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Ken Yow smiles at an ITS eventKen Yow’s “day job” has worked out pretty well.

When Yow came to work at UNC-Chapel Hill as a clerk-typist in Group Child Care Consultant Services of the School of Social Work in December 1976, he certainly wasn’t expecting to stay at the University for four decades. Instead, he wanted to have a job “at least until my musical career finally got on track,” he said. “This was my ‘day job.’”

Yow, Manager of On Site Support at Information Technology Services, retires January 29 after keeping his day job at Carolina for 39 years while continuing to enjoy his music on the side. He plays in four bands.

His time as UNC-Chapel Hill has been “an experience I will forever cherish,” Yow said. He thanks everyone “for all the joy and attention I’ve received from this most venerated place.”

During his years at the University, Yow worked for the School of Social Work, the Graduate School, the Office of Research Services, South Building and eventually central IT.

“My friends, my emotions and my identity are tied to this campus,” he said.

Newspaper clipping of Yow shaking hand of Gov. Jim Hunt and text of winning Governor's AwardGovernor’s Award was a highlight

One of Yow’s successes includes being the first Carolina employee and one of the original employees from the entire State system, to win the Governor’s Award for Excellence, in 1983.

In another accomplishment, Yow forwarded the idea and led the team that created the NIH E-Guide, the first electronic version of the NIH Guide. “I had the pleasure of meeting bi-monthly in Washington and Bethesda for three years, working with folks from Johns Hopkins, Stanford and UMass,” he said. “The folks in Bethesda told me it saved them $1 million during the first year of operation.”

In 1993, Yow also led the team that developed GrantSource, one of the first implementations of a free-text searchable collection of grant and contract opportunities, based on WAIS technology, a predecessor to Web-based search engines like Google.

Yow said his proudest accomplishment at Carolina, he said, was completing his bachelor’s degree and earning his master’s degree both while working full time at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Friend, mentor and leader

The ITS staff members who work for Yow have some additional ideas about what he has achieved. They consider him a friend, mentor and leader.

On Site Support team photo
On Site Support team

“You just give us the freedom to do our job,” said Tony DeLuca, Tech Support Specialist with Internal Support.

“Ken has been extremely supportive in letting us own our positions and really give us a sense of independence that allows us to be successful in the work we do while at the same time being completely available for any problem we may need help with,” added Richard Hill, Support Specialist with ITS Internal Support. “I get asked why I’m always so happy,” Hill said. “I ask, ‘Have you seen my boss?’”

The admiration is mutual. Yow has worked with some of his team members for 16 years. “I couldn’t have picked a better group of people with whom to have spent that time,” Yow said.

Clint Gwaltney, Associate Athletic Director and a customer of Yow’s On Site Support group, called Yow a “great friend to Athletics.”

Yow “keeps everything in perspective and always has what is best for the University in mind when making decisions,” Gwaltney said.

The people who work with Yow can laugh with him about a few of his well-known characteristics: he likes to talk and he’s boisterous.

Sandra Germenis, Yow’s boss and ITS Assistant Vice Chancellor, said her meetings with Yow that are supposed to be one hour expand into two hours. Like no one else, Yow “has filled me in on this town and on the University,” she said.

“I also have learned that Ken is loud,” she said. When you don’t understand something, Germenis said, Yow will “crank up the volume like that would transcend the ‘don’t understand’ barrier.”

Ken Yow performs with his bandmate on stageOther constants: music and marriage

Perhaps loud comes naturally to Yow, as he has been performing as a musician since he was in high school. After entering Carolina as a freshman in 1970, Yow withdrew in spring 1973, he said, “mostly to pursue my dream of being a long-haired hippie musician.” He eventually participated in a recording session in California, but the studio didn’t buy the demo.

“I continued to play for another couple of years, but finally got tired of being gone all the time and living from hand to mouth,” he said.  “So, I finally got serious about my job.”

In retirement, Yow may find another tech job or invest more time into his musical career. In March, he will celebrate another anniversary—40 years of marriage with his wife, Mary. Yow’s long, successful career at UNC-Chapel Hill intertwines with his long, happy marriage. Given that “it’s really nearly impossible to have a marriage and stay on the road” as a musician, as Yow acknowledged, Yow’s “day job” at the University served him well in multiple ways.

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