by Greta Petry (November
Retired Faculty Drawn to Emeritus Center Opening
It was standing room only at the Nov. 1 opening of the University at Albany's Emeritus Center. The center, located in University Administration Building Room 134, is only the second emeritus center in the entire SUNY system, the first having been created at the University of Buffalo many years ago.
As esteemed retired faculty and professionals arrived for the ribbon cutting, the buoyant spirit of camaraderie and collegiality was palpable.
"I am seeing faces I haven't seen in years," said Robert Luippold, who taught mathematics from 1950 to 1981 at the University. Luippold said he stills feels very connected to the University and stays in touch with colleagues on a regular basis. Many appeared genuinely touched by seeing former colleagues with whom they have shared a lifetime of teaching, research, and service to the University.
After the ribbon cutting, the group moved upstairs to hear remarks by Officer in Charge, Provost and Executive Vice President Susan Herbst, Vice Chancellor and Secretary of the University, State University of New York, John J. O'Connor, and Vice President for Professionals for the statewide United University Professions union, John Marino. In addition, there was a tribute to the late Jarka Burian, distinguished scholar and professor emeritus of the Department of Theatre, given by Patricia Snyder, founder and director of the NYS Theatre Institute. The tribute included a stage reading of Anton Chekov's one-act play, "Swan Song."
A poignant omission from the lineup of speakers was Emeritus Center President William Reese, professor emeritus of philosophy, who has worked for years to make the vision of such a center become a reality. Emeritus Center Vice President Toby Clyman, professor emerita of languages, literatures, and cultures, said Reese approached many presidents over the years with his vision, but it was the late President Kermit L. Hall who made it happen. "We recognize the importance of Kermit Hall's work," Clyman said. She read a statement written by Reese from his hospital bed, lauding the opening of the center.
Herbst noted fondly how Reese came to her with a "stack of yellowing papers" last summer to make his pitch for the establishment of such a center, where professors are encouraged to continue their research, teaching, and community activity.
She said, "I told him, 'Bill, you don't have to show me the memos from 1969,' " to convince her of the merits of his case. Herbst found Reese and his colleagues to be "brilliant and warm." Those papers were his documentation proving that since 1969, there has been administrative interest in setting up such a center.
Herbst said Hall's response to the idea was, "That's a great thing. Let's do it." She added the late president "would be very happy to see this all coming together to fruition today."
Donald L. Cohen, a member of the center's board and professor emeritus of social welfare, said he was among that group of seven emeriti, including Reese, who approached Hall. Reese's research documented "a Bill of Rights" for UAlbany faculty passed back in the 1970s.
Hall listened. Cohen recalled that Hall, after throwing his support behind the emeriti plan, "with almost a twinkle in his eye, said, 'You know, it won't be long before you find a place for me in that center.'" Sadly, Hall passed away in August 2006.
A plaque was hung in Hall's honor with an inscription that reads: "In grateful memory of Kermit L. Hall, who instituted this long hoped for Emeritus Center."
Cohen said the Capital District chapter of UUP has been Reese's "backer, his collaborators," in getting the center off the ground.
He noted that Albany Chapter President Candace Merbler gave the center backing early on, and that several statewide UUP officials, including Marino, were in the audience.
Marino represented UUP President William Scheuerman, saying retirees play "a vital role in UUP." Marino said the center gives retired faculty and professionals a place "to go, meet with colleagues, and stay within the flow of work."
O'Connor said the opening of Albany's center will keep the Chancellor's office "focused on the importance of having one at every SUNY campus."
Prior to the ribbon cutting, Professor Emeritus Ray Ortali, who taught French for many years, said many faculty still have much teaching yet to do in the community. Ortali, a film critic, is going to teach a special course in March through Older Adult Services and Information Systems (OASIS) on making films. Ortali, who designed the center's Web site, is going to bring in area independent film makers, of which there are about 150, into his course. "That aspect, of having a conversation with the community, is really in the spirit of what the President (Hall) has done in giving us a special place," Ortali said.