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Sit back, relax, and read about some of this year's University of Iowa retirees

Some 172 UI employees entered the next stage of their lives during the 2008–09 academic year, which is to say they retired from the University. Some will stay busy enjoying good books, others will find plenty to do around the house, and still others will enjoy the summer waters on a boat. Four retirees recently told fyi about their plans.

Myron Welch, School of Music

  Myron Welch
Myron Welch sails to the North Channel in the Canadian waters of northern Lake Huron. Photo provided by Myron Welch.

Myron Welch kept things shipshape in University Bands for 28 years. Now that the School of Music’s director of bands has retired, he’s keeping his own ship in shape: In June, he and his wife, Marcia, were sailing the waters of Lake Michigan in their thirty-two-foot sailboat. He answered our questions from the marina in Charlevoix, Mich., where he was able to grab a wireless Internet connection.

“I really like the retired life and find it very relaxing,” he wrote. “Right now I am doing what I planned to do last summer—take a three-month sail on the northern waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron with my wife.”

That was the plan for last summer, but the flood changed the Welches’ plans. “The day before we were to launch the boat the floods devastated Iowa City and the University, and our house was flooded. We rushed home and started rebuilding.

“Fortunately, I have quite advanced carpentry skills and was able to do most of the work myself. Marcia and I have been working seven days a week on the project. Obviously, I would not be able to do that if I had to teach.”

With the house rebuilt, Welch said he would go back to his original plan for retirement, which combines sailing and relaxing with continuing professional activities—but with the freedom to do just as much of the latter as he wants.

“I’ve continued some of what I was doing before retirement: attending professional conferences, offering classes for the Center for Credit Programs at the Iowa conferences, guest conducting, adjudication and consulting. I can enjoy all of these activities, with the added bonus that I can work the weekend schedule and not have to hurry home and teach the next Monday!

“I look forward to conducting the staff band and faculty orchestra at Blue Lake Music Camp in Twin Lake, Mich., in July. Next fall I will be a visiting professor at the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wis., where I will conducting bands as a sabbatical replacement for one of my former students.”

Welch said the highlight of his years at Iowa came in 2008, shortly before his retirement, when he conducted the UI Symphony Band in the country’s most revered concert hall. “Carnegie Hall is truly a magical place to play, and I don’t believe the students or I will ever forget the experience,” he wrote.

Although he enjoys the sailing, Welch admits that he misses rehearsing the Symphony Band that he led for so many years, and the interaction with faculty and students in the School of Music. “I worked very closely with my graduate conducting majors and graduate assistants and miss seeing them on a regular basis. But I don’t miss the constant reports to write and all of the time-consuming—but important!—faculty committees.”

At the end of his message from the marina, Welch added a few final thoughts: “I am very saddened by all the destruction and disruption to various programs on campus caused by the floods of 2008. I miss the Voxman Music Building and Hancher Auditorium. The close proximity of a wonderful performance facility was a real joy during my tenure. I’m sorry that everyone has to go through these difficult times and hope that everything is better in the end.”

Welch ended by recalling an earlier interview with fyi. “At the time, I believe I said something like ‘I am just going to sail off into the sunset.’”

And after a year’s postponement, that’s exactly what he’s doing.

by Peter Alexander


Betty Wood, Office of Admissions

  Betty Wood
Betty Wood looks forward to having more time to read on her sun porch. Photo by Tom Jorgensen.

Betty Wood is used to hearing surprise in people’s voices when she tells them she worked for The University of Iowa for 44 years.

“’They say, “Oh my gosh, you don’t look like you’re old enough to have worked anyplace that long!’” she says with a smile. “I tell them I was just a baby when I started.”

And, really, that’s not too much of an exaggeration. Wood took her first job at the University at the age of 18, shortly after graduating from Clear Creek High School. She worked in a clerical position in the Office of Admissions, helping students get admitted and registered back when the work was done manually with paper files and punched cards. Wood moved on to other jobs, mostly with the Office of Admissions, ultimately becoming the associate director of Graduate and Professional College Admissions. That role brought her in contact with students, faculty, and staff from more than 100 programs at the University.

“I got to meet so many people from all over campus,” she says. “I worked with a lot of wonderful, talented people. That was my favorite part of the job.”

As her career at the University progressed, so, too, did the tools of the trade.

“Technology is the biggest change over the years,” she says. “I don’t even know where to begin. We used carbon paper and typewriters when I started. Now we have personal computers with dual monitors. Much of our correspondence is done by e-mail and many of our electronic applications are automatically uploaded. Technology has made our jobs easier and has given us much greater access to data.”

Now Wood gets to say goodbye to the computer systems and tech changes. After three years working 60 percent time on phased retirement, she fully retired from the University on June 5.

