The Sun Still Shone: Professors Talk about Retirement / the Vitality of Senior Faculty Members: Snow on the Roof-Fire in the Furnace

By George, Carl | Academe, September/October 1998 | Go to article overview
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The Sun Still Shone: Professors Talk about Retirement / the Vitality of Senior Faculty Members: Snow on the Roof-Fire in the Furnace


George, Carl, Academe


The Sun Still Shone: Professors Talk about Retirement

Lorraine T. Dorfman. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1997, 206 pp., $21.95

The Vitality of Senior Faculty Members: Snow on the Roof-Fire in the Furnace

Carol J. Bland and William H. Bergquist. Washington, D.C.: ASHEERIC Higher Education Report, 25, no. 7, 1997, 169 pp., $24.00

LORRAINE DORFMAN, DIRECTOR OF the Aging Studies Program at the University of Iowa, provides a muchneeded advisory on academic retirement. Based on more than four hundred interviews conducted over ten years in the United States and Great Britain, the results of the study are presented in seven chapters and two appendices. There is also a useful bibliography, but one flaw is the lack of an index.

Unlike much of the literature on academic retirement, The Sun Still Shone is directed to a broad readership, including people who are approaching retirement or who have already retired. Instead of focusing on numbers and economic models that treat college faculties as commodities, Dorfman deals with the actual anxieties associated with the transition to retirement.

The happiest among those interviewed made an effort to "get ready." Nearly three-fourths of the respondents looked forward to retirement, especially to a better balance of leisure and professional activity. Finding a way to make a gradual transition made sense. Dorfman found that colleagues and students (she does not comment on the attitude of administrators) usually accommodated those approaching retirement, although a few people "wrote off" this group. "Terminitis" is marked by reduced consultation on matters judged to be important.

Retaining connections with the academic community was crucial for most of Dorfman's respondents who were entering retirement. Few wanted to have a clean break, but those who did were adamant and often interested in totally new careers. Suggestions for filling free time were many: teaching a single course, participating in master's or doctoral committees, advising a few students on special projects, helping with recruitment. One-third of the retirees continued to receive salaries of some sort, and faculty members in American liberal arts colleges were most likely to continue teaching. Consulting, editing, writing, reading journals, attending professional meetings, and engaging in some research and administrative work were also important. Interestingly, men had more trouble than women in retirement. Among those Dorfman interviewed, women were more likely than men to have diversified lifestyles even before retirement, including hobbies and home responsibilities.

As one might expect, factors contributing to an enjoyable retirement were good health and good attitude, adequate financial resources, and ongoing social contacts and activities. The data collected by Dorfman indicate that most retirees adjust well. About one-third of her respondents had problems that they eventually resolved, while a small minority never adjusted. Forty percent of those interviewed indicated no negative aspects to retirement, while a handful said there was nothing positive. Among retirement's benefits were freedom from paperwork, the telephone, schedules, deadlines, the pressure to compete, politics, administrative responsibilities, committee meetings, and even poor weather. But there were negative effects, too, and key among them was loss of contact with students and colleagues.

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