Anne Donnelly - Personal Retirement Story
I retired in Sept. 2005 after 32 years of teaching, 28 of them at SUNY Cobleskill. My years at SUNY were very fulfilling. I loved and lived my subject matter (biology). I was involved and a contributor at the campus, state and national level. As a pioneer in Computer Managed Learning, I have presented in three countries and have been recognized with many awards, including the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching.
The decision to retire took a year, and there were a myriad of contributing factors, but also a reluctance to give up a profession I enjoyed immensely. However, once the thought infiltrated my neurons, the prospect became ever more titillating. I began taking heed of the wealth of opportunities that abound in our area; things I never had time for with our 2 careers, a family and a farm. Now the kids were gone, we no longer actively farmed and the world beckoned. My husband Pat retired (for the third time) in March 2005 and then it seemed to all fall together.
As my treat to myself, I indulged in a January eco-tour for "botanical adventure thrill seekers" through the back-country, mountains, rainforests, deserts and windy coastal areas of Oaxaca, Mexico. My fellow participants were a varied lot in their interests, personalities and backgrounds, but all had an interest in plants, although some rather narrow. Group dynamics can be quite entertaining!
Despite my vow to not join anything or go to a meeting of any kind for a year, within months we both had become Lions, joining several friends who had been urging us for years. And a few months later Pat had become King Lion (President) and I became secretary. The Lions Club is such a worthy cause serving the issues of sight and hearing plus supporting many community causes. Throughout my career I have been active in consecutive public service organizations serving 11 years in Head Start and 10 years in Cooperative Extension.
As a naturalist at heart, I have long an admirer of the Landis Arboretum. I was recruited to become a member of that Board of Trustees; then chair of the Education Committee, then Chair of the Publications Committee too! And now I'm President! There are so many worth-while and interesting causes need volunteers!
I have a large and far-flung family; I'm the eldest of seven and the only one to remain in the east (We grew up in Dannemora, NY). My sibs are living in Alaska (as are our 2 sons), in McCall, Idaho, in Manitou Springs, CO, Prescott, AZ, the Oregon coast, and Whidbey Island, WA. All superb destinations; and we all enjoy each others company and love doing things together like kayaking, bird-watching, hiking and taking trips to many off-the beaten path places, such as camping on the shore of Scammon's Lagoon on the Baja and watching the gray whales on the calving grounds. In 2007 we joined my brother in their cabin just a mile from the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone Park in Silver Gate, MT. It was off-season in Sept. and snowed every day. That geyser country is like nothing we had ever seen before! We saw all the wildlife we sought, even wolves, we hiked, we partied, we enjoyed it all, including the task of bear-proofing the cabin before we left. The summer of 2008 we went white-water rafting on the Salmon River in Idaho. What a memorable experience that was; the excitement of fast water, languid sections of river with gorgeous scenery, canyons, wildlife, fabulous food and fantastic companionship.
I thought that I was beyond the days when I'd camp on the ground, but have a chance to go rafting through seldom seen niches of the Grand Canyon this April with an expedition conducting ongoing survey of two endangered species - the Humpback Chub (fish) and the Kanab Amber Snail. Eight days- of course I'm going! Oh, and then we are delivering an Airstream Trailer to Anchorage, Alaska.
There are so many places to go and things to do. The not-for-profit sector is suffering grievously. They can really use our skills, our generosity and TIME! It's true, retirees are the only natural resource that is increasing. The thrust of the SUNY Task Force to connect retirees with places that need our skills is certainly a win/win. My "pet" project is, as I've mentioned, the Landis Arboretum (I'm now president). We also belong to (and are active in) Lions, Cobleskill Historical Society, and Pat participates in the Honor Flights that take WWII vets to see their monument in Washington, DC. Another fun project: I was trained and caught dragonflies and damselflies for the official New York State Natural Heritage Project, and have offered classes and workshops on several topics at the arboretum.
We rejoice in our good health and family and friends that enrich our lives!
LIFE IS A FIELD TRIP!