She looks forward to having more time to read, cook, golf, and travel. But she will miss her colleagues and watching the cycle of the academic year from the heart of campus.

“One thing I really enjoyed about working in Calvin Hall was seeing the Pentacrest every day,” she says. “It’s such a beautiful area, with so much history, and so much energy, especially in the fall when the students return.”

And, though she’s retired, Wood still has strong ties to the University. Her husband, Kevin Wood, is a pediatric psychologist at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and their 21-year-old twin daughters are studying biology and nursing.

by Anne Kapler

Gary Alberhasky, Facilities Management

  Gary Alberhasky
Gary Alberhasky is installing a wood floor as part of a remodeling project in his home. Photo by Tom Jorgensen.

In 1973, Gary Alberhasky took a job with the vending service at The University of Iowa, which offered a wage nearly double what he was making at his previous job—a great incentive, to be sure.

After 35 years working for the University, primarily in the department now known as Facilities Management, Alberhasky found far greater reasons to come to work each day: his colleagues and the people who occupied the buildings he maintained.

“Over the course of 35 years, you make a lot of friends on the job,” Alberhasky says. “In retirement, it’s like I’m missing a part of my family.”

Alberhasky worked in vending for about six years, loading trucks and working various routes around campus, filling and maintaining machines. But his true calling was in maintenance, so he applied for a position in preventive maintenance at the physical plant.

His early days on that job involved making the rounds through buildings and mechanical rooms, making sure all systems were up and running, as well as performing the routine maintenance of changing filters and bolts and repairing light bulbs and faucets.

Computers eventually became a big part of Alberhasky’s maintenance work—something he embraced wholeheartedly. One of his favorite moments stems from the education he received on computerization.

“Without the knowledge of how to run the system, you’re pretty much stymied in maintenance,” Alberhasky says. “Now a typical day involves going into the shop, sitting down at the computer and gathering information about the buildings. You can tell if someone had a window open in a building because the air differential will show up on the computer.”

Alberhasky retired in October 2008; a shoulder injury factored into his decision to call it a day. The absence of everyday interactions with his coworkers has been the hardest part of retirement. “I had 35 enjoyable years—everyone has ups and downs, but on a whole, I really enjoyed the job,” he says. “In our department, we followed the lives of our coworkers and their families, and often the guys would hunt or fish together.”

But retirement has allowed Alberhasky the opportunity to spend more time with his family. He and his wife have two sons and two daughters and several grandchildren, and Alberhasky is staying busy with the grandkids’ sporting events and activities. “I always thought being a dad was terrific, but it doesn’t hold a candle to being a grandpa,” he says.

He’s also learning more about woodworking, and is in the process of remodeling his house. “I’m like the auto mechanic who has the busted-down car because he never has time to fix his own stuff,” Alberhasky says with a laugh. “I’m playing catch-up around the house now.”

by Christopher Clair


Karen Hoffman, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

  Karen Hoffman
Karen Hoffman entertains her grandsons, Carter and Mason, visiting from Indiana. Photo by Tom Jorgensen.

For recent retiree and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics staff nurse Karen Hoffman, it’s the connections with patients she will miss the most. Hoffman, who worked in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences for the past 28 years, checked patients’ vision, dilated eyes, and got patients physically ready for the physicians each day.

“I will miss the patients. You get to know everyone personally and they get to be like old friends that continue returning over the years.”

She said she won’t miss the monotony of day-to-day business, but thoroughly enjoyed working with the other faculty and staff that she said were almost like a family.

For the first 18 years in the department she worked solely for the vascular department, but most recently devoted her time equally between the vascular, comprehensive, and uveitis specialties. Since 1972 she has been in inpatient care, taking intermittent time off along the way to have her three children.

And the job sure changed in 28 years. The department moved from the UI General Hospital in 1996 to its current location in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Pomerantz Family Pavilion. She said with the move, facilities improved and expanded greatly and there was an increase in modernized technology. Over the nearly 30 years she was there she noted especially the advances in photography to entirely digital capabilities.

Hoffman grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, and graduated from the Mercy School of Nursing in Dubuque. She quickly landed her first job after college at Mercy Hospital in Dubuque.

In retirement, Hoffman said she is simply enjoying having a lot more free time on her hands. She and her husband recently returned from a two-week cruise on the Mediterranean they took with friends. Her husband is also retired.

Hoffman said she has always been an avid reader, but said her reading has already increased with her newfound time. She said she also plans to spend time playing golf, exercising, and spending more time with her husband, three children, and four grandchildren. She also continues to volunteer at the Iowa City Hospice once a week.

by Tessa McLean


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