Retired Faculty Share Scholarly Work and Sustain Old Friendships in AEVC
Few others may have noticed the small gathering that took place under a tent behind Ferry House on a cool October afternoon, but the event had special significance for those who attended. It marked the first time in 22 months that members of the Associated Emeritae/i of Vassar College (AEVC) were sharing wine, cheese, and fellowship on the Vassar campus.
Founded in 2007, the AEVC affords retired Vassar faculty the opportunity to keep in touch with old friends and colleagues while maintaining a formal relationship with the College. The October wine and cheese party was held to welcome those who had retired in the two academic years since the COVID-19 pandemic had forced the organization to suspend most of its events.
“The first and most important thing to say is ‘thank-you’ to each and all,” Professor Emeritus of Philosophy Michael McCarthy, a founding member of the group who taught at Vassar from 1968 to 2007, told the recently retired members of the faculty who attended the event. “We want to welcome you warmly into the AEVC community, first created 14 years ago as a center of friendship and connection among Vassar’s retired faculty. We now number 115 members, living on four continents.”
To state the obvious, AEVC members provide a wealth of knowledge and academic experience to the Vassar community: The combined length of service of its 115 members is 3,934 years. Catherine Bond Hill, Vassar’s President at the time of the group’s founding, soon recognized the benefit of forging a relationship with the AEVC through the office of the Dean of Faculty. And current Dean of Faculty William Hoynes affirmed that relationship by greeting those in attendance at the October event. “It’s great to see you all back on campus for the first time in a long time, and we hope to see more of you,” Hoynes said. “We hope you all continue to feel you are a part of the Vassar community.”
The formal relationship with the College includes tangible benefits for AEVC members, including access to the library and other facilities and the opportunity to take advantage of portions of Vassar’s medical insurance plan.
AEVC members contribute to Vassar in various ways. Some return to teach an occasional class, and many remain in touch with colleagues who are still teaching, offering ideas and support. Since its founding, the group has hosted lectures, open to all at the College, by its members on topics ranging from local politics to the poetry of Vassar alumna Elizabeth Bishop to the history of the automobile.
Professor Emeritus of Geography Harvey Flad hatched the idea for the AEVC in a conversation with McCarthy after learning that Emory College had such a group. He said one of the strengths of the organization is its intentional informality. “It’s been a terrific experience on several levels,” Flad said. “We’re able to keep up with each other’s scholarly work, but it’s also been good just for maintaining social relationships.”
Professor Emerita of Classics Rachel Kitzinger agreed. “What I love about this group is that you really get a sense of what other people are doing,” Kitzinger said. “It bolsters the sense that there isn’t one way to be retired.”
While helping retired faculty maintain relationships with former colleagues is a key part of its mission, the formation of the group has also enhanced relationships between retired faculty members and many of the alums they had in class, said John Mihaly, Associate Vice President for Regional and International Programs in the College’s Office of Advancement. “Faculty emeritae/i have played an invaluable role in the College’s efforts to sustain our relationship with our graduates through their participation in programs on campus as well as on the road,” Mihaly said. “Interaction with faculty, past and present, remains one of the most desirable points of intersection. It is very gratifying to see former students participate in these opportunities to rekindle their relationships with their former teachers. But it isn’t surprising, really; these relationships were at the heart of their experience while students at Vassar.”
For more information about the AEVC, please visit www.aevc-life.org