Retired faculty and staff forming association

A group of retired faculty and staff members committed to staying connected to the university and to each other is working to establish the Western Carolina University Association of Retired Faculty and Staff.

The association’s planning committee developed a questionnaire to guide the effort and will host an inaugural event – a luncheon and university update presented by Chancellor David O. Belcher –  on campus on Tuesday, June 25.

“If you don’t have an association of retired faculty and staff, over a period of time, people tend to drift away from the university because there is no formal time to meet and get together,” said Gordon Mercer, a retired professor of political science and public affairs who is helping lead the association’s planning committee. “Meeting regularly keeps people linked to the university and aware of opportunities to contribute in various ways, such as sharing their skills or providing a unique perspective. Retired faculty and staff have great ideas to share with our university.”

That’s also what inspired Sharon Gammon, who retired after working with anthropology and sociology, to join the organization’s planning committee.

“For me, the association will be a way to stay in touch with the people I worked with for so many years,” said Gammon “Western is a great place – for school and to work. Also, reconnecting with the university as a whole is a good way for us to keep our minds active.”

The committee’s questionnaire, which was mailed in early February to more than 450 retired faculty and staff members, assesses interest in proposed activities, such as Dutch treat meals, social events or panel discussions, and how often to meet.

The group researched similar associations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University and discerned that such groups were important to the universities. Typical meetings often include a social get-together, a business meeting, updates on initiatives and activities, lunch and either a discussion panel or speaker. In addition, members of those associations emphasized to the WCU committee the importance of reaching out to retired faculty and staff, he said.

“We are starting as an association for both retired faculty and retired staff, and we, retired faculty and staff, are working closely together to form the association,” said Mercer. “One group is just as critical as the other.”

In addition to Mercer, planning committee members are Norma Medford Clayton, Richard Collings, Michael Dougherty, Sharon Gammon, Fred Hinson, Jennie Hunter, Carol Martin-Vegue, Mary Lou Millwood, Karen Nicholson, Jane Perlmutter, Garry Smith, Curtis Wood and Royce Woosley. The committee, which began meeting in September, has strong support from the chancellor.

“The chancellor has been very enthusiastic,” said Mercer. “He wants retired faculty and staff to stay in touch with the university, and he is very interested in the inventory of their skills and areas they might want to assist at the university.”

Belcher said he is pleased that a group of retired WCU faculty and staff have launched an initiative to found the association.

“Such an organization will provide a great venue for maintaining relationships with people who have given their careers to our university,” he said.

For more information, contact Mercer at 828-369-2693 or Hinson at 828-293-5620.