Retirees Association

WSURA celebrates 25th anniversary at 5th Annual Retirees Luncheon

Paul Newman receiving award
Rudy Fichtenbaum receiving award
MAry Rutkowski and GAry Barlow at the Retirees Luncheon
The Pacernicks

Excerpt from The Extension, Spring 2019

By Mary Kenton

On April 25 about 70 retirees and their spouses gathered in the Berry Room for the fifth annual WSURA Luncheon. They were ushered — perhaps even lured — into the room with dulcet tones from the beautiful, golden harp of Leslie Stratton, a faculty associate at both Wright State and UD and a member of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Thanks to the hard work of the luncheon planning chair, Gail Whitaker and her team, the room was lovely. Each table had a floral centerpiece and 25th anniversary touches. President Joyce Howes convened the group and recognized three long-term members who decided to retire from the Board this year: Marlene Bireley, Abe Bassett, and Carol Stevenson (see: The Extension (PDF), page 7). Two of the founding members of WSURA were present: Mary Rutkowski and Gary Barlow.

Mary Kenton announced the winner of the Richard A. Johnson Staff Service Award, Paul Newman, who served for many years as Senior Associate Director of Athletics before he retired in 2006. Paul was inducted into the Wright State University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009, an honor also awarded him at his alma mater, Edinboro State. Paul’s second career in public service began long before he retired. But since, he has compiled an incredible record. He served as Executive Director of the Fairborn Chamber of Commerce from 2009 until 2016. He is on the Steering Committee for Wright State’s Campus Ministry. He volunteers for the American Red Cross. He was Fairborn Citizen of the Week in March 2019. In written remarks, Paul recalled that “Rich was a great friend and personal advisor for me. I relished the times we met after our retirements, especially when he had his granddaughter in tow. I am truly honored and deeply touched by this award.” Paul came by early to pick up his plaque. He was serving as MC of the Greene Giving Foundation luncheon across the street at the Holiday Inn and had to be there before noon. Before his departure he was careful to note: “This philanthropic foundation gives thousands of dollars to worthy individuals in Greene County every year.” WSURA could have found no one more worthy of an award given in Rich Johnson’s memory than Paul Newman.

Next, Larry Prochaska introduced the Lewis K. Shupe Faculty Service Award recipient, Rudy Fichtenbaum, who retired from the Economics Department in 2015 as Professor Emeritus. Rudy was a successful teacher and researcher. He published widely, often on such topics as race and sex discrimination and the impact of unions on wages and benefits. He was elected twice, 1990-91 and 1996-97, to serve as WSU Faculty President. A major force in organizing an AAUP chapter, he was instrumental in establishing collective bargaining at Wright State. He served as Chief Union Negotiator from 1998 until 2015, and again in the most recent negotiation which culminated with the current five-year contract. Rudy has served as president of the national AAUP longer than anyone else in the history of the organization. After accepting the award, he spoke of his view of what Wright State needs to do to restore the confidence of faculty and staff and to attract and properly serve students. He has a passionate commitment to the centrality of the professor/student dynamic in higher education. He has been a strong defender of faculty rights over his long career. In concluding his letter of nomination, Larry writes that Rudy “is one of the deepest thinking and most caring people I have known.”

Following lunch, President Howes introduced our speaker, Katrina Merriweather, Head Women’s Basketball Coach at Wright State, whose team won the Horizon League Tournament and thus received a bid to the premier event in college basketball, the NCAA Tournament. Some of you may remember that WSURA had announced Men’s Coach Scott Nagy as the speaker for the event. As it turned out, he had some unexpected departures from the team and had to embark on an emergency recruiting trip two days before the luncheon. With a gracious assist from Athletics Director Bob Grant, we were thrilled to be able to schedule Coach Merriweather on such short notice. She was dynamite — inspirational, reflective, philosophical, and flat out funny. It’s clear she sees herself as an educator, first and foremost. In response to a question, she spoke eloquently about her all-female staff and explained how rare that is in women’s basketball. Two of those female staff members sat in the back and beamed as their hero won over every person in the room. Abe Bassett was later heard to say he fell in love that day!

Photos from the 5th Annual Retirees Luncheon