Boisterous Billy Rayburn retires; Ready for more time with family, military causes

Job title: Office Associate, Sponsored Programs and Research Development
Years at UNK: Nearly 28 as a benefit-eligible employee
Family: Spouse, Tom; sons, TK and Ivan; daughters-in-law, Michelle and Kathryn; granddaughters, Carlie Jo Villar and Amelia; grandsons, Wyatt, Waylon, Weston and Amos.
Hobbies/Interests: Working in my yard, target shooting, kayaking, swimming, spending time with my grandkids and assisting with military and veteran causes and events. I will, hopefully, be able to commit more time to some of these as well as develop other interests now!

UNK career path: My career path at UNK started with me filling in for the secretary of Kearney State College President Bill Nester and Chancellor Gladys Styles Johnston as well as other administrative assistants and helping with special projects. When UNK was successful in obtaining the first TRIO grant, I was hired as the office assistant to assist Dr. Zeller in setup and development of Student Support Services. Then, I took the position of office associate with the Office of Graduate Studies under Ken Nickels as graduate dean. I was hired part time for an off-campus job, so I moved into a part-time position at the Office of Graduate Studies and Research with John Falconer as director. Richard Mocarski, now assistant vice chancellor for research, was next at the helm of the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research Development and I worked as his office associate until my retirement.

Three words that describe your personality: Those who know me would say loud or boisterous, which is probably true. But I am also a patriot who loves and cares deeply.

Share something about yourself that few people know:
I have been a member of the Patriot Guard Riders basically since its inception in 2006 and I’m also a member of the American Legion Riders. Many of my vacation days were used to participate as flag and/or ride captain for funerals, send-offs, welcome home events and other missions.

Through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I am a certified 4-H shooting sports instructor in several disciplines and have been teaching youth the mental skills, discipline and safety procedures involved with shooting BB guns, air rifles, air pistols, shotguns and .22-caliber small-bore rifles for 30 years. Another little-known fact about me is that I’m a certified scuba diver.

My bucket list includes fulfilling my husband’s dream of going to Alaska and my dream of going to Washington, D.C., to see the Vietnam, World War II and Korean memorials as well as the Holocaust Museum and Arlington Cemetery.

What did you like most about your job?
Successfully accomplishing tasks and marking off items on my to-do list. With the changes made to Sponsored Programs and Research Development, coupled with attempting to function during COVID, I would say overcoming challenges and/or figuring out ways in which to accomplish new things and situations became the norm. Not certain I would call this the thing I liked most about my job, but it sure did make you rise to the challenge and maybe even experience a brief sense of success and accomplishment.

What mentors helped you the most?
Karin Covalt, who I worked with on numerous temporary assignments under President Nester and Chancellor Johnston. Then, when I began working full time, it was most definitely Jan Mitchell, and with the broadening of Firefly, Concur, etc., the gals in Business Services (Val, Carrie, Kim and Paula) became “speed dial” buddies. Kayla James and Debbie Tvrdy were lifesavers and much appreciated when it came to grant-related questions and issues.

What is the best business/work/career advice you received?
Never refrain from asking a question if you have one. That is something I’ve practiced and tried to pass on to others over the years. Also, that everyone from the chancellor on down is a person and should be treated as such.

What is your favorite thing about UNK?
Most of the people who work at UNK. The small-campus feel. The ability to help people who are walking down the hall or around campus with a bewildered look on their face while attempting to locate someone or something.

Where is your favorite place to visit on campus?
The hike-bike trail that goes through campus, Paul Twigg’s greenhouse and the beauty of the campus grounds when properly manicured and in bloom.

What qualities make someone successful in your position?
As I have always said, the ability to “boing,” going from one task to several others within a short period of time … repeatedly … and daily.

What is your fondest memory of UNK?
My time here as an undergraduate student. I’m thinking I might even have to create new UNK memories by participating in Senior College.