(Without Individual Campus Reports)











The Council of UC Emeriti Associations




Charles Berst





UC Emeriti Redefine Retirement



            An unusual and revealing view of UC faculty has just been achieved by a survey of their continuing work in retirement during two school years from July 2007 through June 2009. 


            Emerging as a glow through the gloom of UC’s current budget woes, the survey’s results relate wryly to the funereal fun of two classic cartoons: The New Yorker pictures two elderly businessmen looking into the street from a large window of their opulent club.  A hearse is passing by, followed by an armored truck.  One comments casually, “George always swore he’d take it with him.”


By coincidence The Chronicle of Higher Education offered an academic counterpart:  In a campus hallway two old professors stare in dismay at a notice tacked tackily on a bulletin board.  One laments, “Too bad about old Ainsworth.  Published and published, but perished all the same.”


The fun about obsessiveness in both cartoons is doubled by the way George is successful and Ainsworth is thwarted.  Yet what’s success?  For George it’s ultimately and literally a dead end.  But old Ainsworth is survived by what made him distinctively valuable.  So a parabolic twist turns success topsy-turvy:  the businessman’s wealth, his ultimate identifier, will be buried with him, whereas the professor’s works, his ultimate identifier, will have a life beyond his.


Such edgy wealth-and-works humor suits the rough seas UC finds itself in these days, where ultimately the state needs the University’s work even more than the University needs state funding.  But when one’s a Titanic and the other’s an iceberg, laughter lasts longest in lifeboats, and the survey floats a few.


Often overlooked in the multiplicity of UC’s vital culture is the work of hundreds of productive emeriti, an immense assortment of leaders in their fields who instinctively redefine “retirement.”  As these persist in their research, teaching, advising, and professional services, they amount to a large, experienced, and prestigious workforce represented, incidentally, by a Council of UC Emeriti Associations (CUCEA), an organization whose mission, size, and membership are unequalled at any other research university in the country.


Still, higher education usually attends more to the cost of emeriti benefits than to what emeriti do.  And since most schools have many ponds of other fish to fry, why should they mix their missions (or metaphors) to meddle or muddle with odd old ducks?


The survey illustrates why:


(1)  Because in an inspiring contrast to common assumptions about retirement, its 1,200+ academically active respondents forcefully reveal what a lively resource emeriti can be.


(2)  As the reputation of major universities primarily relates to the quality of their faculty, survey data illustrate emeriti as veterans in mixing UC’s educational values with their prestige.


(3)  Especially heartening in these dire budgetary days, most emeriti research, teaching, and service cited in the survey were (and are) pro bono, in effect a bonus and great bargain for the University.


(4)  The survey shows how durable this bonus and bargain can be.  As world-class scholars (hardly the sort to stop thinking and sharing when they turn 65), most UC emeriti, like old Ainsworth, are quintessentially obsessive, making them a remarkable investment:  a blue chip asset likely to pay generous dividends to students, UC, the state, and the country for many years.


(5)  Moreover, the number of those years, with all their productivity, is increasing.  Beyond the 65-year lifespan assumed by Social Security in 1935, modern healthcare has already given emeriti, on average, nearly 20 additional years to flourish—virtually half of an extra career. 


At UCLA this vitality and value emerged in sixteen emeriti vying for a 2008 Dickson Award honoring post-retirement scholarship, teaching, and service.  The bulk of their retirement dossiers bulged file folders beyond all modesty.  The least among them had published a distinguished book.  Daunted, and after agonizing over the superfluity of merit, judges finally split the award five ways.  Not represented: an anthropologist whose “best book” was published in his 92nd year.


Much of this continuing academic immersion was not anticipated by a Berkeley emeritus  who jotted, “At last I’m beginning to ‘get’ retirement”—i.e., to receive, to grasp, to understand it, all in one, which for most survey respondents meant being “just as busy” or “busier than before retirement.”  For them the future is now, and they’re a vigorous part of it in the following ways:


Out of 3,690 emeriti surveyed, 1,219, or 33%, with a median age of about 76, responded.  Of these, 351 contributed funds to the University via extramural grants which supported 1,372 staff, including 749 research assistants and 279 post-doctoral fellows, besides providing liberal sums for University overhead.  While many others funded research personally, examples of teaching and research funded by grants included a new $1 million chair in Environmental Chemistry assumed by a UC Davis emeritus, and a Berkeley emerita’s $2.3 million from the NIH.


Research and professional enterprises during the biennium were prolific.  As if they were  old Ainsworths aspiring to glorious tenure in some Great Beyond, emeriti published 446 books, 3,737 articles, 741 book chapters, 579 book reviews, delivered 3,340 professional lectures or papers, and reported 1,023 scholarly projects in progress—all when they were not distracted by work on 1,188 abstracts, 425 professional reports, 852 consulting reports, and 105 technological projects, or weren’t pursuing Aesthetics or Truth in producing 138 films or videos, 752 literary works, 4 music or theater works, 449 performances, or 413 art works for 83 exhibitions.


            Over half of the survey’s respondents taught, 484 on their home campus and 233 across town, the nation, or in countries around the world.  While they were perhaps most suited to graduate programs, their teaching and advising of 6,644 undergraduates as well as 7,091 graduate students reflected a strong undergraduate slant at Davis, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz, plus a special program of intensive undergraduate mentoring at San Diego.  Some respondents taught elsewhere because of campus budget limits, a fact suggesting that enhanced and thoughtfully applied emeriti recall provisions could make sound economic and educational sense.


