SUNY Retiree Service Corps - Connecting with our retirees through service.
Lee Ann Grace

Lee Ann Grace - Personal Retirement Story

Buffalo State retiree Lee Ann GracePart of my retirement plan was to teach a course each fall, which I continue to do. This allows me to spend January doing volunteer work    on the Mexico-Arizona border, something I had been able to manage only every other year for short periods in the summer (January is DEFINITELY better!). I then spend February and March with family in North Carolina. This much has indeed evolved as anticipated.

I am a dramatic soprano and, when I was working, I managed to perform in local opera productions from time to time. I also served on committees, boards, and guilds of opera companies in the area. So I saw retirement as an opportunity to follow my passion for opera, and little more than a month after my last day of work I started rehearsals for Gounod's "Faust" with Buffalo Opera Unlimited. A few months later, they asked me to join their board. After several more months, the board president resigned due to ill health, and I was invited to fill that role.

So chairing an opera company with no paid staff has become my new full-time (but unpaid) job. To this post I bring skills developed in more than 30 years in administrative roles in SUNY: strategic planning, grant writing, audience development, and marketing. Even my faculty skills are called into play in educational outreach activities.

It is sometimes hectic and frustrating, but seeing the eyes of children raptly engaged in their first opera makes every moment worth it, though I must confess that I would rather be singing. So my goal is to create an infrastructure for the company that demands less of my attention and indeed get back into the cast, though I made a non-singing appearance as the intrusive nun in the 2016 world premiere of the jazz opera “The Fall of Stag Lee” by native Buffalonian Darryl Glenn Nettles.

I do have other outlets for singing – church, concerts presented twice a year by a local opera foundation, and opera education. My current educational outreach includes costumed interpretation of the Countess Almaviva, a character in both "The Barber of Seville" and "The Marriage of Figaro," as well as Gretel from Engelbert Humperdinck’s* operatic interpretation of the beloved fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel.”                                                                                                                           

Advice to current SUNY employees who are planning to retire:

Lee Ann Grace as The Intrusive NunTake your time to decide what you want to do in retirement. What are your passions? What things couldn't you do (or do enough of) while working? 

Work with a good financial adviser so that you feel financially secure. 

If you loved teaching, teach part-time. If you loved working with students (not teaching), volunteer on campus or in local schools.  

Know when to say "no"! 

*Engelbert Humperdinck, the 19th-century German composer, not the 20th-century pop singer.                           



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