I assure you, Irwin Hyatt Jr. told a recent visitor
to his White Hall office who commented that the senior associate
dean of Emory College did not look old enough to retire, I
feel old enough.
Old enough, perhaps, but also accomplished enough to carry with
him into retirement the 2002 Thomas Jefferson Award, given each
year to a faculty member who shows significant service to
the University through personal activities, influence and leadership.
Hyatt has fit that bill for a half-century, ever since he matriculated
as a student in the college in 1952. Fourteen years after that he
joined the college faculty, and now, 50 years later, Hyatt is retiring
from his alma mater and a university hes been around his entire
I always assumed I would go to Emory, and that was fine with
me, said Hyatt, whose father, Irwin Hyatt Sr., was a oral
surgeon in Atlanta and taught on the faculty of Emorys Dental
School for almost 30 years in the first half of the century. Though
he maintained a private practice near the Biltmore Hotel in what
is now Midtown, Hyatt Sr. saw patients in Emory Hospital and often
carried his son along with him.
Now, so many years later, Hyatt Jr. is saying goodbye to the institution
hes called home for nearly his entire professional career.
There comes a time in life to move on to other things and
to accept the fact that youve done what you can do,
said Hyatt, who joined the college deans office in 1988.
Specializing in East Asian history, Hyatt said his coming to work
at Emory was purely coincidence as he was finishing
up doctoral work at Harvard in the mid-1960s. At the time, Emorys
history department had no course offerings outside of Western civilizations,
Hyatt said, and he became the Universitys first area studies
expert outside of Europe and the United States.
Joining the faculty at Emory may have been coincidence, but Hyatt
said he and his wife, Margaret (the younger sister of one of Hyatts
Phi Delta Theta fraternity brothers), always knew they would return
to the South after he finished his studies at Harvard. The two did
spend a year in Taiwan, but apart from the random semester sabbatical
here and there, the Hyatts have spent the last 33 years together
in their house near campus.
And thats just where Hyatt looks forward to spending more
time once he retires. He and his wife plan to travel in Europe this
fall, but other than that Hyatt plans to tackle projects around
the house and maybe do some writing. I tell people Im
going to write a series of novels on tenure and promotion,
Those subjectstenure and promotionhave occupied much
of Hyatts time since he joined the college administration,
and working with junior faculty and students is what he said he
will miss most when he leaves. His worst memories of academia, Hyatt
said, are of being visited by former students and not remembering
their names. Its beyond embarrassing, he said.
But the good memories far outweigh the bad, and Hyatt said the
highlights of his career have been working with various groups:
his stint as an advisor to the College Honor Council in the 1970s;
his work with the pedagogy-oriented Lilly Fellows in the 1980s;
and his work with the College Faculty Council (which handles tenure
and promotion matters) as senior associate dean.
For 25 years, I had thought of myself as a teacher, and I
knew a lot of students who personally meant a great deal to me,
Hyatt said. But [since joining the administration] its
been very rewarding to get to know faculty, particularly the younger
faculty, and that never would have been possible when living in
a single department.