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Former Emeritus College dean looks back

June 18, 2007
For the past three years, Richard Jacob has been putting in 20 hours a week – and sometimes more – as the Founding Dean of the Emeritus College.

Jacob will relinquish the deanship June 30, but he won't give up his workload.

Jacob will begin focusing on raising funds for a $1 million endowment for the college, which, he says, will ensure that it carries on its mission for many years to come.

While others may have had the idea for an Emeritus College , Jacob was the one who wrote the first letter to President Crow in February 2003 suggesting such a college at ASU.

Once President Crow gave the go-ahead, Jacob began meeting with members of ASU's faculty emeriti association, and in June 2004, the steering committee sent a plan for the college to Crow and Provost Milt Glick.

The opening convocation was July 8, 2005. And it's been a whirlwind ever since.

In looking back on his term as Founding Dean, Jacob said there had been some surprises along the way.

According to the original plans, the college would have centers focusing on interest areas such as issues in K-12 education, mentoring, ASU history, fine arts and writing, among other topics, and have about 200 members.

So far, K-12, mentoring, ASU history and fine arts have not materialized, Jacob said, but writing has proven to be a popular activity. “I have been surprised at the intensity of interest in creative writing. Many emeritus faculty and spouses are participating in writing and reading groups.

“I thought some of our original ideas would develop faster,” Jacob said, “but things have gone much better than anyone expected, and everyone is very happy.”

Membership was another surprise. The steering committee planned for approximately 200, but it's hovering around 300, where Jacob thinks it will stay.

One of the college's first major projects was an art exhibit at the University Center Building at the new Downtown Phoenix campus.

Debra Friedman, dean of the College of Public Programs , told Jacob last summer that the building would have “nothing but bare walls,” and asked if he could get some work by emeriti faculty to hang.

“I knew of two faculty who were ‘avocational artists,'” Jacob said. “I asked them who else would be interested, and they started ticking off names. We ended up with 160 pieces.”

The college also inaugurated a colloquia series, and a short-talks luncheon series where several faculty members give informal presentations.

The next big project is the Emeritus College journal Emeritus Voices to be edited by Charles Brownson, a retired ASU librarian, and published by the Emeritus Press.

The journal's first issue will be published in October, and it will come out twice a year.

“Although it will primarily be a literary journal, it also will publish articles and essays of general interest, graphic art and other items representative of the creativity of the college's emeriti and emeritae,” Jacob said.

The journal will be published in electronic form, but printed copies will be available by subscription.

The Emeritus Press also will begin publishing longer works under its own imprimatur, also electronically, with hard copies available at the author's expense.

Another new major project is the college's Academy for Continued Learning, which has teamed with the City of Tempe Community Services department to offer non-credit, college-level courses at the Tempe Library. The first five courses are scheduled for this fall.

Jacob said he has no regrets about devoting so much of his time for the past few years to the Emeritus College – without a paycheck.

“It's been a lot of fun, and it's provided a lot of happiness to a lot of people. They are grateful for being recognized again,” Jacob said of the members.