"Raqueteers" on the march
One of the founding members of the Retirees Association of Queen's looks back over the first 10 years of the group's history and peers forward to see what lies ahead.
The Retirees Association of Queen’s (RAQ), seemingly a mere mewling baby, is 10 years old. Its anniversary – and the number of Review readers among its members – invite a look at its short past and its prospects for the future.
RAQ grew indirectly out the University’s 2000 fundraising campaign. Joyce Zakos, longtime member of the Principal’s executive staff, and I had been recruited to help with extracting golden ducats from former Queen’s staff and profs. To our dismay, we discovered that while many retirees were willing to contribute, there were many others who expressed disgruntlement with the University and felt alienated from their former departments, schools, or faculties.
Joyce, Principal Emeritus Ron Watts, LLD’84, and I bearded then-V-P (Advancement) George Hood, Artsci’78, MPA’81, to suggest that some sort of association be formed, distinct from, but supported by, the University, to foster and maintain ties between Queen’s and its former employees. From the very beginning we resolved to include academic, administrative, and support staff.
George helped us get things started. While the University did not put up any money, it provided space for a part-time secretary, a computer and a telephone, and helped in other ways. The impetus for devising an independent fellowship of former Queen’s faculty and staff bubbled up from below.
These were some of the key RAQ animators in 2002: Joyce Zakos, Alison (Mackintosh) Morgan, Com’61 (University Secretariat and Economics); the late Dr. Stuart Vandewater (Medicine); Pat Bogstad, Arts’55 (Registrar’s Office); the late Bill Wright, BA’53, IR’54 (Personnel Services); the late Alan Green, BA’57 (Economics); Dave Bonham (V-P Resources and Law); Joy Hoselton (Senate Office); the late Dan Soberman, LLD’08 (Law), John Gordon (Business), Peter Dorn (Graphic Design), and others.
The annual membership fee was $15 ($20 for couples). It has now risen to $20 and $30, which includes our membership in the College and University Retirees Association of Canada (CURAC).
What does RAQ do? We’re not a union, but rather a social haven. Nevertheless, there is an important committee that monitors Queen’s pension plan and facilitates retirees being heard and consulted. Except for the lunch accompanying our annual general meeting, most activities do not involve the whole membership but subgroups with specific interests. Participants sign up in response to announcements made in the triannual RAQ News, in occasional mailed notices and on RAQ’s web site www.queensu.ca/retirees/index.html
In partnership with the administration, RAQ assists the University in various programs, including the coaching of candidates who are up for prestigious awards or supervising thesis boards. An oral history project involving members and the University Archives is providing information for the next volume of Queen’s history now being written by Carleton University Prof. Emeritus Duncan McDowall, Arts’72, MA’74.
So far, RAQ has not produced the usual organizational cook book, but give it time. Except for the early vision of a retirement home on or near campus, RAQ has more than met its goals and plays a useful role in the lives of many former staff and faculty. and administration. Nevertheless, a cloud may be approaching.
While we’re very much alive and kicking, the membership is declining despite the rising number of retirees – not by much, but nevertheless steadily. Efforts are being made to reverse the trend, though this may not be easy to accomplish. One suspected cause for this situation is that the nature of the University community is undergoing subtle change.
What was once a strongly collegial, cohesive community is changing into a more impersonal grouping of individuals focusing strongly on special tasks not particularly related to the institution as a whole. Queen’s, like most other such North American institutions, is becoming corporatized; the sense of academic fellowship and of belonging to a joint, shared educational adventure is attenuating.
Efforts are being made to reverse the falling RAQ membership. As with any organization dependent on volunteers, the future depends on the imagination, commitment, and energy of its members. Those qualities, along with current initiatives to encourage membership, should augur well for the future of RAQ as it heads into its second decade
JOHN MEISEL, LLD’96
PROFESSOR EMERITUS (POLITICAL STUDIES)
The letter writer, a self-described “long-time and notorious RAQeteer,” was RAQ’s founding president. He was succeeded by Joyce Zakos, Arlene Aish, and George Brandie, faculty and staff alternating.) – Ed.