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NAME: Jeannie Regan-Dinius

TITLE: Director of Special Initiatives FOR: Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology

SINCE? 2001

ORIGINALLY FROM? Born in Michigan, but grew up in Indianapolis

YOUR JOB DUTIES INCLUDE? Researching the location o fall cemeteries in the state and surveying them, researching the history of the Underground Railroad in the state and working with others to get that research done, researching theaters and working with theater owners, researching the impact of the Jewish community on the built environment in Indiana, maintaining our website, organizing the statewide preservation conference, and maintaining our online database of sites, structures, and cemeteries.

YOU WORK HOW MANY HOURS WEEKLY? Between 40 and a gazillion

PROJECT/S YOU ARE MOST PROUD TO HAVE BEEN PART OF? Development of the Cemetery and Burial Ground Registry, creation of a continual program of internships

OTHER PROJECTS WE MIGHT RECOGNIZE? Indiana’s Underground Railroad Initiative

WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO (JOB)? I get to do research about lots of topics, go into the field and visit sites, then talk to people – my job is perfect

WORST PART OF WHAT YOU DO? Paperwork

HOW YOU DEFINE PERSONAL SUCCESS? Being happy with your career, family, and friends and being able to balance all three

ADVICE TO SOMEONE ELSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO DO WHAT YOU DO? The history field is not lucrative, so you have to want to do this. Learn how to learn fast, write well, and be precise. With that and a love of history, it’s a perfect field.

IF YOU WERE GRANTED ONE WISH RELATING TO YOUR JOB/CAREER/ORGANIZATION, WHAT WOULD IT BE? We were appreciated as a necessity in life and not extra when things go poorly. Preserving our past is not just something we need to do when finances are great.

WOULDN’T HAVE MADE IT TO WHERE YOU ARE WITHOUT? My parents, especially my mom. She helped me study, taught me how to read and do homework, and made me a strong person. My dad and his mom gave me a great joy for history.

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU? Stress. When I am working on a deadline, I hunker down and get it done. I thrive off it!

WHO WERE/ARE YOUR MENTORS AND HOW DID THEY HELP? My 8th grade social studies teacher, Mr. Simon taught me history as stories and “gossip,” not dates. It brought me into the world of social history and showed me how to talk to people about history. Then Sheila Riley at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis taught me about museums, outreach, collections and working with the public – and to have a sense of humor about our jobs.

WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN HISTORY? The stories of my Mamaw living in Detroit. I was captivated. Then Mr. Simon in 8th grade enthralled me.

MOST INTERESTING BIT OF INDIANAPOLIS HISTORY YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED? There are 144 cemeteries in Marion County – the dead are everywhere. I love the cemetery district on the near south side with the 8 Jewish cemeteries, the Catholics, Lutherans……..

YOU CAN HAVE DINNER WITH ANYONE FROM INDIANAPOLIS PAST? WHO & WHY? After my Mamaw, then Alexander McClure. Most people would not know him. He was enslaved in Nashville, TN, had himself shipped to Levi Coffin, was caught and sent home. After the war, he owned his own store, got married. He could tell me so much about strength, courage, moving forward and how he knew where Levi Coffin lived.

YOUR CAREER IN AN ALTERNATE LIFE? I’d be a reference librarian. Love to research!

ANY INTERESTING FAMILY CONNECTIONS TO INDIANAPOLIS PAST? My family from Detroit and Mississippi. Great family history in Mississippi, but nothing from Indy.

FAVORITE VIEW IN THE CITY? From an airplane. See the entire city and get a better understanding of how great it is compared to other cities.

FAVORITE RESTAURANT IN INDIANAPOLIS? Anything local and where I have not been before. All the ethnic restaurants on the Westside, then Steer Inn, then Maxine’s Chicken and Waffles……can you tell I love food!?

FAVORITE CITY BESIDES INDIANAPOLIS? Venice

FAVORITE HISTORY RELATED BOOK OR MOVIE? Star Wars – anyone who has been to my house could tell you that. Oh, you said history……..The Historian (great fiction about historians and vampires), Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter (great mocking of our field related to documents and diaries). But for a real history book, The Tunnels of Cu Chi, Tom Mangold & John Penycate

ULTIMATE BEVERAGE? Glass of Rubicon (wine made from Francis Ford Coppolla)

COLLECT ANYTHING? Star Wars memorabilia, Shawnee Pottery, family photos, wine

FAVORITE QUOTE? In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is Freedom, in water there is bacteria. ― Benjamin Franklin

Favorite quote for the history field: Show me your cemeteries, and I’ll tell you what kind of people you have. – Benjamin Franklin

IF YOUR LIFE HAD A THEME SONG, IT’D BE? Something happy.

One response to “Heritage Steward: Jeannie Regan-Dinius”

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    An excellent article about an excellent professional! Being photographed in the Aegean Islands is frosting on the cake!

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