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  October 30, 2000

Faculty Contributions to University
Don't End With Retirement

For many of UConn's approximately 700 emeriti, a dedicated work ethic has merely shifted gears these days, with retirement affording them a freer forum to publish, lecture, consult and serve on a myriad of government, community and cultural boards.

Their bonds with the University, however, continue in ways both formal and informal.

"They're continuing with precisely the things that led them to the University in the first place," says Charles "Skip" Lowe, professor and head of the psychology department, "a love of learning, teaching and students.

"That doesn't change," he says. "It stays with them when they step down."

And that's something Lowe and many other members of the University and the community at large personally appreciate about UConn's emeriti. "Our emeriti provide unbelievable wisdom, and with no personal agenda other than the greater good of the department and the University," Lowe says.

"That's rare," he adds. "They're a valuable source of sound advice. I get pure wisdom that I can rely on and that's refreshing."

Service & Scholarship
Rudy Favretti, professor emeritus of landscape architecture, says most emeriti have a warm spot in their hearts for the University.

"Come January, I'll have been retired 13 years, but I still publish, still perform the way I did when I was at the University," he says. "Although I no longer teach, I do give an occasional lecture and I'm invited back by my department to do critiques a couple of times a year. It keeps me young."

Favretti says the publishing that emeriti continue to do serves as a source of good publicity for UConn. "It works both ways: We use the library and other resources and the University's name appears in print," says Favretti, who is currently researching a book on immigrants who settled in the Northeast from the northern regions of Italy.

Favretti's interests extend into the community, where he serves on Mansfield's planning and zoning commission. He feels his involvement may help foster a closer working relationship between the town's government and the University.

"While I don't always agree with what the University may want to do, I do understand the University and its needs," he says.

Favretti's community service is matched in the Storrs area by Bill Rosen, a retired English professor, and John Brubacher, a retired professor of education.

Rosen is a member of the Mansfield Town Council and a leader in an effort to create an assisted living project in the area. Brubacher has played a significant role in raising funds for the expansion of Natchaug Hospital, a provider of behavioral health services in eastern Connecticut.

"The major market for an assisted living project would be retirees from UConn and possibly Eastern Connecticut State University," says Rosen. "If a market survey shows a demand, we're hoping for a cooperative enterprise with the University."

When he's not involved in activities with the town, Rosen delights in using a carrel in Homer Babbidge Library to pursue his scholarship.

"I'm on the Storrs campus once a week, sometimes twice," says Rosen, who is about to start a new writing project with the working title "Shakespeare and the Designs of Power." He'll pick up his pen again when he returns in a few weeks from travels to the Galapagos Islands.

"The marvelous thing about being retired is to be able to say, 'I won't be at the meeting because I'm going away for two weeks,'" says Rosen. "It's a wonderful sense of freedom."

Like Rosen, Brubacher resides in Storrs and has taken on a community cause. He is a member of Natchaug Hospital's leadership committee, providing expertise in both a public awareness effort and a $1.5 million capital campaign targeting the eastern Connecticut communities.

"John has a deep caring for education and young people, knows the community well, and understands how to get things done," says Lilli Rhodes, director of community relations at the 60-bed private, non-profit hospital in Mansfield.

Brubacher retired several years ago after a 30-year career at the University but is still a regular visitor to the campus. He says he continues to have great warmth toward the University.

Most emeriti relationships with the University are considered informal, says Fred Maryanski, vice chancellor for academic administration.

"They're informal in the sense of how they interact with their former departments," he says. "The situations differ and depend upon an individual's own inclinations and the needs of his or her former department."

Research & Publications
One of the more formal relationships is that of James Bobbitt, professor emeritus of chemistry, who continues to conduct research in the Emeriti Lab in the new chemistry building. Earlier this year - eight years after he retired - Bobbitt won a two-year, $20,000 grant from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation to continue involving undergraduates in research. The grant supports an undergraduate to work with Bobbitt, searching for oxidizing agents that don't contain heavy metals, unlike traditional agents that contain chromium or manganese.

