Year-end Comments of GUARF’s President
Annual GUARFS Luncheon for members and newly retiring faculty and staff (2018-19)

This year our annual GUARFS Luncheon was generously sponsored by President John J. DeGioia and the Rev. Ron Anton, S.J. Superior of the Jesuit Community

Thank you for coming to this year’s annual luncheon.  

It has been a good year.   

As is our practice, we held two luncheon/lectures this year, one each semester.   We were fortunate to have two outstanding speakers: Michele Swers and E.J. Dionne.   Professor Swers spoke on the role of women in the mid-term elections and E.J. Dionne spoke on contemporary aspects of religion and their relations to politics.  Both were very timely presentations and were enthusiastically received. 

Mary Lee Giblon and Mary-Anne Mahin worked mightily to make these luncheons/lectures the successes they were. 

I’m pleased to give you a “ahead’s up” for next year: This October (the 16th)  Deborah Tannen who writes about how the language of everyday conversation affects relationships will speak to our group.   I have frequently said that one of the most difficult things we do (or perhaps don’t do) is to communicate. Professor Tannen will talk about some of these problems.  

We offered a full range of classes in the Georgetown University Learning Community (GULC) this past academic year – from the poetry of Whitman and Dickenson, to Nuclear weapons and disarmament, Grimm’s magic tales, and courses on Miracles, Islam beliefs and Muslim practices, Cultural competence, Marine Ecology, Philosophy of Mind, Max Weber’s views on modern life, and the Metaphor of Food in Italian Literature.   In general, our classes meet for 90 minutes each, over the course of three weeks.

If you looked at the list of faculty for this past year, you will have noted that we had people from the Main Campus as well as the Medical School teaching in our program.   This will expand in the future inasmuch as we will have a law professor teaching in the GULC program this coming fall semester.  We have also people who have retired and moved away from Washington DC, offer to come back to DC – at their own expense – and teach in our program.

I hope this track record will inspire others to teach in our program as well!  If so, please let me know or Heidi Byrnes who deserves especial credit for arranging classes and overseeing the faculty teaching in the GULC.

As part of our efforts to promote social occasions for retired faculty and staff, we held a Holiday party in December that brought several dozen members together in the Hariri building on campus.   And, for those who taught in our GULC program,  we held a “Thank You Brunch” this Spring at the Army Navy Club in Arlington, VA.  Sara Hager was instrumental in these efforts, playing a key role with regard to the Army-Navy Club.

The implementation of our expansion to the Medical School came through meetings and emails with administrators in the Medical school, as we through the formulation of membership criteria of those working in the Medical School.  Bill Licamele has led this effort.   We look forward to new members from the Medical School joining GUARFS to take part in our events.

In January, the Provost, Robert Groves, and Vice-Provost, Reena Aggarwal, held a luncheon for GUARFS members.  Bob Groves turned it into a town hall meeting at which he took questions from the audience and occasionally hinted at new developments at the university that he had not yet been able to announce.  Though the luncheon occurred a day after a snow storm, it was a very warm and pleasant get together.   Part of Provost Groves’ blog for January 30 related to his meeting with GUARFS:

Four of us (Bruce Douglass, John Pierce, Mary Anne Mahin, and myself) met with Reena Aggarwal, Vice Provost for Faculty , to inform her of what GUARFS had been doing this past year as well as the challenges we face.   Professor Aggarwal offered us support regarding obtaining retiree emails, emeritus status for AAPs, webpage development, but could not offer much help when it came to obtaining classrooms for our GULC program. As we all know, space is incredibly limited at Georgetown.  It is having a serious impact on our program.

However, it is due to the ongoing generosity of the Provost’s office, we could award ten research grants to applicants – more applicants this year than ever before.  We have sought to make this program more widely known, and the results have been obvious.  Some of these research grants went to people in the Law School and Medical School.  John Pierce, our Secretary, has played a crucial role in coordinating this program as well as keeping our minutes so we do not have to rely on our memories as to what happened at the last meeting!

One message you should take from the preceding is that we are actively seeking to become a university wide organization for retirees that engages in them in a wide range of possible activities.  

To further promote this effort to reach out to retirees Dick Bates and Mary Anne Mahin worked with the Office of Faculty & Staff Benefits to create the brochure you see on your tables (a digital copy is available through this link: ).  

Reaching out also involves improving our email lists of retirees. Surprisingly, perhaps, this has been a monumental task.  Martha Swanson, John Pierce, Mary Anne Mahin, and Mary-Lee Giblon have tackled this issue.  Martha Swanson has also been heading up our membership committee since the beginning of this year.  Finally, we are also seeking to upgrade our website, which is due, we are told, for a new platform that will be more amenable to the photos we wish to place on the website.  Bruce Douglass is overseeing this effort.

So it has been a very good year.   We have made good progress.  But there is much more to do.

Finally, let me note that we are looking for an Events Co-coordinator to work with Mary Lee Giblon in scheduling luncheons and other events outside of Georgetown university.

In addition, Heidi Byrnes, our Learning Community Program Coordinator, has indicated that she would like to step down at the end of this coming academic year.

I would urge any of you who would like to work with our Executive Council, to meet new people, and to have a positive impact on the university’s retirees as well as those outside Georgetown who take courses in our Learning Community to get in touch with me or some other board member.

Thank you, once again, for coming, to this year’s luncheon. 

George G. Brenkert