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Thanks for the memories

Thanks for the memories

Longtime AMS administrative assistant Raili Giguere, who retired this spring, saw a lot of changes in her 28 years with the Alma Mater Society (AMS). When she started back in 1981, the student government’s offices were in the “bomb shelter”, as she jokingly calls it. The space was in the basement of the John Deutsch Centre (JDUC). There were no computers back then, and the AMS was “just a small outfit” offering a handful of services.

The AMS is Canada’s oldest student association; in fact, it predates Confederation by nine years, having been established in 1858. Today, the Society is completely student run with five full-time staff.

In 2001 the AMS moved to its current headquarters, front and centre in the Ceilidh area of the JDUC. The Society now offers a plethora of services, including the Common Ground coffee shop, Walk-Home, Publishing and Copy Centre, the Queen’s Pub (Alfie’s, to many people), the Used Bookstore, Tri-Colour Outfitters, Destinations, AMS Food Services (formerly the Food Bank). In addition, the AMS operates the student health and dental plans, and it’s active on the governance and policy side of University affairs.

Suhail Panjwani, ConEd’09 and Rali GiguereOne thing that Raili says she will miss in her
retirement is working with students such as
Suhail Panjwani, ConEd’09, the 2008-2009
manager of the AMS Food Centre.
Photo by Lindy Mechefske

Raili, who was born to Finnish parents, is a first-generation Canadian. She moved to Kingston in 1973, and, along with her husband, Bill, raised their two sons Christopher, Artsci’93 (Jenny Corlett, also a Queen’s grad and an employee) and Andrew. Her grandchildren, Ronan and Daschiell, attended daycare on campus, and were regular visitors to the AMS.

One of Raili’s main jobs over the years has been to administer the AMS health and dental plans. This has put her in a position to meet thousands of students, and doing so has provided her with many happy memories. “The students keep you young,” she said. Then she added with a laugh, “They seem to be getting younger, or at least the age gap used to seem smaller.”

And besides the fact students she deals with are getting younger, she’s also noticed that their parents are more likely to be involved now. Another change has been that since email came along, Raili has been able to keep in touch with students once they graduate and go out into the “real world”.

Raili said she’s going to miss the people interaction when she retires. Not just the students, but the staff with whom she’s worked closely, including Janice Kirkpatrick who, like Raili, has been with the AMS for 28 long, and happy years.

If you stay in the job long enough, some things come full circle. Donna Findley, who was President of the AMS in 1982, hired Raili. Now Donna’s daughter, Rebecca Schidlowsky, Artsci’12, is at Queen’s.

The lowlight of her 27 years, was the loss of the AMS’s computer systems, something the student government has suffered through twice; once to fire and more recently, when their server was hacked.

What’s next for Raili? The usual, including spending more time with her family, gardening, and playing some golf. But she also wants to travel and is especially keen to see Spain, Portugal, England, and Ireland. Raili doesn’t seem to have plans to slow down. It looks like she’s right: working with students has kept her young.

[Queen's Alumni Review 2009-2 cover]