Familiar Faces Prepare To Say Farewell,
As University Marshal for the past 16 years, Peter Halvorson has presided over graduation ceremonies in Jorgensen Auditorium, the pre-renovated Greer Field House, the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion, and even on the turf of Memorial Stadium. He also has led Commencement exercises during that time at the School of Law and the Health Center.
On May 17, Halvorson, a geography professor for the past 33 years, will guide his last cohort of graduating seniors through the biggest day of their collegiate careers: just weeks later, he will retire, one of 113 UConn faculty and staff in Storrs-based programs who have signed up to date for the Early Retirement Incentive Program.
"I'm going to miss a lot of things," says Halvorson, the bearded, occasionally gruff Norwegian who also served for 12 years as chairman of the Senate Executive Committee. "But in the fullness of time, and all of that É it's a good time to be moving on."
There is one month remaining before eligible state workers have to decide whether to accept the offer, which gives employees a three-year chip they can add to their length of state service and/or age for purposes of retirement. To date, 11 faculty and 102 staff at UConn have signed onto the plan. Although few faculty had completed retirement paperwork as of May 1, Aliza Wilder, director of human resources, says more are expected to join the group by the May 30 deadline, after the academic year has ended.
At the Health Center 107 workers - only one of whom is on the faculty - also have signed on to take the golden handshake.
There are 850 people in the Storrs-based programs and 380 people at the Health Center who are eligible for the program.
Currently, the effect of the retirements on UConn's future is unclear. Lorraine Aronson, the University's vice president for financial planning and management, says UConn officials have asked Gov. John G. Rowland's budget office to allow the University to retain at least 80 percent of the savings resulting from early retirements, in the hope of refilling some of the vacant positions. Aronson says she understands, however, that the University will be called upon to contribute some savings from the retirement program to help offset a portion of the state's deficit.
"Clearly, with our stunning enrollment growth, the improvements we've made to the academic and residential programs, and with nearly 30 new buildings in Storrs alone to maintain, we need the financial ability to refill positions," says Aronson. "We understand the state is facing financial difficulties. We have a commitment to the state's taxpayers, but we've made a promise to our current and future students - and their taxpaying parents - that we will deliver a high quality educational experience at an affordable price. We need to refill both academic and service positions if we are to deliver on that promise."
As the May 30 deadline approaches, faculty and staff continue to apply for the retirement program, including a number of prominent, veteran UConn employees. The list includes Paul M. Shapiro, an assistant attorney general assigned to UConn for the past 21 years; Cindy Adams, associate vice provost for multicultural and international affairs and formerly associate dean of the School of Allied Health; and Elizabeth Paterson, the University's bursar. It also includes Arlene Michaud, Halvorson's right hand during 13 of his 16 years as Marshal. Michaud has run the Senate offices since 1990, and coordinated Commencement since 1991.
As for Halvorson, the long-time voice of UConn Commencement, the University remains in his plans. He will continue serving as an advisor and teaching one course a year in the Urban Studies Program, and has been persuaded to teach one freshman geography course next year. He also will keep his eye on Commencement, maybe even join the procession as a few of the ceremonies as a faculty member.
His wishes for May 17, 2003, his last Commencement as the leader of UConn's undergraduate ceremonies? "I hope for great weather," he says, "and for all the speakers to deliver nice, 12-minute speeches."