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Emeritus Faculty Feted at Reception
October 25, 1999

The contributions - past and present - of emeriti to the University were celebrated October 14 during a reception co-hosted by President Philip Austin and the UConn chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

"Emeritus faculty contribute to teaching and research and more broadly to the University community," Austin said to the nearly 70 retired faculty members who attended. "As the University moves forward academically and enhances its facilities, it is important to recognize the contributions of former colleagues and try to involve them into the process."

Rajeev Bansal, a professor of electrical and systems engineering and president of the AAUP, noted that "what the University is doing now builds upon the foundation many of these people established over the years."

The idea for the event originated during celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the AAUP as a bargaining unit a couple of years ago, said Ed Marth, executive director of the AAUP, when many emeriti said they appreciated the opportunity to get together to meet with former colleagues. This is the second year the AAUP has sponsored a reception.

In addition to formal and informal contacts with emeriti, the AAUP continues to represent retired faculty members in negotiations for pension and health care benefits.

The reception included a presentation about developments taking place at the University by Karla Fox, associate vice chancellor and co-chair of the Master Plan Committee.

"They were really interested in the hotel and the University's whole plan of development, " she said.

"As the University moves forward, emeriti are a tremendous resource for the University and one the University wants to cooperate with as a mutually beneficial undertaking."

Many professors emeritus continue to live in the area and maintain close ties with the University, often remaining productive teachers and researchers well into retirement.

Wilbur Widmer, professor emeritus of environmental engineering who attended last week's reception, retired in 1988, but continued to teach until 1996, achieving a total of 48 years of teaching. Although his wife's illness prevents him from being more actively involved now, he still maintains a mailbox in his department and stops by from time to time to chat with his former colleagues.

"One of the advantages of academic life for many people is that it leads to a lifelong bond between the faculty member and the University," said Bansal.

"The tenure system provides for a long period of connection with the same institution and, unlike a corporate job, it's not a nine-to-five situation. As a result, one's personal and professional lives are interwoven and many faculty members don't feel they come here to work and then have a different life to live. They're involved in many activities at the University."

As with alumni, many emeriti continue to have strong emotional ties with the University.

"The University's not like an automobile factory," said Marth.

"In a real way it's a community - people eat together, they exercise together, go tosymposiums and talks, and there's entertainment in Jorgensen Auditorium and elsewhere on campus."

Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu