SUNY Retiree Service Corps - Connecting with our retirees through service.
Murray H. Block

Dr. Murray H. Block - Personal Retirement Story

I "first" retired in May of 1983, at the age of 59. I had been Deputy to the Chancellor of the SUNY System first under Chancellor Ernest Boyer and then under Chancellor Clifton Wharton. Two days after my retirement, Chancellor Wharton called me to ask if I might fill in for four months for a SUNY Central staff person who was on assignment elsewhere. I agreed and took on the first of seventeen different temporary assignments over almost 33 years in a number of SUNY colleges and at Excelsior College, from which I finally "retired" on December 31, 2015, six weeks before my 92nd birthday. 
My late wife would introduce me as her "husband who can't hold a job." In my "retirement" years I served as Interim President of The College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Orange County Community College (twice, ten years apart), Broome Community College (and later returned as Interim Academic Vice President), Columbia-Greene Community College (and later returned four times as Interim Academic Dean). After a brief respite of two years, I was invited to join Excelsior College (formerly Regents College) as its Interim President. I was 82 at the time.

When the new President was appointed, he asked me to stay on as Interim Provost, and later Interim Chief of Staff, Interim Dean of the School of Business and Technology (twice, five years apart), and Executive Director of the Leadership Center. On my 90th birthday, the Leadership Center at Excelsior College was named in my honor, and I was made Dean Emeritus of Business and Technology.

During these "retirement years" I also found time to write many memoir stories about my family, my work, my extensive travels between these interim assignments, and people I have met over the years. For my 90th birthday, my son, Paul, surprised me by taking 90 of my stories and publishing them in my name. The book is called "The First Ninety – 90 Years-90 Stories."

Now that I have retired "again," I hope to find time to continue writing memoir stories. I finally decided that I needed to slow down at the end of 2015. Not only was I to turn 92 in six weeks, both my sons were retiring in 2016 and I could not let them beat me to the punch.
In all, it was a glorious "retirement" – working both in SUNY units and in Excelsior College. Although now finally "retired," I still do volunteer work at Excelsior which is, thankfully, very close to the senior residence where I now live. I am a mentor to a number of Excelsior colleagues, have chaired search committees, and attend important functions.      

I am often asked for my secret on how I stay active in my advanced years. There is no secret formula. I just kept doing it and it got easier year after year. I have enjoyed working with my colleagues – and I suppose they felt the same way about me. My reputation for doing a good job on these interim assignments led from one assignment to another. I never had to apply for one. I enjoyed the prospect of meeting and working with new people in new communities in my post-retirement second career. Living temporarily in new communities around New York State was most invigorating for both my wife and me.

As I aged, I was too busy to notice the aches that accompany old age. And earning the extra income was most beneficial in giving me the opportunity to feed my great passion for travel, especially to exotic and far-away places. Work and travel combined to put off feeling old. I guess that is my "secret": keep busy, keep involved with people, keep on the move as long as physically able to do so, and most of all – enjoy being with people.

Advice to current SUNY employees who are planning to retire:
I am probably the wrong one to give such advice. I had no idea what I would do when I decided to retire, but fortunately it all worked out wonderfully for me.

I did realize, however, that it would have been very difficult for me, if I did not have these unexpected opportunities. I loved my work as "SUNY's hired gun" (as one Community College notable referred to me). And I still love work and miss it, even at this advanced age.

So, I guess my advice would be to be sure you have an idea how you will be occupying yourself in the years ahead.

Retirees Service Corps