From the President

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2014-09 From the President: Six Years later--Toward Synergy

Six Years later—Toward Synergy

 Six years ago in September 2008, I wrote my fist column for this newsletter. I had just become UMRA president, and I reviewed the accomplishments of the previous year. The contributions of the three presidents who served before me (Gayle Graham Yates, Frank Miller, and John Howe) had been substantial, even intimidating to a new president. Those contributions were intended to bring the University and its retirees closer together.

  The Professional Development Grants Program was launched that year with a $10,000 donation from UMRA’s small treasury. John Howe, working with several other UMRA members, made the rounds to the University president and vice presidents to demonstrate that retirees still had much to contribute toward University research efforts. Convinced, the central officers donated $40,000 to the program that year.

  As the program matured, the Vice President for Research, the Graduate School, and the Foundation cooperated with UMRA in “Still Driven to Discover.” In 2014 the program made its fiftieth grant out of approximately 70 requests. Although still funded with soft money, the program continues with contributions from the Office of the Vice President for Research.

  Also in 2007, the University Senate had discussed and approved a “Resolution on Retiree Benefits.” The provisions of the Senate action urged the University to take several steps to further engage retirees in the life of the University. The recommendations were overwhelmingly adopted by the Senate that year.

  UMRA’s partner, the University Retirees Volunteer Center (URVC) has, for years, carried on a vigorous program of service to the University and broader community. University volunteers have donated time to reading student applications to the honors program, ushering at events, serving as jurors at mock trials, mentoring international students, participating as research subjects, assisting at blood donation centers, and working at food pantries. In this past year, nearly 200 volunteers contributed over 7,000 hours to these and other projects.

  Another evidence of collaboration between UMRA and the University was their hosting, in August, of two conferences of retiree associations: The Big Ten Retirees Association and the national Association of Retirement Organizations in Higher Education (AROHE). Partial funding for both conferences was provided by President Kaler’s office.

  The conferences are described by Past President John Adams on page 5 of this newsletter. They were well attended and UMRA members, led by President John Adams and past president John Anderson, did yeoman (and woman) planning to make the conferences and programs successful. The underlying theme of both conferences was sharing and exploring ways of developing synergy between universities and their retirees.

  The retiree programs represented a wide range of these synergies, from distant relationships between retiree organizations and their institutions to their integration with various university offices. A cursory look at the description of many of these relationships indicates that ours is similar to many: cordial but not integrated. Those close to the institutions enjoy financial support, with staff members devoted to retirees.

  One of the most expansive retiree organizations at the conferences was the University of Southern California with several full-time staff members who are part of the university budget. Michigan, as Minnesota, operates as a non-profit entity. Several Big Ten and other retiree organizations are part of, or are linked to, the human resources departments of their institutions.

  Most recently UMRA has been making an effort to enhance that synergy at the U of M. During his presidential term, John Adams worked hard to accomplish that. Showing ways that retirees in general, and UMRA in particular, can contribute toward the mission of the University, he has developed relationships with President Kaler, Provost Hanson, Vice President for Human Resources Brown, the University Foundation, the Alumni Association, several members of the Board of Regents, and deans of colleges. During the year ahead, I hope we will be able to keep moving toward even stronger ties with the University.

  — Hal Miller, UMRA President


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