Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 30, 2022

Retired professors stay active with Academy

By Jessica Kim Cohen | December 4, 2014

The Academy at Johns Hopkins, an academic institute established in 2012, offers retired Krieger School of Arts & Sciences (KSAS) professors with opportunities to continue research, connect with students and stay involved with the University.

Based out of the Greenhouse, the Academy has sponsored lectures, classes and other events held by its members, who are called Academy Professors.

Although the Academy professor position includes an annual research allowance, office space, library access, opportunities for occasional classroom teaching and an optional health care stipend, the position is part-time, unpaid and voluntary.

“I have heard from many people who retired from colleges that they just ‘disappear’ and are separated from the institution they had worked for for many years,” Richard Kagan, a retired history professor who joined the Academy in 2013, said. “We are in the process of continuing to integrate the retirees into the University, so they don’t disappear. Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean that you’re finished.”

The Academy was proposed by former KSAS Dean Katherine Newman in 2011. Eleven members have been appointed to the Academy since its founding in 2012.

Initial appointments to the Academy last three years; following the third year, Academy professors will be eligible to renew their membership annually. They may continue for up to ten years, contingent upon participation in the Academy’s activities.

All Academy professors are required to pursue research or scholarship.

“Research and scholarly interest are overlapping categories,” Sara Berry, a retired history professor who joined the Academy in 2012 and currently serves as its chair, wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “The latter might include activities such as teaching, participating in scholarly conferences, lecturing at other universities and research institutions, consulting, etc.”

Karl Alexander, a retired sociology professor who joined the Academy this year, said that the Academy has given him an opportunity to continue pursuing academic work while enjoying his retirement.

“The nice thing for me is I can be involved in the ways I want to be involved,” Alexander said. “It’s voluntary; it’s a desire, not an obligation. It’s a nice balance for me.”

Ludwig Brand, a retired biology and biophysics professor who joined the Academy in 2012, said that the existence of the Academy shows that the University cares about the work that its professors do after retirement.

“Some people might say, ‘Well, these are things that you could have done without the Academy,’ and that may be true,” Brand said. “But I think this indicates that the University wants to make use of what you do and not just throw you around after retirement.”

In addition to continuing his research, Brand taught a freshman seminar this fall. The two-credit biology course, titled “The ‘Nobels’ in Medicine and Chemistry,” explored biochemistry by tracing the history of Nobel prizes in the field.

“The students are fantastic,” Brand said. “We discuss the development of methodology, and we’re really talking science.”

Although Academy professors are retired, many choose to continue mentoring students.

“I would like to see the linkages between the undergraduates and the members of the Academy to be strengthened,” Kagan said. “Most of the people I know who are members are more than willing to still serve in a sort of a mentoring capacity, not in an active way, but they can serve as sort of informal advisors.”

The Academy is also given support for public events, including seminars, lectures, workshops and speaker series. Alexander is planning a conference with the School of Education to be held in October 2016 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “Equality of Educational Opportunity” report by Hopkins sociologist James S. Coleman. The report, covering racial segregation in schools, emphasized the benefits of integration.

“This study of Jim Coleman’s was a very big deal in the day, so it seemed like Hopkins is the right place to celebrate his 50th anniversary,” Alexander said.

To date, the Academy has hosted two public symposia. The first, organized by Berry, took place November 2013. The symposium, “Reframing the Sahel as a Political Space,” invited scholars to share research on the African Sahel region.

The second symposium, “El Greco Remembered: 1614-2014,” was organized by Kagan and co-sponsored by the Department of Art History and took place in October 2014. Participants discussed the Greek painter El Greco.

“These were two symposia very far removed from anything I do professionally,” Brand said. “I’ve enjoyed them very much.”

Richard Henry, a retired physics professor and the Academy’s inaugural chair, wrote in an email to The News-Letter that he appreciates that the Academy emphasizes collaboration between academic disciplines.

“I was happy to join the Academy because of its focus on research activity and its interdisciplinary nature,” Henry wrote. “It was exactly as I had expected — congenial gatherings of people from a variety of fields of research, exchanging what we hope is wisdom!”

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