Along with teaching, the survey shows an immense emeriti commitment to University citizenship.  All told, respondents served on 2,930 UC committees during the biennium.  Most important for the University’s renown and their disciplines was their service on 1,056 doctoral committees.  Most significant for the University’s budget crisis was the extraordinary number of 205 who served on fund-raising entities.  The support signaled by this last figure has also appeared in more than $200 million donated by former faculty over the years.


Given their experience and expertise, emeriti were quite naturally tapped for service on 183 advisory committees and 390 administration committees, as well as for special appointments or positions ranging from an Academic Senate Chair (Riverside), Senate committee chairs, department chairs, assistant and associate deans, deans, directors and vice chancellors, to important slots, however ethereal and transitory, at various altitudes in the UC President’s Office.


Then too, there is always a particular professional discipline clinging to every academic’s center of consciousness, a specialty and national or international reputation beyond UC that coheres one’s identity as a working expert, a distinctive presence, or even an Ainsworth on a bulletin board.  And in their professional worlds emeriti tend to shine as stars far longer than on a campus. Thus it’s not surprising for the biennium to find 711 on professional committees and 215 who held offices, as well as 559 with editorial appointments on important professional journals.  But loads of labor can be a price of one’s prestige, as most experienced in vetting 6,363 article submissions, 923 book manuscripts, and writing 6,974 recommendations.


Of course honors accumulate for such renown and diligence, like a Linus Pauling Medal and election to the National Academy of Sciences for emeriti at Santa Barbara; or a Pulitzer Prize for a UCLA emeritus; or a National Humanities Medal conferred at the White House, and the surrealism of being named an Officer of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth, when one lives in Riverside.  A Davis emeritus sighed over “a wall covered with honorary plaques, papers, and statuettes.”  It’s all in the game but a worthy one, as are Distinguished Teaching awards cited by respondents.  All told, within just these two years, 434 honors attested to this crowd’s distinction.


After such professional notoriety Community Service seems footnoteish but, even before UC’s currently critical political days, public relations deserved the attention emeriti gave them.  During the biennium these and other worthy causes prompted their service on committees of 544 local, 73 state, and 196 national organizations, while masochists held offices on 116, attention which no doubt contributed to the 74 honors they received in this arena.


In sum, how may one define the spirit that rises from this survey’s quite stunning or  numbing mass of data?  In composing a history of Western Civilization for Oxford University Press, a historian has recently been advised by editors to simplify some of his terms for a  student readership.  “Altruism” was one of them. 


Too civilized?  Extending beyond old Ainsworth, that quality seems to inform the efforts of many emeriti who, by adding an ultimate third to their long careers, are unobtrusively contributing so much to everyone and everything that UC serves and stands for.











Campus                      Emeriti Surveyed        # of Responses       % of Response



UC Berkeley                           968                              235                              24


UC Davis                                325                              186                              57


UC Irvine                                349                                82                              23



UC Los Angeles                      956                              322                              34


UC Riverside                            88                                41                              47


UC San Diego                         400                              122                              31



UC San Francisco                   129                               34                              26


UC Santa Barbara                   393                              152                              39


UC Santa Cruz                          82                                45                              55



Totals                                   3690                             1219                              33       



















Total Number Surveyed                                                                  3,690


Responses                                                                                          1,219          


Percent Responding                                                                              33%


Respondents’ Retirement Dates

            Before 1991                                                                               109

            1991-1995   (Early Retirement Programs)                                 398

            1996-2000                                                                                  106

            2001-2005                                                                                  225

            2005-2009                                                                                  249  


Have Campus Space                                                                            668

Extramural Grants                                                                              351


Staff Supported                                                                                1,372

            Research Assistants                                                                   749

            Post Docs                                                                                  279

            Secretarial                                                                                   104

            Other                                                                                          266


Help Needed

            Funding                                                                                      119

            Office Space                                                                                 39

            Laboratory Space                                                                         27

            Secretarial Work                                                                           52


Publications and Professional Works

            Books                                                                                         446  

            Articles                                                                                   3,737

            Book Chapters                                                                                       741

            Book Reviews                                                                            579


            Abstracts                                                                                1,188

            Professional Reports                                                                 425

            Consulting Reports                                                                    852

            Technological Projects                                                               105


            Professional Lectures/Papers                                                  3,340

            Scholarly Projects in Progress                                                1,023

            Films/Videos                                                                              138

            Literary Works                                                                          752

            Music/Theater Works                                                                    4

            Performances                                                                             449

            Art Works                                                                                  413

            Exhibitions                                                                                   83



            On campus                                                                                 428

            Elsewhere                                                                                   233

            Undergraduates mentored                                                       6,644

            Graduate students mentored                                                   7,091


University Service:  Committees/Groups

            Academic Senate                                                                        310

            Department                                                                                537

            Doctoral                                                                                  1,056

            Administration                                                                           390  


            Emeriti                                                                                                   158

            Fund Raising                                                                              205

            Advisory                                                                                    183

            Others                                                                                          91

Special Appointments/Positions                                            144


Professional Service

            Committees                                                                                711

            Offices Held                                                                               202

            Editorial Appointments                                                             559

            Articles Reviewed                                                                   6,363


            Book Mss. Reviewed                                                                923

            Written Recommendations                                                     6,974

            Other Service                                                                             286

            Professional Honors                                                                434


Community Service:  Committees/Boards

            Local                                                                                          544

            State                                                                                             73

            National                                                                                     196

            Offices Held                                                                               116

            Honors                                                                                                     74


Average Campus Visits per Week                                                         2.5


Less or More Busy than Before Retirement  (88% reporting)

More                                                                                                      129

Less                                                                                                        414

The Same as Before                                                                               528