Eileen Maley retired in July 2015 after working a total of 42 years for NCTE and serving over 15 years as the CCCC Convention Manager. Any CCCC Chair will tell you that Eileen helped to make every conference what it was, working tirelessly and with excellent humor behind the scenes. She was there to address every question, every idea, every concern—and with a smile and an excellent joke to top it all off.
Below are excerpts from messages sent by some recent CCCC Chairs who wanted to thank Eileen one last time.
If I can be considered the desk general of a military campaign, Eileen Maley was my best field marshal. I’d move a piece on the big map of the battlefield, and then, often much more quickly than I would have expected, she’d write me to say it was done. The bridge was captured, the train depot secured, the supply lines beefed up.
That sort of big-picture-coupled-with-detailed-implementation relationship is what made Tampa work. It’s what allowed me to dream and plan big, knowing that Eileen had the logistical experience to make those ideas happen. She was a fabulous partner to my academic team and will be missed.
Upon becoming program chair, I knew that I was in good hands when Eileen sent me a clear and full timeline of all my responsibilities and benchmarks. Bless you for that, Eileen. It was a life-saver.
My most vivid image of Eileen is of her walking the halls of the convention center, usually with Jacqui Biddle, the two of them, decked out in multiple badges, comfortable walking shoes—ready to head wherever they were needed: a problem with tech, a last minute mix-up in rooms, you name it they were on it. Eileen was a pro’s pro: unflappable, and able to find humor in just about anything. And a glass of wine, she realized, would ease all the rest.
Planning a huge convention almost immediately after being elected into the Officer’s rotation is a deep-end-of-the-pool experience. A lot of helpful advice comes from past program chairs. But for me and so many other Assistant Chairs of CCCC, Eileen Maley was a godsend. It wasn’t just that she knew everything about what would happen, good and bad, before and during the convention—and how to plan for it—but that she made it all seem like it could be done without a loss of mind or spirit. Imagine sending off a panicked email about some forgotten detail or leaving a gaspy urgent phone message and then hearing back from Eileen in . . . five minutes. Every time. Eileen seemed to be everywhere. Nowhere was this more visible than at the convention itself, where at every turn of a hallway there she’d be, holding her pager and cell phone and a batch of papers, ready to ward off the next possible catastrophe. I kept wondering whether Eileen ever wound down and put the conference out of her mind and turned off her cell phone and pager and stopped worrying about a million small details. So I told her that the blues band we commissioned to play at the opening session was doing a gig at a nearby venue on Saturday of the convention and urged her to show up. I figured she’d be roaming the cavernous spaces of the convention center all evening. But I’d tried.
My family and I went to the blues club that night, and to my surprise and delight, there was Eileen with friends and family at a large table near the stage. We joined them, and for a couple of hours, we forgot about the convention, CCCC, and all the little glitches (that only Eileen was aware of anyway).
At 6:30 the next morning, she was starting all over again, cell phone and pager in hand. Thanks, Eileen, for all your years of service to our organization, and for your friendship and so-wise counsel. So many of us are in your debt.
When CCCC wants a top-notch convention, who you gonna call? Eileen. If there’s something weird and it don’t look good, who you gonna call? Eileen.
Over the years, she has guided us meticulously through the rigors of Stage 2 reviews, and searched for affordable, accessible properties, always keeping in mind budget-conscious attendees. With the 2009 San Francisco convention, I witnessed how, through her trusted working relationships, she could solve sticky problems and even negotiate complimentary facilities. During conferences, she was the first one to check operations, greet faculty, remind presenters where they were supposed to be, and the last to leave special events. Now, we’ll miss her combing the hallways in tennis shoes with clip board. We’ll miss her knowledge of everything, and her patience with our many questions. Thanks Eileen for always going the extra mile!
Until you have been through it, you can’t know how complex organizing the C’s conference is. Eileen has been there, done that. I really mean done that. More times than she probably cares to remember. But she is really good at it–identifying venues, negotiating great deals, getting the financials right, organizing logistic and academic processes, and herding all the voluntary labor to keep processes on schedule. Then she fields all the questions and confusions from the membership so that all arrive happy and ready to engage.
Although I have organized more than my share of conferences, I never could have gotten through this one without her, and she made it easy and a pleasure for all of us chairs. Efficient and effective, she still has excess energy for jokes and multiple identities. Did I mention, Eileen is a hoot.
How Do You Solve a Problem like Eileen?
(with apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein)
The question’s not “How do you solve a problem like Eileen.” Rather, it’s “How do you solve a problem like Eileen’s leaving us?
Now, that’s the much tougher question. You see, Eileen is NCTE’s long-time problem solver. She is, as Rodgers and Hammerstein put it so simply, “a darling! a demon! a lamb!” And everyone’s favorite, to be sure.
And it’s only in Urbana and only Eileen who can solve our problems. We call Eileen to find out why our NCTE password doesn’t work. We email Eileen to see if she can find a way to change the day or time or meeting space of our CCCC presentation. We ask her how we might order coffee service for our workshop. And we go to Eileen, too, to see if she can—somehow—find our university a party room at the last minute. If anyone can make things happen, it’s Eileen.
Only in Urbana.
And when you’re CCCC Program Chair, it’s Eileen who soothes your worries and complaints, assuring you that all the characters in the CCCC-convention drama play their own predictable roles.
The wondrous Eileen—talented, generous, sharp as a tack, fun as a circus—is much more than her Coach bags, zinfandel, and wicked humor. She is, as those lyricists would say, the unpinnable cloud, the untouchable moonbeam.
In other words, our Eileen is magic at its best.
Oh, how we’ll miss her!
A warm woman who empathizes when things go wrong.
A convention manager who helps plan conferences, suggests room assignments, gets information into the program, finds chairs for chairless sessions, schedules workshops, finds LCDs, relocates misplaced sessions, contracts with audio-visual folks so presentations, large with sound and visuals, go off without a hitch, finds missing items . . . with a smile.
A person with cell in hand and some kind of walky-talky in (other) hand walking–no, almost running–to a crisis to make it stop.
A throughline from Milwaukee and Nashville to Chicago and two-times New York City and New Orleans and St. Louis and Indianapolis and two-times San Francisco and Louisville and San Antonio and Tampa.
Tampa, 2015, lovely sunny cheerful palm trees straw hats perfect Tampa.
Our last CCCC with Eileen.
You are missed.
Kathleen Blake Yancey