Two retired professors - Julius Elias, who also served as former provost and dean of arts and sciences, and Hugh Clark, a former biology professor - have teamed up with a current member of the history faculty, associate professor Peter Bergmann, to publish a book, "The Antecedents of Nazism: Weimar."

The newly released book involves the political papers of the late Walter Landauer, a distinguished scientist and UConn professor, who specialized in poultry genetics and wrote about the political and economic confusion in his native Germany in the early 1900s. Clark, who retired 16 years ago, says his University career overlapped with Landauer's.

Clark, Elias and Bergmann will discuss their book on Thursday evening, Nov. 2, at the University of Hartford in a program featuring new books on the Holocaust and its origins. They expect to discuss the book in the near future at UConn.

Branching Out
While he may be one of the newest members of the emeriti corps, Thomas "Tim" Weinland, who served as department head of curriculum and instruction, hasn't as yet stopped to smell the roses. He's plunged himself into assisting the University in its new relationship with the African National Congress and linkage with the University of Fort Hare.

Weinland, who concedes he's somewhat in a "gee-whiz" mode of retirement, continues to have an office and a computer in the Neag School of Education and receives a small stipend for his part-time assignment. He enjoys the opportunity to work with faculty colleagues and students, albeit in a new and different role.

Robinson Grover of West Hartford, who retired two years ago as an associate professor of philosophy at the Torrington campus, has an informal relationship with the School of Fine Arts. A collector of contemporary photography, Grover has shared his collection of some 300 works by 95 artists with UConn's photography students.

The students have viewed the works, which are housed in a loft in Hartford, and have brought in their own work for discussion, says Grover, who serves on the boards of directors of Real Art Ways Inc. and the Hartford Symphony.

Practical Philanthropy
Emerita Pauline "Polly" Fitz of Branford is also continuing to support the University. A former dean of the School of Allied Health, Fitz heads her own health-related consulting business today, but her heart in many ways still belongs to UConn.

With the help of family and friends, she established an endowment through the University Foundation that provides an annual scholarship to both recruit and help under-represented students in her beloved former school. "The funds can be used in any way to achieve a student's goals," says Fitz.

She downplays the financial gift, saying it is part of her ongoing commitment to education. "It's not surprising that so many of us contribute what money we have to education," she says."

Like Fitz, Peter McFadden, a retired dean of engineering who also served as provost and executive assistant to the president and the Board of Trustees during his more than 27-year career at UConn, devotes time to community work and is a University benefactor.

When he's not at home in Noank sailing, fishing, playing golf and joining in family events, he's on the Storrs campus attending athletic competitions, scholarship banquets, and committee meetings involving the Alumni House.

"The University has been an important part of my life for so many years," says McFadden. "It's been a long-term relationship, dating back to my undergraduate days 50 years ago this Fall."

The relationship today includes an endowed McFadden Family Scholarship, presented annually to a member of the women's basketball team. Additionally, under the Peter G. McFadden Fund, a cash prize is awarded yearly to support scholarships for engineering students.

Earlier this year, Nafe Katter, professor emeritus of dramatic arts, pledged $1 million to UConn's School of Fine Arts for the construction of a new thrust stage that will lend itself to closer audience-actor contact.

Katter, who maintained his professional acting credentials while teaching, retired in 1996. He is currently playing dual roles in the Hartford Stage's performance of Shakespeare's Macbeth, as Duncan, King of Scotland, and Siward, an earl and general of the English forces. If the right role comes along, Katter says, he'll also return to the University's own stage.

Ed Marth, executive director of the University of Connecticut's Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, which continues to represent emeriti in negotiations with the state regarding pensions and health care, says retired faculty are a positive force for the University.

"Our emeriti have so much energy as individuals," Marth says, "and have the time now to become activists, if they so choose."

By all appearances, it looks as if they've made that choice.

Claudia G. Chamberlain