August 27, 2001
Pilot program will unite retired professors
By Eric Rangus firstname.lastname@example.org
When Eugene Bianchi retired last year from the religion department, his
life didnt stop. His work certainly didnt stop.
In fact, one of Bianchis biggest projects to datea book he
researched for seven years and co-wrote with Arizona States Peter
McDonough called Passionate Uncertainty: Inside the American Jesuitswill
be released early next year.
Hes given several guest lectures at Emory and this fall he will
teach a course on Christianity and Buddhism. For Bianchi, retired
is nothing more than a title.
Many retired Emory professors, like Bianchi, stay in contact with their
departments and their ties remain strong. Many others, though, lose touch
with the University.
It is these professors that Bianchi and several other emeritus professors
want to reach through the creation of Emorys Emeritus College, which
opened its doors Aug. 1.
According to its mission statement, the Emeritus College program seeks
to enhance the relationship between the University and its emeritus faculty
for the benefit of Emorys educational mission and for the greater
welfare of its emeriti.
And those emeriti faculty are no small number. The 2001 Emory Campus
Directory lists 257 retired faculty and administrators, and almost a quarter
(24.6 percent) of current Emory faculty members are 55 or older.
Throughout the country we are an aging population, said Bianchi,
who is 71, but appears younger. And the baby boomers who are going
to follow us are going to be here in very large numbers.
The effort to create the Emeritus College began in 1998. Bianchi, who
has studied aging for several decades, and English Professor John Bugge
put together a proposal looking for a way to redefine the status of emeriti
professors and provide them with an official campus organization that
would supply a much-desired academic and social connection to the University.
The first step was a questionnaire that was sent to retired faculty and
those nearing retirement age. It asked whether the creation of an emeritus
college was a good idea. Encouraged by an overwhelmingly positive response,
Bianchi and Bugge researched similar emeritus organizations around the
country, drafted and revised their proposal, and were finally able to
pitch their idea to the Faculty Council this past spring.
Cardiology Professor Nanette Wenger, head of the councils faculty
life-course committee, presented the proposal, which was unanimously supported
As faculty are retiring, they are very interested in continuing
to participate in university life, said Wenger, who sits on the
colleges 17-member advisory committee. We were fortunate that
the Faculty Council was receptive to the idea.
The faculty life-course committee will continue to oversee the colleges
progress, Wenger said.
The college is located on the second floor of Emorys Briarcliff
Campus (formerly known as Emory West), and while its facilities are modest
now (the college consists of just three offices and doesnt even
have a coffee pot), future expansion is a strong possibility.
The college staff consists of three peopleall on a part-time basis:
Bianchi, the director; administrative assistant Nancy Caro, who moved
over after seven years in biology; and research assistant Stuart Hysom,
a doctoral student in sociology.
Hysom is teaming with Abbott Ferriss, professor of sociology emeritus,
on the colleges first major project: The design and distribution
of a survey of Emorys emeritus faculty. The information gathered
would then be set up in a database detailing the interests and activities
of the Universitys retired faculty members.
The survey is still in its development phase, but once complete it will
poll emeritus professors on their current activities, future goals, whether
they have published recently and how the emeritus college could help them.
We could be a clearing house on these professors [and provide information]
on what they can offer to a seminar, to a class, or speaking engagements
on and off campus, Bianchi said.
While Emeritus College will have a definite social aspect (professors
from throughout the University will be able to network across all Emorys
schools, Bianchi said), the focus will remain on academics.
Bianchi said he sees a wealth of potential in the program. The Alumni
Association, Senior University and the Office of University-Community
Partnerships are just three areas he hopes to team with,in addition to
exploring organized efforts to define roles in research, lecturing, teaching,
service and perhaps even fundraising that emeritus professors could play.
I would hope we could see how retired professors would be able
to fit in more with the teaching and lecturing projects of the university,
Bianchi said. And also how they would be able to relate their continuing
research or writing to projects at the University. Maybe some retired
professors would be interested in serving on committees.
For more information on Emeritus College, contact Caro at 404-712-8834.