They talked about the gentrification of certain Atlanta neighborhoods, the draw of Athens as a desirable place to live and the recovery of Tulane University after Katrina. They asked about spouses, children and grandchildren. And they reminisced on their years of service at UGA, and their more recent service and social engagements they enjoy as retired faculty and staff.
Last month, the University of Georgia Retirees Association Council held a luncheon at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education to honor past council chairs. Former UGA President Charles B. Knapp sat next to current UGARA Chair Helen Mills, retired associate vice president of public service and outreach. Every past chair who is still living arranged their schedules to attend the luncheon, no easy feat-“I missed another old folks’ meeting because of this,” joked Roland Brooks, UGARA chair from 2002-2003.
In 1990, Knapp appointed a committee, chaired by then-Dean Howard Ansel of the College of Pharmacy, to examine the services offered by universities to their retirees. The committee investigated other schools and found that most offered no formal services.
As a result, a follow-up committee formed to study the possibility of creating a retiree organization at UGA. At the time, UGA offered only one annual event to retirees, a popular dinner sponsored by the Alumni Association.
“It was clear that the retired folks were an asset to the university and were not being recognized,” says Knapp.
In 1992, UGA created UGARA, which now has more than 500 members. The organization is noted for including retired faculty, staff and administrators.
“It’s unique from that standpoint,” says Mills. “We’re very conscious about keeping the leadership balanced. . . . Other universities have now studied us. “
UGARA allows retirees to engage in volunteerism that assists the university and enjoy social events and educational workshops. UGARA members welcome new retirees in an annual reception, tour new facilities on campus, take field trips throughout the Southeast and discover local gems such as private gardens, art collections and antique displays.
Mills volunteers at the Alumni Association once a month, answering phones, stuffing envelopes and “having a good time.” Others volunteer more often; Claude McBride still works there part time as a liaison to UGARA members.
“I think it’s very valuable for those who want to stay involved to have a vehicle to do so,” says Mills.
“It’s proving to be of great benefit for both the university and the retirees in so many ways,” says McBride. “Because the university formed it, it shows we care about (retirees). The whole intent is to keep them bonded to the university, keep them informed about what’s going on. The educational and fellowship activities help UGARA members to stay involved in the life of the university and the community.”