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Association keeps university connections thriving

December 30, 2007

Even before she retired from ASU, Linda Van Scoy joined the ASU Retirees Association.

“I joined for a couple of reasons,” says Van Scoy, who was director of the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and special assistant to the provost. “Since I have been here ‘since dirt,’ I knew a lot of the people on the ASURA board, and it was a way to keep tabs on folks, especially through the newsletter. Also, I knew I would be a member eventually, so I could get a feel for what they do. They are a great group!”

ASURA was formed in 1991 after many meetings, much discussion and research, a few lunches – and a lot of coffee.

In “A Decade of Success: An Illustrated History of the Arizona State University Retirees Association,” ASU historian Dean Smith writes that the idea of an association for retirees first surfaced in the 1940s, when George C. Yates, then director of special services at Arizona State College, suggested forming such a group.

From time to time, over the next nearly four decades, other ASU employees talked about forming a retirees association.

In the early 1980s, Dick Murra, director of personnel, authorized a survey to determine whether there was a need for a retirees organization, but the idea was put on the back burner.

A faculty retirees group already existed, but it mainly was a social group.

In late 1989, Brent Brown, then vice president for University Relations, decided the time had come to organize a retirees group, and put Bob Ellis, the recently retired general manager of KAET-TV, in charge of the project.

After much research and many meetings, the first letters were mailed on March 1, 1991, to all retirees whose addresses were available, notifying them of the proposed organization and asking them to join.

“Of course, we had no idea how many would back up their interest with their money – dues were $10 – so we were happy that 212 people had sent in their checks,” says George Morrell, retired purchasing director. “It was a good omen, I thought. In the letter, we explained that the Arizona Legislature was in a budget crunch, and they were eyeing the state retirement fund as a source for more income. That would be disastrous for retirees if such a precedent were set, so we urged everyone to unite in an effort to protect our benefits.”

That letter set the tone for what would be one of ASURA’s main functions: to serve as a watchdog for retirees, lobbying for their best interests with the Legislature.

Today, ASURA has 969 members, and its goal is at least 1,100 members (actually, Elmer Gooding, past president, noted that ASURA’s goal is to have “everyone who retires from ASU as a member”).

The organization offers a wide range of activities for its members. There is a yearly golf tournament, a Retirees Day with a variety of speakers, an “adopt-a-family” project, an annual scholarship presentation, the “Living History” video project that is documenting ASU’s past, Homecoming activities and more.

ASURA still keeps watch on Legislative issues, health insurance changes and the health of the state retirement fund.

“I think we’re doing an awful lot of good,” Gooding says.

While ASURA’s focus on legislative and insurance issues is important, so is its role as a continuation of the ASU community.

Val Peterson, retired director of Facilities Management who now serves on the ASURA board of directors, says he joined because of the organization’s “watchdog” role, but also as a way of maintaining his connection with ASU.

“I like the associations I have made with folks in that organization,” he says. “Some are individuals I knew and had interaction with while employed, and others are new and interesting friends. It is a happy and diverse group of people.”

Doug Johnson, the current president and a retired professor of accountancy, urges all current and past ASU employees to be a part of ASURA.

“Come join old friends in learning, enjoying favorite activities, and serving the ASU community,” Johnson says. “As members of ASURA, we can pool our talents and develop our skills for the benefit of all.”

Membership dues are $10 for retirees, and $5 for ASU employees who wish to join as associate members.

For more information, contact ASURA at (480) 965-7668. The office is located in the Community Service Building, 200 E. Curry Road, Tempe.