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Emerita/Emeritus Society Retired Faculty Serving the Future


Emerita/Emeritus Society at Washington State University

Submitted by Emeritus Society Planning Committee
April 18, 2007



In recent studies on aging, retirement for most faculty is a period during which they continue to be useful and productive contributors to their own occupations or professions, and to society at large.  As the percentage of Americans over age 65 increases each year, there is new concern to develop options for still active segment of the population, options that will allow them to persist in making effective use of skills and experience developed in years of employment in their fields, and even to explore new directions of intellectual endeavor.

In higher education these developments have been reflected in efforts at a number of Washington State University’s sister institutions (e.g. University of Arizona, University of Southern California, University of California Berkeley and University of Washington) to redefine the status and role of emeritus faculty by organizing the cohort of retired faculty into an association with official university status and some continuing university duties, responsibilities, and privileges.  At many institutions, emeritus centers are already well established, providing institutional affiliation for those retired faculty who wish to continue their intellectual and social involvement with their university.

The need for such a center at WSU at this point in its history seems clear.  The 2005-2006 WSU Human Resource Services benefits printout lists approximately 150 retired faculty, who still live in and around Pullman as well as a significant number who retired from other WSU centers.  Even though retirement from regular-faculty status at WSU has carried with it a number of important perquisites, for many professors, unfortunately, retirement has meant, “instant marginalization”(the retiree is dropped from the University catalog, the active directory, and the University phone books)!  Usually deprived of significant contact with a former department or school, the retiree is cast into an isolated individual role, no longer a beneficiary of the sense of communal endeavor that regular faculty status had afforded.

To combat such atomization of its retired faculty; to help sustain and cultivate for the academic community as a whole the talents of our retiring professors; and to gain for itself a number of significant institutional advantages; WSU should establish an Emeritus Society.  Such an entity would function as a scholarly and creative society; providing emeritus faculty the opportunity for collegial interaction; as a locus for intellectual exchange and productive scholarly activities; and as an administrative clearing-house for service functions performed by emeritus faculty on behalf of other schools and divisions of the University.

General advantages to the University of an Emeritus Society:

  • An Emeritus Society would provide an institutional site, “a local habitation and a name” in which, and under whose institutional aegis, retired WSU faculty could continue to teach, write, consult, and fill the role of public intellectuals.  Its existence on the WSU campus as an integral part of the life of the University might prove an incentive for retiring faculty of most value to the University to remain resident in Pullman and the surrounding area.
  • An Emeritus Society would likely increase the amount, and enhance the quality, of the scholarly research and writing and consulting done in their maturity by emeritus professors, thus benefiting the general reputation of the University.  Such faculty would still be directly identified with the University, their work seen as proceeding from within the University’s scholarly community, rather than from private individuals in distant and scattered venues.
  • Through a series of periodic (bi-weekly or monthly) seminars, organized by its faculty, would provide, both to its own membership and to regular faculty and student members of the community at large, the opportunity for serious, ongoing interdisciplinary exchange.
  • Finally, and of no small importance, are some financial considerations.  The existence of a highly visible and active Emeritus College would likely provide an incentive to more than a few regular faculty to retire earlier than they might otherwise, thus relieving the University of a portion of its heavy financial obligation to senior faculty in terms of both salary and fringe benefits, and allowing it to open up new lines for entry-level positions.  Further more, WSU’s establishment of an Emeritus Society would build the kind of good will among retired faculty that might well inspire reciprocal generosity in the form of gifts and bequests.

Specific services an Emeritus Society could offer:

To the College and the Department:
Occasional substitute teaching on short notice for regular faculty.
Guest lectures or presentations in undergraduate courses.
The teaching of Freshman Seminars, offered by select retired faculty in their areas of research expertise.
Tutoring of students with special needs.
Participation in mentoring students in the Washington Achievers Program.
Participation in recruitment efforts with the Admissions Office.
Assisting in orientation of new faculty and students.

To the Graduate School:
Informal or perhaps sometimes formal mentoring of graduate students.
Service on examination and dissertation committees by request.
Employment of graduate students as research assistants and/or co-authors

To the University:
Service by invitation on University committees and panels.
Lending of members’ expertise to the development of programs at WSU.
Interchanges with retired faculty at other institutions in America and worldwide.
Advising of regular faculty and staff on financial and other retirement issues.
Consultancies to agencies and universities under the WSU “letterhead.”
Aiding in the University’s efforts to internationalize programs and curricula.

To the Career Center:
Counseling of students in emeriti’s special areas of expertise.

