchie. “I’m a big sci-fi fan,” Jane says, “and I’ve always loved being around people who are doing amazing things with technology. Brown CS was a wonderful place to work. I enjoyed being part of a place where sci-fi becomes reality.”