Edward Alfonsin - Personal Retirement Story
Editor’s Note: Ed Alfonsin, Professor Emeritus of English at SUNY Potsdam, passed away in 2012 after a long illness. Never allowing his sickness to stand in his way, he continued to serve and contribute to many causes until the very end. He was on the RSC Advisory Council representing the North Country Region. We benefitted greatly from his insights and rich experience.I remained in touch with him and he would respond to my queries in a very thoughtful way.
Ed was an institution unto himself. Through his long and dedicated service, he greatly enriched the lives of SUNY Potsdam and other campus communities, UUP, University Faculty Senate, and the people he knew and worked with. Edleaves a rich legacy behind – a source of inspiration for all of us. He will be greatly missed.
Below are excerpts from Ed's original retirement experience piece. We wanted to continue to share Ed's story in his own words as a tribute to his memory.
I came to Potsdam back in 1965, thinking I’d be here for two or three years and then move on. Little did I imagine how “Would you be willing to serve for just one year as elected faculty secretary?” would launch a professional life; teaching close to sixty different courses along with parallel governance and union life.
When people ask what I like about retirement, the response is that I enjoy having the opportunity to say “no” and to have a lot more time to think about what I really want to do when I grow up. In recent years, with some cancers and bypasses and other medical issues, I’ve added a third—not to let any of this medical stuff interfere with my life. My primary care physician here tells me that makes me a good patient.
After officially retiring in 1996, I was asked to stay on as department chair for English and Communication for the spring 1997 semester during a search for an outside chair. At the same time, our campus employment relations program had a member leave on short notice and I was asked to teach a course in collective bargaining.
I finished out the full academic year serving as vice chair of our Senate, as well. I continued as chapter president of UUP, delegate, and grievance chair.
I’ve taken teaching assignments as emergencies arose in my department, which in retrospect were probably more taxing and demanding than my career teaching.
I was requested to act as parliamentarian for my friend and colleague, Joe Hildreth when he became President of the University Faculty Senate in 2001. I was suddenly in the middle of University-wide activity which turned out to be complementary to my 22 years on the UUP Executive Board as officer and member. It was a good fit, and Carl Wiezalis and Ken O’Brien continued to have me serve—a deep honor. But my greatest pride was at the 2009 Spring Plenary when the Senate Executive Committee voted to award me a “Senator Emeritus” award although I had never been a Senator!
Aside from all my campus, union, and governance activities, I have lots of other community and vocational interests: I’ve been operating streetcars at the Halton County Radial Railway; I’m secretary of our local model railroad club; I serve as a delegate to our local Labor Council; I became elected treasurer of the Franklin-St. Lawrence Educators’ Council; and am a long-term member of the Lisbon, NY Depot Museum committee. Plus I’ve been an officer of the Seaway Valley Prevention Council, an agency working mostly in local schools on alcohol and substance abuse education.
In pre-politically incorrect language days, I used to say I was married to the University but the Union was my mistress; I haven’t figured out how to update that. But we are blessed in having been in occupations which confer on us a lifelong affiliation—university people are always emerita/emeritus—something not true of other occupations.