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Life After Academia? Five Emeritus Faculty Redefine Retirement

Fred C. Munson
University of Michigan School of Public Health

Ruth Simmons almost sounds out of breath on paper. ”I am leaving for India tomorrow” she says, but then manages to spend another few minutes talking about her latest project, ExpandNet.net. With colleagues from around the world, this professor emerita of health behavior and health education wants to ensure that health innovations with good results as pilot projects have the opportunity to have greater impact. Speaking about her current professional collaborations, she rattles off an impressive list of projects — new book publication, working in Africa, Asia, and Latin America on project scaling–up strategies, and ways to improve reproductive health among the urban poor in India with the Gates Foundation — whew.

Professor Emeritus of Industrial Hygiene, Steven Levine, has taken a personal tragedy and turned it into another way to speak about occupational hygiene and safety after spending time recovering from a motorcycle accident. Facing months of recovery Levine spent considerable time thinking about the cost of health care for the severely injured and speaks out now about “[the] moral imperative, as well as good business, to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.” For a full account of Professor Levine’s remarkable story, refer to Findings on the SPH website, Spring 2008 “A Patient’s Story of Pain.”

“I’m not improving in golf,” notes James Martin in a recent e-mail with his usual dry wit, but then goes on to mention, a second edition of his book Physics for Radiation Protection and consulting on how to control environmental emissions of the mercury used in the process of making chlorine. Then there is the memoir idea….no wonder the golf game is lagging behind. A more complete accounting of Professor Emeritus Martin’s career can be found in the Spring 2009 issue of Net:Works online under the title “The Path Taken.”

Professor Emeritus of Health Management and Policy Fred Munson insists that “[it] is volunteer work, nothing impressive,” and then tells the story of going to India for a month each summer with his spouse, Mary, for the last 30 years to help the founder of the Aravind Eye Clinic develop the clinic’s hospital administration. In his modest way Muson says that Aravind has built itself, but notes that he has participated in its success through teaching, facilitating retreats, and helping with leadership transitions. Apparently his efforts were well worth it. Aravind is now the largest eye care system in the world — well done, professor.

With two recently published articles on the hetorotrophic plate count in water and waste water, Rolf Deininger does not sound as if he remembers what retirement means. Collaborating with a colleague at Ohio State, Professor Emeritus Deininger continues to work on innovative and improved ways to determine microbial contamination. We are all the safer for his enthusiasm for clean water — thanks!