For these retirees, campus is still the center of their lives
Audree Fowler, a retired director of the UCLA Protein Micro-sequencing Facility, now volunteers for Design for Sharing
, a program of UCLA's Center for Art of Performance that brings elementary students from Los Angeles public schools to performances. She also annually provides three graduate students with $5,000 fellowships.
Esperanza Nee, retired director of financial aid at UC Santa Cruz, is still helping students succeed — as a leader of Dreamweavers, a university-community partnership that supports undocumented UC Santa Cruz students.
The program for which retiree Audree Fowler is a volunteer, Design for Sharing, has brought fine arts education to more than 500,000 L.A. schoolchildren since its founding in 1969.
John Wheeler, professor emeritus of chemistry at UC San Diego, mentors first-generation freshmen and sophomores, and helps them navigate through their first two years on campus.
They are just three of the hundreds, if not thousands, of UC retirees and emeriti who regularly give their time, talent and treasure back to the university.
Retirees serve as docents at theatrical and music performances, jurors at mock trials, participants in research studies and in countless other ways. Suzan Cioffi, UC San Diego Retirement Center director, calculates that retiree association members volunteered more than 1,500 hours in fiscal year 2011-12.
In 2011, 450 UCLA staff retirees — or roughly 30 percent of the 1,506 people who responded — said they remain connected to the campus. They volunteer, participate in fundraising, serve on advisory boards and committees, or continue to work at the university in some capacity.
In a survey of UCLA emeriti faculty completed in 2009, 322 respondents, out of 956 polled, mentored a total of 1,600 undergraduates and 6,556 graduate students. These retired faculty served on 384 doctoral committees.
Some retirees share their expertise by helping current faculty and staff plan for retirement. At UC Berkeley and UC Davis, the retirement centers offer preretirement planning workshops in conjunction with the campus benefits office. Emeriti and retirees participate in the program, sharing their experiences of transitioning to retirement. "This has been extremely well-received by faculty and staff thinking of retiring," said Patrick Cullinane, director of UC Berkeley's retirement center.
Retirement need not mean the end to teaching and research. More than 400 emeriti continue to teach and conduct research systemwide, according to the Council of UC Emeriti Associations.
Roger Glassey, professor emeritus of engineering at UC Berkeley, is one of them. He regularly teaches an undergraduate robotics course. Some years, when the Berkeley budget has been particularly tight, he has taught pro bono. "Berkeley is a great institution and treated me very well," Glassey said. "I'd like to be part of it and contribute something to it."
Retirees also contribute to the university financially. The Paul I. Terasaki Life Sciences Building at UCLA and the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis are two examples of very large financial contributions from retired faculty. But equally impressive are the vast numbers of retirees and emeriti who make donations of all sizes to UC.
More than half of UC Irvine retirees and emeriti make financial gifts to the university, said Jeri I. Fredericks, director of the UC Irvine Center for Retirees. Students at several campuses are the beneficiaries of scholarship and fellowship gifts from retirees, either through formal programs — such as those at UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego — or individual donations.
Supporting the arts and sciences
Audree Fowler, retired director of the UCLA Protein Micro-sequencing Facility.
Audree Fowler, a retired UCLA research scientist, started volunteering with Design for Sharing by handing out programs to teachers.
Design for Sharing is a free K-12 arts education program at UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance. It provides interactive and educational experiences for more than 15,000 students each year.
"It seemed like something I'd like to do," Fowler said. "I like music and theater, and it's fun to be with the kids and the friends I've made through the group." Today she also sits on the Design for Sharing board of directors.
"UCLA retiree and alumni volunteers bring a special energy to our events, and it doesn't go unnoticed," said Theresa Peters Willis, Design for Sharing program coordinator. "Our participants are impressed by the friendly and helpful people that greet them. Audree is a shining example of this kind of enthusiasm."
Fowler also gives three fellowships each year in protein science to graduate students in various departments. Each gets $5,000 to spend as they choose.
"I was a little farm girl who came to UCLA for school 60 years ago, and it became the center of my life," Fowler said. "It still is."
Weaving dreams for undocumented students
Esperanza Nee, retired director of financial aid in UC Santa Cruz.
Esperanza Nee spends her retirement traveling, visiting with her grandchildren and supporting undocumented students at UC Santa Cruz through her service to Dreamweavers, a community of support for Dream Act students at the university.
The program, modeled after the campus program for students who have been in foster care, provides adult mentors to support students' needs, academic or personal. Until 2013 when the California Dream Act is takes effect, undocumented students are not eligible for Cal grants or UC grants. So Dreamweavers raises money for scholarships to help these students pay tuition.
Victoria Dominguez, who graduated from UC Santa Cruz in June, knows firsthand the difference Nee and others can make. "I truly believe I would not have graduated without my mentors." They raised money to help pay her tuition and supported her when her stepfather was dying. "When I thought things were complicated, they helped me break it down so it didn't seem so complicated."
Nee serves as part of Dreamweavers' core leadership group, leveraging her 20-plus years as director of financial aid at UC Santa Cruz to work with the university and the Dreamweaver volunteers, many of whom are also retired faculty and staff.
"One of the luxuries of being a retiree is that you can pick and choose what you get involved in,"
Nee said. "I chose Dreamweavers because I know what a difference education made in my own life."
Mentoring first-generation students
John Wheeler, professor emeritus of chemistry at UC San Diego.
John Wheeler, professor emeritus of chemistry at UC San Diego, meets with freshman and sophomore students, helping them navigate the university, understand what they need to do to succeed and get into one of the university's undergraduate research programs.
He's a volunteer for the UCSD Emeriti Mentor Program that pairs retired faculty with first-generation students who have received the university's prestigious Chancellor's Scholarships.
"The one thing I missed after I retired was talking to students about the things I was thinking about and hearing what they're thinking about. The Emeriti Mentor Program is a way for me to continue to be involved and contribute back to the campus."
That mentor relationship has been helpful to Allen Gong, a rising sophomore.
"My relationship with John is very different from an average student-professor relationship," Gong said. "I can talk to him about programs, get advice. I had to do a presentation for the Chancellor's Scholar program and he gave me some really constructive criticism."
While Wheeler currently mentors Gong and three other students, he also has chaired the program, recruited faculty mentors and paired students and faculty.
"Chairing the program took a lot more time, but I like being involved with the students," he said. "It's a lot of fun."