Behind the Uniform

When not managing the College’s bio labs, Debra Rogers-Gillig enjoys quilting and gardening. Jerry Li/Photo Editor.
When not managing the College’s bio labs, Debra Rogers-Gillig enjoys quilting and gardening. Jerry Li/Photo Editor.

A lot goes on behind the scenes in the biology department, and Debra Rogers-Gillig plays a big role backstage. As a technical assistant in the biology department, Rogers-Gillig is in charge of setting up labs for the introductory biology classes, and she works specifically on setting up the equipment. “Basically I set up all the stations and set out whatever equipment is needed for those particular labs in that particular week,” Rogers-Gillig said. After a given lab, Roger-Gillig then cleans up and sets up the lab for the next set of students. “It adds up to a lot of microscopes, a lot of vortex mixers and all those fun toys that we get to play with,” she said.

Rogers-Gillig arrived at the College with her husband Clarence Gillig, a technical assistant in the psychology department, when he took the position in 1980. Rogers-Gillig was then hired in the biology department in 1991, making this her 24th year at the College.

Rogers-Gillig also takes care of the greenhouse and all the animals used in labs. “In the past, we’ve had blue crabs and crawfish and zebra fish to maintain for the course,” Rogers-Gillig said “Right now we’ve got sea urchins coming in, so we’re getting the salt water tanks ready.” Rogers-Gillig also assists with the labs in upper level biology courses. “It’s a juggling act, making sure everybody gets what they need, when they need it. I work with just about everybody in the department.”

Though Rogers-Gillig loves her day job, she also has several passions outside of the biology department. “I’ve been sewing since I was 12. I made all my own clothes,” Rogers-Gillig said. “I made my wedding gown.” Rogers-Gillig learned to sew from her mother while she was  growing up in Deerfield, Mass. She went on to earn a degree in textiles, clothing, and environmental arts from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “I was interested in anything that would let me play with fabric,” Rogers-Gillig said. She put herself through college by working at The Textile Company, a fabric store in Greenfield, Mass.

Rogers-Gillig first got into quilting when there was a resurgence of quilting around the United States Bicentennial. “I started out making Christmas ornaments and pillows, went into wall hangings, went into bed quilts, and then it just absolutely exploded.” She estimates that in the 36 years she has been quilting, she has made hundreds of quilts. “If there’s a wedding in the family, they know they’re going to get a quilt. If there’s a baby, they get a baby quilt.”

Rogers-Gillig shares her passion for quilting with students at the College during Winter Study, when she teaches a class called Introduction to Traditional Quiltmaking. This is her eighth year teaching the class. One of Rogers-Gillig’s least favorite parts of the class is having to drop students from the often over-enrolled course. This year, the course was once again over-enrolled, as 32 students signed up. She expanded the class from 15 to 18 students so that she did not have to disappoint as many eager quilters.

Rogers-Gillig is also an avid gardener. She and her husband enjoy gardening at their home, and their garden is slowly filling with more and more plants. During the summer, she works at Hopkins Forest to take care of Buxton Garden. “Talk about a wonderful office  I open my car door and there I am.”

Rogers-Gillig takes a lot of pride in all of her endeavors, whether it is her unbelievable quilts or her organization of the lab stations and equipment. “I love it all. I have always said that if you love getting up in the morning and going to work, you’ve got a good life. My husband and I still, we get up every day, and we can’t wait to get in to work. I still love my job after 24 years.”