Mason Redefines Retirement

Posted: September 28, 2010 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: September 27, 2010 at 4:30 pm

By Aisha Jamil and Ethan Vaughan

Traditionally, the term “retirement” conjures up images of golf carts, fishing lines, sewing circles and bingo. However, Mason’s retirees are changing that perception.

Thanks to Retirement Connection, a program managed by Human Resources and Payroll (HR), former faculty and staff members are more integrated than ever before with the Mason community.

The Retirement Connection was created by Martha Reiner, who once coordinated the HR awards program and retired in 2005.

“Honoring retirees was something I always wanted to do,” explains Reiner. “It was to build a connection so retirees could keep track of what was going on in the university.”

“Retirement Connection was my baby,” says Reiner. “It was the last thing I did at Mason.”

“The goal is to create a retirement association,” says Janet Walker, work life and communications coordinator in HR.

She notes that Retirement Connection aims to provide a large number of benefits.

“We send retirees a package of information along with a complimentary annual parking pass, tickets to basketball games and events at the Center for the Arts, and other things,” says Walker. “It’s a bag of goodies that’s really a lovely way to say thanks to these individuals for their service to Mason.”

Cheryl Rivera, the reward and recognition coordinator in HR, works with Walker to jointly send out the Retirement Connection packages.

“Our main purpose in the community is to invite retirees to remain a part of Mason and have them stay active,” says Rivera. “It is so important that they don’t miss out on the experience and the valuable assets that Mason has to offer. This ensures a bridge that keeps the retirees connected to Mason.”

“What we want to emphasize is aging well,” says Walker, referencing the life planning seminars sponsored through a partnership between HR and the College of Health and Human Services.

“We encourage younger employees to think about these issues now, because decisions you make in your 20s and 30s affect you as you age in terms of health and finances. If you do well with these decisions while you’re young, it will help you as you age.”

“When people are preparing to retire, they need to consider the kind of retirement they envision,” Walker explains. “They need to think, ‘Do I want to go fishing every day or do I want to keep working in some capacity?’”

Many retirees do come back to the university, though they can only do so after the “bona fide break” required by Virginia law, which mandates that former staff members take a break from the university for 30 days and faculty members for a semester.

One of the faculty members to play a major part at Mason after retirement has been Esther Elstun, who served as a professor of German from 1968 to 2006. After retiring, Elstun saw no reason that she should stop working to improve the university to which she devoted nearly 40 years of her professional career.

“I’ve always enjoyed and supported the arts at Mason, and it has been a great pleasure to see the Center for the Arts achieve world-class quality,” says Elstun. “As in past years, I’m looking forward to my design-it-yourself series of events during the 2010-11 season.”

Elstun also takes pleasure in the social aspect of her activities at Mason.

“As one of the founders of the Faculty Senate and an elected member of it for 25 years, I still have many faculty friends and enjoy various senate-related events and activities,” she says.

“At the invitation of its Nominating Committee, I recently served on the Library Expansion Steering Committee, and since last year, at President Merten’s invitation, on the NCAA Steering Committee’s Sub-Committee on Academic Integrity, in preparation for NCAA re-certification of Mason’s athletic teams.”

Elstun’s vigorous and fast-paced retirement is the kind of vibrant one that Retirement Connection holds up as an example to others.

And Reiner, who retired after 17 years of service at Mason and is enjoying her retirement with her spouse, still misses working at Mason. Although she is currently living in Tucson, Ariz., she makes it back to Mason each year when the Martha J. Reiner Quality Customer Service Award is presented to employees who have enhanced customer service at Mason.

“My proudest accomplishment is having the Quality Customer Service Award named after me and coming to Mason to see it presented each year by President Merten at the awards ceremony,” says Reiner.

This year, the university awards ceremony, which includes the Martha J. Reiner Quality Customer Service Award, will be held on Friday, Oct. 22, at 9 a.m. in the Johnson Center Dewberry Hall.

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