Time to Retire the Rocking Chair?

Editor's note: Dr. Joseph Hallman, professor emeritus of theology, submitted a guest column to The Scroll.

"What are you doing here?"
"Why can't we get rid of you?"

These two questions recently addressed to me by former colleagues indicate what I think of as the “retiree rocking-chair” attitude so typical of the 20th century idea of work and retirement.

By the time your working years are over, around age 65 or so, you “deserve” to sit in your rocking chair and rest until you pass on. In spite of their insistence that they are always on the cusp of new ways of thinking, many academics remain stuck in the past. Certainly, good knowledge about maintaining health, aging well and avoiding illness, isolation and depression has been around for several decades.

Since I officially retired in May 2005, I have taught on campus as an adjunct professor three times and twice abroad during January in Greece, Turkey and France. The university – specifically, the President’s Office – has graciously invited me to several events on campus over the past three years, and I attended some of them. Since retirement, I also have pursued interests I developed during my life for which I simply had no time previously. I finished a book and published it, began playing bluegrass music, read vastly and at will outside of my field of theology, and recently began biking. Yes, and I do spend some time in the rocking chair as well!

One of my dreams as a professor emeritus is that all St. Thomas emeriti and emeritae who are interested will someday meet together to explore ways that we might contribute to the ongoing life of the university. There is a wealth of accumulated experience and wisdom to draw upon and without financial obligation on the part of St. Thomas.

Perhaps it is time to retire the rocking chair at least for awhile.