From the Past: The Beginning of WSURA by Gary Barlow

In the spring of 1993, a few soon-to-be retirees were having lunch, mentioning how we needed to have a venue where recent retirees could meet. It would be a place to meet, to continue our Gary Barlow.jpgcontact with the University, and a place to continue conversation and discussions with long-time university friends. Over many weeks, we discussed this idea with other faculty and staff, and also with Rich Johnson, Manager of Employee Benefits. The possibilities were interesting and exciting, and the planning continued.

       Rich Johnson, in a letter dated September 24, 1993, stated: “During the past 20 months 131 faculty and staff have retired from their full-time positions with the University. This has brought our total retiree population to over 400.”

       It seemed the right time to move forward with our discussions. Rich proposed that we have a meeting on October 3, in the University Center, to discuss the possibility of starting an organization to be called the “Retiree Club.” More people attended the meetings and enthusiastically supported this venture.

       In our subsequent meetings, we decided to obtain and study copies of bylaws from other university retiree associations. We studied the bylaws of The Ohio State University Retirees Association (OSURA) and had communication with Miami University, our other “parent” institution. After study and discussion, and multiple drafts, we enacted our own bylaws. On January 20, 1994, Rich sent a draft charter of our bylaws to a small group of faculty and staff for their initial review, requesting suggestions and comments, leading to final approval.

       Looking through the WSU Archives, fifteen retirees and Rich Johnson were on our original steering committee, including Nick Davis, Elizabeth Harden, Pat Jessee, Leone Low, Dave Sachs, Al Smith, Millie Waddell, Len Cargan, Ken Knight, Lois Wamsley, Susan Williams, Gary Barlow, Shirley Monnin, Mary Rutkowski, Lew Shupe and Rich Johnson.

       Our charter/by-laws were approved on February 22, 1994 with the official name as “The Wright State University Retirees Association (WSURA).”

       On February 7, 1994, a nominating committee was formed, with Leone Lowe as chairperson. Over the next three months, a slate was proposed, and in June 1994, the membership voted. The first officers of our new retirees’ association were:

            Gary Barlow, President

            Elizabeth Harden Vice President

            Mary Rutkowski, Secretary

            Tom Keller, Treasurer

            Len Cargan, Communications Coordinator/Newsletter Editor.

       In addition to the officers, our first elected board members were: Al Smith, Ron Oldiges, Lew Shupe, Lois Cook, Millie Waddell and Alyce Jenkins

       Many WSURA members were involved with the October 7, 1994 inauguration of our new President, Harley Flack.  Representing WSURA at the inauguration ceremonies were Elizabeth Harden, Lew Shupe, Shirley Monnin and Gary Barlow.

       In 1994, President Flack appointed our first administrative liaison, Dr. Jack Fistler, Vice President for University Advancement.  The President also named

Rich Johnson as our staff liaison.

       Our first WSURA events in 1994 were:

       April 2:    “Springfest” meeting in the upper hearth lounge.

       May 3-9:  WSURA was involved with a weeklong Elderhostel program at the Bergamo Center in Dayton.

       May 6:     The WSURA Board members attended a meeting with the OCHER Board at The Ohio State University.

       May 15:   WSURA volunteers worked at a 5K Run/Walk for the Special Olympics.

       June 17:  WSURA sponsored the first faculty/staff picnic at the WSU Garden of the Senses.

       After holding our various meetings in borrowed conference rooms, classrooms and lounges, we finally obtained our first office space:  151 Allyn Hall (formerly occupied by the Wright-Patterson Credit Union). Our newsletter stated:  “It is being renovated to provide a small lounge, with a telephone, an answering machine, and a computer system. The Administration, recognizing the importance of our association, continued to let us use a conference room in the Administrative Wing for our meetings. They gave us “start up” money ($800) and some operating funds to be provided in the University’s budget.

       Of course, our office furniture—the sofa, two lamps, desk and other necessities—came from the ESPM (Excess Surplus Property Management) storage rooms in he basement of Allyn Hall, run very efficiently by Rick Gatton. We managed very well, even with a small hole in the sofa, a cracked base in one of the lamps, a pretty good desk with few dents, and a squeaky desk chair.          

I cherish those formative days. It was exciting for all of us to “be in on the ground floor” developing a University sanctioned organization. In our planning period, we had many ideas—some good, some questionable—but we moved forward—learning as we went. For a few of us, it was reminiscent of our experiences in the l960’s, learning how to build a university. 

       All in all, things have turned our very well. We are now in our comfortable, new facilities in the Foundations Building on South Campus. President Hopkins and the administration have always been supportive of the retirees’ association, of our visible presence on campus, and of our projections for the future. 

       Our members have so many years of wonderful memories, and WSURA gives us a way to keep involved.  We are hopeful—and positive—that this association will always be a credit to Wright State University.

       Thank you for supporting us for the past twenty-three years.