Well, I guess I’m racing toward my second retirement. Today I will teach my last class at Kent State. And while I still have final projects and papers to grade, my second career — as a teacher — is coming to an end.
It’s been a great experience. When I left BFGoodrich now nearly a decade ago, I figured my career was pretty much over. Yeah, I could find a job or start a business — but I wasn’t sure that I would ever have the opportunity to experience again something that I was really enthusiastic about.
It’s nice to be wrong. I know this sounds like bull — but I’ve enjoyed just about every minute of the last five years teaching at Kent State. I’ve had the opportunity to be associated with a great group of students — motivated to succeed, hard working and likable. I’ve been part of what by any measure is one of the top public relations programs in the country — thanks to the skills, experience and regard for students demonstrated by Bill Sledzik, Michele Ewing and Jeanette Drake. And I’ve had the chance to stay connected to the “real world” of public relations by working with a group of talented professionals in Kent State’s University Communications and Marketing organization.
I’m proud of what I have been able to do in the classroom and with Flash Communications, our student-run public relations firm. But two things top the (short) list.
Every student who worked with me at Flash Communications went on to a professional position in public relations or marketing communications immediately following graduation. That’s a credit to them — and to the overall strength of the public relations major at Kent State.
And many of my former students still keep in contact, via e-mail, phone calls and visits at Homecoming and other events. I now consider them friends — and professional associates. I never experienced that type of personal satisfaction during 30 years in corporate public relations.
So why retire?
Well, I know most don’t believe this but teaching is hard work. I’ve mentioned this previously. Many of my former business associates tell me that they would like to teach after they retire. Good luck. And God bless them. You don’t retire into full-time teaching. Trust me. And actually the amount of work and effort that I put into this doesn’t bother me. But I’ve reached the point where I want some more flexibility, particularly on the weekends. Most teachers spend at least some part of the weekends — and most nights — grading papers or preparing for classes.
Also, I have the opportunity to work for a nonpartisan public-policy organization in Washington that I really believe in, Corporate Voices for Working Families. It’s time for me to get off the sidelines and into the game — seeing if I can’t in some small way contribute by at least highlighting and advancing possible solutions offered by very expert and thoughtful people to some of the major problems facing this nation.
For instance, on average a teenager drops out of high school every 26 seconds in this country. That’s a crisis — and a national shame. And we better start taking this seriously. In fact, I believe that this and other related issues represent a much more serious threat to our nation and to our way of life than global warming, etc. But I digress.
So from the standpoint of teaching, I’ll adopt and paraphrase the view of Gen. Douglas MacArthur and say: “Old PR people never die. They just fade away.”
I’ll fade away from teaching — but don’t expect me to retire.
If Joan Benoit Samuelson can finish the Olympic marathon trials at age 50 in less than 2:50 — I still have a few more things that I want to accomplish. Maybe another marathon is one of them. We’ll see.
And just one more thought on this idea of retiring from teaching at Kent State. To those of you who I know from Kent who are reading this: thank you. You gave me the most rewarding experience of my career.