The University of Delaware Association of Retired Faculty, known as UDARF, began in 1989. We were created by the Faculty Senate and evolved through the efforts of the sub-committee on retired, retiring and emeritus faculty.
Upon retirement, faculty become members of UDARF. Spouses are also welcome. In addition, other University retirees are occasionally invited as honorary members.
The purpose of UDARF is threefold:
- To continue and to advance collegial relationships among faculty
- To participate in the University’s activities and purposes
- To promote beneficial relations between UDARF and the University
UDARF at Twenty: A Short History
by Carol Hoffecker
Chapter 1: How UDARF came into existence
A search in the University’s Archives revealed a wealth of materials relating to the creation of UDARF. Our organization has its origins in the 1980s when the Faculty Senate’s Subcommittee on Retiring, Retired and Emeriti Faculty sought to discover the needs of its constituents. Following a meeting with Vice President for Employee Relations Dennis Carey in November 1986, the subcommittee drafted and mailed a questionnaire to the retired faculty asking them to rate the importance of various possible benefit options. The options included a dental-care plan, the University mortgage plan, the use of University recreational facilities, study space and secretarial services, among other benefits. The forty people who responded rated dental-care insurance and long-term catastrophic health care as their top priorities. The level of response encouraged the subcommittee to compile a directory of retired faculty and to plan a “get together” lunch for retirees. Using their newly created directory, the subcommittee polled retirees about their interest in attending a lunch meeting and their desire to form a permanent association of retired faculty. The subcommittee received 79 replies affirming these goals.
The inaugural “get together” lunch took place in Clayton Hall on May 8, 1989. It came at a propitious time in the University’s history. Those among our readers who were here then will recall that in the fall of 1988, after President Russel Jones had launched a major development effort called “Project Vision,” he made a rather sudden departure from the University. Former President E. Arthur Trabant, who was semi-retired and was teaching in the mathematics department, suddenly returned to the President’s office.
Art Trabant knew the retirees, and he took a great personal interest in their welfare. He hosted the lunch in May and, as the report of the subcommittee put it, “graciously offered to hold a regular monthly lunch for retired and emeriti faculty during fall semester, 1989.” The subcommittee added that “it is hoped that during the course of these meetings, our retired faculty will develop a formal organization to address issues they deem important.” It was from this hope that UDARF was born.
Chapter 2: UDARF’s First Decade
From its founding in 1989, UDARF had three major goals. As stated in an early, but undated, brochure, these goals were: “to advance the well being of its members; to aid in the University’s activities and purposes; and to promote beneficial relations between the Association and the University.” Membership in the organization was extended to all retired faculty. Their spouses, widows, and presumably widowers, though they were not mentioned, were eligible to become affiliate members. By 1991 the policy had been extended to provide honorary membership status “to retired members of the University community who have had long and close relations with faculty and made substantial, if non-teaching, contributions to the life of the community.”
From its earliest days, the UDARF calendar featured four yearly luncheons in Clayton Hall where members were invited to hear “stimulating” speakers from the faculty and administration. In the organization’s early days, members could also attend informal brown bag lunches that were held periodically in the Perkins Student Center. The “brown bagger” groups were small and those events were discontinued at an unrecorded time.
From the beginning, individual members were encouraged to involve UDARF in a variety of efforts to aid the University and Newark communities. In 1991 John Wriston organized UDARF members to assist in a pick up along Elkton Road and Christina Parkway that collected twenty-five bags of trash. In 1995 John Wriston together with John and Dorothy Moser led a cancer walk that raised $1,200. UDARF was also an important advocacy group on behalf of its members in persuading the University to provide a benefits statement for retirees and in offering a service whereby shut-ins could call UDARF officers to arrange for visits from fellow members.
Communication was the key to organizing and promoting all of those activities. To succeed, UDARF needed a newsletter. Fortunately, Ed Rosenberry, a retired professor of American literature, volunteered to take on that task, and he proved to be an enthusiastic and resourceful editor. The first issue of the UDARF Newsletter appeared in April 1990. It was a modest piece of two pages, published on inexpensive yellow paper in type-writer style print. That issue set the tone and style for the future. Its readers learned that Harry Shipman, the Physics Department astronomer, would speak at the May lunch. There was also an article entitled “Some Explanatory Notes on TIAA/CREF Retirement Income Plans,” a subject that reverberates to this day.
One recurring theme of the 1990s was encouraging members to develop their skills in using new technologies. The second issue of the Newsletter included a piece called “Computer Help for Retired Faculty.” In April 1996 Editor Rosenberry published his findings on an inquiry about members’ use of computers. He discovered that a few members were using e-mail and noted that “even the negative responses were interesting. All reported ruefully that their grandchildren swim in cyberspace, leaving them to feel like beached whales.”
Chapter 3: The First Decade of a New Millennium
Numbers provide a good place to begin the recent history of UDARF. The organization’s first directory in 1988-89 listed 135 names. The most recent directory, published in 2008-9, lists 426 names. Not only has our membership grown in size, it has also spread out geographically. In 1989, about 80 percent of those listed lived in or near Newark. Now the percentage of those who live nearby has been reduced to around 60 percent to 65 percent, depending on how far one is willing to drive to attend a lunch or meeting.
The shift in the size and location of our retiree population emphasizes the importance of the Newsletter as the means to hold UDARF together. Fortunately, the Newsletter has grown with the expanding membership. In the organization’s early years, the Newsletter consisted of two pages, mimeographed and stapled together on inexpensive yellow paper. In 2001, it underwent a big improvement to better quality paper and occasional photographs.
Elbert Chance took on the task of editing the Newsletter from Ed Rosenberry in 1997. For the next decade he did a superb job of eliciting information from retirees and publishing their contributions as well as news of the organization. In 2007, when Elbert resigned, UDARF president Bob Stark did yeoman service in convincing the University’s Office of Communications & Marketing to assume responsibility for the Newsletter. John Brennan and Kathy Wheatley, in that office, deserve high marks for the result.
Our Newsletter is produced to a professional standard. It is less like the small-town newspaper of its earlier iteration and more an institutional publication. A reporter and photographer attend each UDARF lunch and provide excellent summaries of the speakers’ remarks. This service is especially useful to those members who live far from campus and cannot attend. There is now a president’s column to keep members informed about UDARF activities, and members are still welcome to send in notices for publication. In addition to its Newsletter, UDARF has established a Web site to provide information about the organization and a means of communication between the organization and its members.
There was a short-lived effort to raise money from members whereby UDARF could make awards to students. That experiment succeeded in raising enough money to provide modest awards to the presentations judged best at the Arts, Humanities and Social Science in View program in the summer of 2008. The winners were invited to present summaries of their research at lunch meetings in 2008-09. UDARF members enjoyed meeting the students but voted to discontinue the fund-raising effort mainly because they prefer to give their money to the University individually rather than collectively. In 2008, UDARF joined the Association of Retirement Organizations in Higher Education (AROHE). We have not as yet had the opportunity to explore the possibilities that this connection may bring. The future is filled with new challenges and perhaps we can learn valuable lessons from the experiences of other retired faculty organizations.
In the last decade, UDARF has undertaken a number of projects. There were special pre-opening tours of new University buildings, such as the Roselle Center and the Marriott Courtyard Hotel. President Bob Stark sought to “foster continuing academic, intellectual and collegial needs” for retired faculty. This initiative resulted in the establishment of a specially designated room in the Morris Library where retired faculty members have access to the machines necessary to work and write.