SUNY Retiree Service Corps - Connecting with our retirees through service.
P. Jay Fleisher

P. Jay Fleisher - Personal Retirement Story

Retirement from SUNY is a gift – no campus commitments or obligations, time to pursue special interests, and the unencumbered freedom to delegate time. Now that I am retired (since 2007), I understand the meaning of the phrase “can’t
imagine how I ever had time to work.”

I contend that our full-time jobs were organized around a
schedule that controlled every hour of every day. Add family obligations plus community involvement, and there is little time for anything else. So how did we do
it? What makes retirement so full that it would appear we don’t have enough
time for everything? Here’s how:

When we worked, all of the professional commitments leading to a sense of accomplishment had to be crammed into evenings, weekends, semester breaks, and even vacations. Once
retired, all of this expanded to occupy as much time as we are willing to give them. Add to this the activities we never had time for before, such as travel and community volunteer work, plus the pleasure associated with being an active grandparent.

I didn’t retire to get away from campus or my position as Professor of Geology. To the contrary, I liked my job and found teaching incredibly rewarding. Yet I decided to retire. Influential in my decision was a seminar I heard on National Public Radio dealing with late-life planning during which a group of CEOs were told, “you cannot advance beyond CEO, and you are probably financially secure. So if your health permits, and there is anything you ever wanted to do, what are you waiting for?”

Coincident with this, I had just lost two of my closest research associates to health issues. As a result, I decided if there was anything else I wanted to do, this was the time to do it. Like most of you, I now keep very busy. Doing what? Well, in my case, retirement morphed into a variety of new, exciting and challenging experiences that capitalized on my years of involvement as a glacial geologist.

Case in point was a call I received in 2009 from the Foundation for Glacial and Environmental Research (FGER). They wanted me to take controof the Juneau Icefield Research Program (JIRP), an eight-week summer program that operated from remote field camps situated across an Alaskan icefield that spans a mountain range covered by 2,000 feet of glacier ice. I was drafted to replace an 89 years old man who was losing his ability to effectively run the Program. Having been involved in JIRP on repeated occasions over the decades, and with a knowledge and understanding of what it takes to make the Program run, FGER asked me to take over until a fulltime replacement could be found. So, for the next two years I ran the Juneau Icefield Research Program, equivalent to being the President, Provost, Dean, and Director of Facilities all rolled into one. It turned out to be a fulltime job! Finally, in 2013 the search for my replacement was successful, and I thankfully got my retirement back.

Meanwhile, another ongoing project required my attention. It all started back to the early 1970s, when a colleague and I conducting a multi-week, summer fieldtrip course to the Colorado Rockies and Colorado Plateau. After nearly 20 years of running trips to many interesting places, an Oneonta community member asked why I didn’t run similar trips for community friends and neighbors – sort of like an “informed holiday.” So we started running two-week field excursions for about 20 folks during alternate summers as a community service in adult learning. There were many trips prior to retirement (Alaska, Mexico, Newfoundland, Pacific Northwest, etc.), and since retiring I’ve lead similar excursions to the Canadian Rockies, Death Valley, the Sierra Nevada, and most recently Iceland.

As fate would have it, this experience led to a more formal endeavor sponsored by the Geological Society of America, known as GeoVentures, in which geologists and “students of the Earth” gather in places of special interest to share mutual knowledge. Joined by two colleagues with whom I had worked in Iceland, I ran a GeoVenture to Iceland in July/August 2014. Preparation was stimulating and gratifying. Collaborating with others in this way emphasizes the importance of teamwork, such as I experienced when chairing the Earth Science Department at SUNY Oneonta for 16 years through the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Another activity that carried into retirement involves a local organization known as the Council for Community Adult Learning (CCAL). Membership includes about 230 mainly retired professionals from Oneonta and Cooperstown. My involvement with CCAL in recent years has been to offer three-lecture courses on topics such as “Intelligent Design vs. Science,” “Water as a Natural Resource,” “Mass Extinction,” “Iceland: Land of Fire & Ice,” and “Time: The Big Picture” – all of which are on the edge of my comfort zone. This has turned out to be a very stimulating and rewarding experience.

I should also mention that during retirement I continued to publish on my earlier research at Bering Glacier, Alaska. In addition, I continue to present at geologic conferences. Then there is travel for pleasure – trekking the southern approach to Everest in Nepal, Chile and Patagonia, Peru, and most recently Mexico.

So, you see – retirement isn’t a rocking chair on the porch, at least not for me. However, if that’s what “floats your boat,” have at it!

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