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Retired faculty enjoy sense of belonging

July 06, 2009

When a university professor retires, he or she leaves behind the academic network of colleagues, deadlines for research work and writing, help with computer problems – and, of course, a feeling of belonging.

That’s why the ASU Emeritus College has struck such a responsive chord with retired faculty, both from ASU and other universities.

With membership in the College, they have all of the above, perhaps with the exception of deadlines.

A poll of the nearly 400 members brought similar answers to why they enjoy belong to the Emeritus College:

Opportunities for personal and intellectual growth, a sense of family, an outlet for creativity, and a place to meet faculty from other disciplines.

Elaine Katzman, professor emerita of nursing, said, “Classes sponsored by the College and the Piper Center have introduced me to concepts and varying perspectives on creative writing. Having some of my own essays published in the Emeritus Journal has been particularly gratifying. 

“I give much credit to the staff at the Emeritus College for their limitless support for whatever I may need. Outstanding telephone communication and technical support are but two examples out of many.”

Bruce Mason, who taught political science and public administration and retired in 1989 after taking a year’s leave to teach military personnel in four countries, said he enjoys hearing his fellow faculty give talks about their respective disciplines.

“I know fewer and fewer t of the current faculty but even among the retirees I know fewer each time I go back to Tempe.  However, there are still some I know and enjoy seeing again. Finally, I regard ASU, in a sense as ‘family.’"

Lou Weschler, who taught political science, resumed his serious art career – which he started in high school -- when he retired in 2000. He now has several paintings on display at the ongoing Emeritus College exhibit at University Center at the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Weschler belongs to both the Emeritus College and the ASU Retirees Association. “I enjoy helping other retirees on various issues they face in retirement,” he said. “My main enjoyment is facilitating other retirees in making better use of ASU resources and opportunities in their ‘golden years.’  I appreciate the efforts of the College in helping me show my art work.”

Jerry Buley, professor emeritus of communication, is limited in his participation because he lives in Sedona, but he still contributes photos to the Emeritus College journal.

“I have made photography a more central part of my life since I retired,” he said. With it, I have found niches in which I can participate long distance.”

In addition to submitting his artwork to the College publications, Buley has six photographs in the University Center exhibit. “I wish I could do more, but living two hours away prohibits it,” he said.

Patricia Etter, a retired ASU librarian, said she particularly enjoys the College’s luncheon get-togethers and seminars.

“What is really neat is that our gatherings include professionals from a myriad of disciplines. The conversations can go from moon rocks to genetics and on to forensics, then perhaps some psychology, maybe even geography or social science thrown in. We could call that continued learning.

“The College has a grants program, which encourages us to keep on writing/creating/etc. I for one was grateful for a grant that helped pay for student help and a cartographer who worked on maps for my book.”

Etter added, “Very often people who retire from an organization are simply put out to pasture and are never heard from again. The Emeritus College was a great idea since members know they are still respected by ASU even if retired. I particularly enjoy the comradeship. It feels good to say I'm emerita from ASU.”

Winifred W. Doane, professor emerita of life sciences, said the Emeritus College was founded just in time to help her through a difficult time in her life.

Doane, a member of the steering committee that wrote the proposal for establishing the college, lost her husband in 1999, a year after she retired from ASU. Within the next seven months, both of her sisters passed away, and then a year later, her nephew. After settling all their estates, dealing with property, having a medical problem of her own, and finishing a research project on an obesity gene that she had discovered 50 years ago, Doane found herself “living day to day” as she contemplated a future alone and without research to do.

Then, she was asked to service on the college steering committee. “Accepting that invitation was one of the best decisions I have made in my lifetime,” she said. “It brought a new focus to my life, I met many retired faculty from other departments and schools on campus, and was able to fill my days with meaningful activities.”

Robert Barnhill, professor emeritus of computer science and engineering, said the establishment of the Emeritus College is a sign that ASU is growing up.

“Mature universities deploy people of every age and accomplishment to improve the university and its community,” he said. “It is of course a pleasure to continue to interact with my emeritus colleagues for many additional years. It is also a pleasure to be associated with a university that is maturing.”

Bill Kaufmann, professor emeritus of physics, perhaps listed one of the more popular perks of College membership. “The parking decal,” he said.