Retirement sitting well with these former College of Education professors
While people considering retirement can characterize the prospect as either frightening or highly anticipated, it’s essentially a constant in our lives commensurate with death and taxes.It’s coming, people. And for some of the corps of the College of Education community, it’s here, it’s within view or it’s already transpired.
Jim Nolan, a former professor of education in the College, fits into the latter category. He retired in phases over a two-year period. His mandated to-do list of meetings, responsibilities of the Professional Development School and maintaining a pace with ever-changing educational trends, transitioned to a personal can-do checklist of freedom from stress, the ability to engage in other activities he finds enjoyable as well as scholarly activities of his choosing and – something he labeled with an exclamation point – Sunday nights.
Former mathematics faculty member Glen Blume stressed that retirement must be an individual decision. “Some faculty members in their 60s may be more fulfilled by continuing as a full-time faculty member and others may prefer to separate partially or fully from being a faculty member to pursue other interests,’’ he said.
“One needs to weigh one’s interest in continuing to be involved academically – with Penn State students, Penn State colleagues and with one’s professional academic community at large – against leaving that involvement – either totally or partially – to become involved in other endeavors. I chose the latter, with the separation being partial rather than total,’’ Blume said.
THE PROCESS (http://ohr.psu.edu/benefits/retirement/guide-to-retirement/)
Here are three steps to take to begin the process to retire either in phases or completely:
1. Meet with a retirement planning specialist from TIAA-CREF or SERS to review income projections and income options.
2. Email the Office of Human Resources at email@example.com with your name, Penn State ID number and retirement date. You should notify your local Human Resources Department of your interest to retire two to three months prior to your expected retirement date, or as soon as you know you plan to retire.
3. Review Employee Self Service Information Center (ESSIC) at https://app3.ohr.psu.edu/essic/ to verify your covered eligible dependents as well as benefits in which you currently are enrolled to determine if those benefits are applicable after retirement.
Melody Thompson entered that world at the end of December, and her decision to leave the College as assistant professor of education in Penn State’s adult education program was difficult because of the prospect of no longer working with students. “I’ve always felt a very strong commitment to my students, particularly my online master’s students,’’ Thompson said.
“The challenge of making them feel that they have a ‘real’ – not virtual – professor has been energizing, and they have always recognized and appreciated that commitment. I’m going to have to find a new challenge that provides the same satisfaction.
“On the other hand,’’ Thompson said, “successfully meeting that challenge has been draining at times, so the release from ongoing pressures will be a benefit. I am also looking forward to getting away from policies – many driven by non-educators – that serve some bureaucratic purpose but don’t help us serve students.’’
Those contacted all concluded that the good involved in the decision to retire far outweighs any potential torment that second-guessing might bring. “The key to enjoying your retirement is simple,’’ said Richard Walter, a former associate professor of education and coordinator of Workforce Education and Development. “Be certain that you are embracing the next phase of your life rather than escaping the present one.
“It was one of my best decisions and I highly recommend it as long as you have a plan for what you wish to do in the next phase of your life,’’ he said. “I have time to engage in activities that were not options in the previous phase of my life, and I am generally able to choose, rather than be required, to engage in an activity.’’
Those activities for Nolan include golf, volunteering at Mount Nittany Medical Center, volunteering in elementary classrooms once a week and delivering Meals on Wheels with his wife every other week. On the scholarly side, he has five doctoral students who are finishing dissertations and he has been invited to deliver two keynote speeches in the spring.
Blume also is serving on doctoral students’ committees, he is completing several publications with former and current graduate students and he and colleagues at Penn State and the University of Georgia periodically review items for the ACT mathematics test.
Walter has chosen to remain engaged in the long-standing professional development partnership between the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and the Workforce Education and Development Program.
Thompson serves on the board of trustees for a theological seminary, she’s a co-director of an educational services company in Nigeria and she’s a grandmother four times over. She, too, will serve on a couple of doctoral committees and maintain contact with a few students in a mentoring role, she said.
Retirement is all about flexibility, according to Blume.
“If one has few interests beyond one’s professional life or believes that their greatest fulfillment can be achieved by their continuing to be full-time contributors to their professional field, then retirement may not be one’s best choice,’’ he said. “On the other hand, if one has unexplored interests that promise enjoyment and fulfillment, then retirement can offer an opportunity to explore those interests.
“The overwhelming majority of people whom I know who are retired love it and would not change a thing. There are, of course, some people who don’t like it. But let’s face it, some people don’t even like ice cream – imagine that. I think a very important thing to think about is whether there are other things that you feel driven to do or at least inclined to do, whether it’s traveling, or helping others, or pursuing hobbies.''--Jim Nolan
“The flexibility of choosing to explore those new interests or to choose to engage more fully with one’s continuing interests – for me, work with nonprofit organizations in the community -- can make retirement more attractive than being employed full time. For individuals who are committed to lifelong learning, retirement can offer an opportunity to learn in new fields of interest in addition to continuing to learn in one’s former professional field,’’ Blume said.
And it’s also a very personal decision, Nolan said.
“The overwhelming majority of people whom I know who are retired love it and would not change a thing,’’ he said. “There are, of course, some people who don’t like it. But let’s face it, some people don’t even like ice cream – imagine that. I think a very important thing to think about is whether there are other things that you feel driven to do or at least inclined to do, whether it’s traveling, or helping others, or pursuing hobbies.
“If you feel inclined toward or driven by other interests, I think you have to consider taking the chance to try them. There is no guarantee that you will have those opportunities later if you do not take advantage of them,’’ Nolan said.
Proceeding through the steps toward retirement went smoothly for all but Thompson, who admitted some anxiety was caused because she “put off” a few things. She also hit a temporary snag with Social Security. “However, the process of getting a retirement gift from the College seems to have gone smoothly,’’ she said.
Jim Carlson (February 2016)