To the Alumni Office:
Coordination of emeritus-faculty participation in Alumni events.
Sponsorship of special events at reunions and homecoming celebrations.

To the Office of Development:
Assistance by emeritus faculty in public relations and fund-raising.

To the community:
Acting as a resource and clearinghouse for consulting by emeritus faculty with industry, government, education.
Coordination of volunteering efforts by emeritus faculty.
Acting as agents of University outreach to the community in numerous ways.

Special benefits an Emeritus Society could offer its membership:

  • An institutional affiliation (in addition to one’s former department) from which to apply for grants, including from the University Research Committee.
  • A permanent location on campus for continued professional activities, convenient to libraries, food service, and parking, and comprising: administrative office space, a Senior Common Room, a seminar room, plus a number of small private offices or studies equipped with telephone, filing space, bookshelves, and computers with internet access.
  • Programs to foster continuing intellectual growth among the membership: book clubs, seminars, organized group travel, small stipend to support research activities.
  • A regular schedule of social occasions – lectures, panel discussions, dinners, luncheons, to insure opportunities for collegiality.
  • Possible representation in the structures of University governance and public ritual, especially in the University Senate and at Commencement ceremonies.
  • Publicity of Emeritus Society news and events by such means as a newsletter, a home page on the WSU website, and the Emeritus Society Award to be given at Showcase.

Administration of the Emeritus Society:

The administrative structure of the Emeritus Society should include a Board of Trustees consisting of six emeritus faculty, and one tenured faculty member.

The Secretary (Dean or Director are other possible titles for the CEO of the Society) of the Society will be an emeritus-faculty member, he or she will be nominated by the board of trustees and appointed by the President of the University for a three year term.

An Administrative Assistant of the Society will be a permanent salaried employee appointed by the Secretary upon the recommendation of the Board of Trustees.  This officer will be the full-time coordinator of all the Society’s activities, and therefore ought to have previous experience in programming, budgetary matters, and public relations, preferably in a university context.

Membership in the Emeritus Society would be offered to all regular faculty whose service at WSU ended in good standing.  Membership will be on a continuing basis and terminated on the member’s resignation.

Thoughts on the location and physical facilities of an Emeritus Society:

  • The Society should be as close to the center of campus as possible, ideally within easy walking distance to libraries and other university facilities.  A location on the far periphery of the campus runs the risk of sending the wrong message to retiring faculty by locating them far from the center of the daily life of the University.  In any case, the Emeritus Society should be fully integrated into the on-going Campus Master Plan.
  • With an anticipated membership of more than 100 members, the Emeritus Society would have need of the following facilities at the site chosen (approximately in the order of priority indicated in the survey of older faculty who would be candidates for membership):
    • A set of small offices or studies where emeritus-faculty members of the Society actively engaged in scholarly research could each have sole use of an office for up to one year.  These offices would be available on a rotating basis.  Each would be equipped with furniture (desk, chairs, bookshelves), computer (with Internet and e-mail access), and telephone.
    • An adjacent lounge, for social interaction, equipped with comfortable furniture, coffee service, current periodicals, newspapers, and so on.
    • An administrative suite, housing the offices of the Secretary and Administrative Assistant, and a room for photocopy and fax machines, supplies, and so on.
    • Men’s and women’s restroom facilities

University Funding of the Emeritus Society:

  • The University will contribute an amount to cover the salary of the Administrative Assistant of the Emeritus Society and funding for initial Society programming.  This funding is justified by the direct benefits to the University especially if the Society proves to be an incentive for earlier retirement than would be the case normally and allows the University to realize substantial savings in salary and fringe benefits.  (If in a given year just one of a hypothetical ten faculty retirements occurs a year sooner because of the existence of the Emeritus Society, the University stands to realize a net gain of approximately $50,000.)
  • Outside funding should be sought, preferably from a single founding donor whose name the Emeritus Society might bear.  A gift or bequest might cover start-up costs, with any remaining amounts to be placed in an endowment whose proceeds would help fund the College’s annual budget.
  • The Foundation might also approach grant-giving agencies in the areas of adult education and gerontology, which might be inclined to support creative initiatives like the Emeritus Society.
  • The Foundation might initiate a campaign specifically aimed at raising small contributions to the Emeritus College from alumni on the occasion of faculty retirements: these could go to the Emeritus College as a suitable way to honor retiring faculty members whom many alumni might have fond memories of from their days as undergraduates.
  • The Emeritus Society would suggest members make a modest annual contribution.
  • Those emeritus faculty still generating grants from outside funding sources would assign at least part of their “overhead” costs to the Emeritus Society.

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