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Faculty ponder life after classroom

Feb 12 • News, Top Stories • 348

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According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, nine in 10 faculty say their biggest reason for not retiring is enjoyment of their work. Gannon University professors feel the same way.

David Kozak, Ph.D., professor in the political science department, has been associated with Gannon for 51 years as an alumni as well as a professor for 26 years.

“I got into teaching so I could paint a canvas – the students being the canvas,” Kozak said. “I enjoy my job and working with the students is rewarding.

“There’s an intellectual excitement in my job here at Gannon.”

John Hellgren Jr., a senior financial advisor at VALIC, said he has been seeing more faculty contemplating retirement.

“If a person has been diligent with their retirement investments they should be properly positioned so that market conditions should not affect their retirement plans,” Hellgren said.

Kozak says he has no reason nor desire to retire yet, but his wife has been pressuring him to retire.

“I come out of class every day thinking of the new adventure I just encountered,” Kozak said. “My students keep me updated on what’s hip and new going on.”

Nathaniel Ropski, a junior history and political science double major, said Kozak has the kind of experience you can only get through deep, academic thought and study.

The difference between a younger and older professor, at least in the realm of political science, is that Kozak has a lot of connections that he has garnered over the years, Ropski said.

“He’s definitely a very knowledgeable and well-connected man – which goes a long way in the scholastic world,” Ropski said. “Gannon would be losing a social science patriarch, for better and worse.”

People should start becoming more conservative about five years before retirement, Hellgren said.

“Right now the average retirement age is 65, primarily because the individual wants to make sure that they have adequate healthcare coverage,” Hellgren said. “This is a huge component of their retirement planning.”

Ropski said that Kozak is “the face” of political science in the Erie community and tri-state area.

“I can’t even count how many times I’ve told random strangers that I’m a political science major at Gannon and they bring up Dr. Kozak – it’s a testament to the impact he has had here,” Ropski said.

Dr. Philip Kelly, a professor in the English department, has been at Gannon since 1968 – 45 years.

Kelly said the easy answer as to why he hasn’t retired at an early age is because he loves what he is doing – and there’s no heavy lifting.

“It is primarily intellectual work rather than physical,” Kelly said. “Who wouldn’t want to spend their professional life with the smart young people who are going to be leaders of the next generation?

“That’s what keeps me looking forward to each Monday – and every other day.”

A more complex answer to the delay of retirement is probably a mix of other factors – economic, demographic, psychological, pragmatic and idealistic – Kelly said.

“I grew up with the notion of retirement is something that one does at 65,” Kelly said.

“In our culture, employment helps provide a purpose, dignity and focus for one’s activities. What does one do with their day when they are retired?”

Being employed gives a person something to do during the day, Kelly said.

“For most people, occupying your day isn’t enough,” Kelly said. “They want to be occupying their day with something purposeful – which isn’t guaranteed after retirement.”

Kozak said that if you are not “talking the language of the generation” and keeping up with changes, you should probably retire.

“A friend of mine once told me, ‘Don’t be like the old actor that is over-staying their career,’” Kozak said.

COLLEEN LANGHAM

langham001@knights.gannon.edu

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