November 9, 2011
Faculty retiring from Emory need not shed themselves of blue and gold regalia, Dooley's eternal spirit and a vibrant intellectual community.
The Emory University Emeritus College is celebrating its 10th birthday, coinciding with Emory's 175th anniversary year. The Emeritus College serves as a bridge to advance faculty members' academic interests, give back to the University through mentoring and leadership opportunities and to create an interdisciplinary social hub for faculty to reconnect with their colleagues.
"We're finding new ways to engage these very productive people who have given their lives to Emory," says member Dana Greene '71PhD, dean emerita of Oxford College.
After years of planning, the Emeritus College launched in 2001 as a two-year pilot project endorsed by the Faculty Council and funded by the Provost's Office. Founding director Gene Bianchi, professor of religion emeritus, wanted to carve out a special place for retired faculty to remain active in University life while sharing their research interests and developing new avenues of inquiry.
"I considered it the ultimate fringe benefit for those nearing the end of their active employment," recalls John Bugge, professor of English emeritus, who was among the 97 founding members. Bugge now chairs the Emeritus College's executive committee and serves on the board of the Association of Retirement Organizations in Higher Education.
Today, the Emeritus College boasts 540 members, more than a third of whom attend regular events. Programs include monthly coffee or lunch discussions, where a classics professor can learn about Singapore's political system or an anesthesiologist can delve into "The Canterbury Tales."
Annual Heilbrun Distinguished Fellowships, named in honor of emeritus professor of psychology Alfred Heilbrun Jr. and administered by the College, support research for two emeritus faculty in the arts and sciences. Greene, for example, used her Heilbrun grant to complete her biography of the poet Denise Levertov.
"This represents a whole new paradigm — people remaining active in their retirement — and the Emeritus College is capturing that energy to benefit the University and the wider community," says Emeritus College director Nan Partlett.
Bianchi recently awarded a $10,000 challenge grant to help the Emeritus College reach its goal of a $50,000 endowment. The Emeritus College hopes to expand its research grants to assist faculty members, representing all schools, in promoting scholarship to benefit the public good.
The annual Sheth Distinguished Lecture, made possible by a gift from Charles H. Kellstadt Professor of Marketing Jagdish Sheth and his wife, Madhu, brings in speakers like former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former dean of Emory College Bobby Paul to discuss creativity in later life.
Other activities include retirement seminars, support groups for women and men transitioning to life outside of Emory and an art gallery for emeriti to display their work in the Luce Center. Informally, emeriti mentor students of all ages, teach courses through Emory Continuing Education, serve on the Faculty Council and give guest lectures. The Emeritus College enjoys a close collaboration with the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence.
The Emeritus College also launched a Living History project for Woodruff Library, which features interviews with emeriti about pivotal events in the University's history. Sixteen emeriti made Emory's 175 History Makers list this year as part of the university-wide anniversary celebration.
In the future, the Emeritus College hopes to double its membership by 2021, offer retiree assistance to older emeriti and explore relationships with foundations and retirement organizations at other Georgia universities.
The Emeritus College held its birthday celebration on Nov. 3 at the Miller-Ward Alumni House.
"This college represents a particular moment in this institution," said Provost Earl Lewis. "It marks academic life as we know it."
Emily Saliers '85C, of the Grammy Award-winning duo the Indigo Girls, and her father Don Saliers, William R. Cannon Professor of Theology and Worship Emeritus, entertained the audience with a medley of songs performed on guitar and piano.
Among the more than 100 attendees was Suzie Tindall, professor emeritus of neurological surgery, who continues to mentor undergraduates interested in the medical field. She said she enjoys broadening her frame of reference through Emeritus College events.
"This experience has opened up Emory for me," Tindall said. "It has really rounded out my education."