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Emeriti Faculty Members Celebrate at Fellowship Gathering

Northwestern Emeriti Organization members meet regularly and share intellectual heft

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A group of Northwestern University emeriti faculty members gathered at Zhivago restaurant in Skokie on a recent evening in March to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

“Suddenly, you have an opportunity to speak with faculty from medicine, from the Chicago campus, colleagues in communication, in the college of arts and sciences and all through the University,” said Fred Hemke, president of the Northwestern Emeriti Organization (NEO).

Two years into his retirement, Hemke, a Northwestern emeritus saxophone performance professor, remains both a teacher and a student through his NEO leadership role.

With the support of the Office of the Provost, NEO was founded in 2001 to further the social and professional life of the emeritus community and to ensure that Northwestern continues to benefit from the considerable talents of its retired faculty members.

“Although we retire from Northwestern, the emeriti don’t retire from life,” said Hemke, who in 2013 retired after 50 years of service to the University.

The soon-to-be 80-year-old virtuoso now wants to spread the word about NEO and grow its member activities.

That ambition got a big thumbs up from Carol Simpson Stern, a professor at the School of Communication who was the guest speaker during the recent NEO gathering.  

“I think this group is a real resource -- it’s vital to help faculty think through what they want to do in retirement,” stressed Simpson Stern, who said that the NEO gathering has moved her to give more thought to her own retirement.

NEO members, who number more than 500, meet once a month for lunch at Prairie Moon restaurant in Evanston and three times a year at a local restaurant for a dinner featuring a guest speaker.

“The Northwestern Emeriti Organization adds an important dimension to our campus community,” said Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, associate provost for faculty and the Frances Willard Professor of Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern.

“Many emeriti faculty members continue their vibrant scholarship for many years after retirement,” she said. “Together, they bring a multitude of experience in teaching, research, advising and academic leadership.”

Rather than stepping blindly into the unknown or accepting retirement as “the end,” NEO President Hemke said he benefited greatly from joining a network of esteemed colleagues. Staying in the company of so many powerful intellects, he said, keeps his interests growing.

“There’s something very stimulating about meeting other faculty who have shared experiences of the University but have diverse views of life and of their own particular field,” he said.

Simpson Stern, who shared highlights of her experience in the academy during her recent talk, guessed that many of her colleagues at Northwestern were unaware that NEO exists.

Hemke and volunteers from the group have pledged to utilize new technology tools to expand networking and connect emeritus faculty with individuals and organizations -- both inside and outside the University.

“We look forward to collaborating with executive committee members to continue building opportunities for mutual engagement over the next years,” Chase-Lansdale said. “I hope that faculty, staff and students at Northwestern will call on the emeriti organization to contribute to community building, mentoring and University service.”

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