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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI faculty emeriti aren’t a retiring group

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KINGSTON, R.I. -- September 1, 2004 -- Many University of Rhode Island faculty emeriti, unlike old soldiers, never fade away. Indeed this mid-sized army of dedicated, vital, and “retired” academicians is still actively researching, writing and adding prestige to their former employer.

For example, take Saul Saila, professor emeritus of oceanography and zoology, who just turned 80. Although he retired from teaching in 1988, he continues to contribute to his field and currently has two papers in press. In fact, the Northeastern Division of the American Fisheries Society recently presented Saila with its 2004 Dwight A. Webster Memorial Award for his lifelong contributions to fisheries science.

During his career, Saila traveled to 50 countries to share his innovative research and analytical techniques. Nowadays he stays closer to his Hope Valley home where he conducts a variety of studies on the nearby Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed, funded by four grants totaling $29,000. The watershed straddles the Rhode Island/Connecticut line, covering 93 square miles or about a third of Rhode Island.

Saila studies how water flow and temperature charts determine the limits of the brook trout habitat. He documents habitat differences above and below small dams and the effect on passages of fish before, during, and after restoration of a watershed dam.

Joy Emery generally answers her phone at her office in the URI Library on its first ring. Although she “retired” in 2000, the 67-year-old West Kingston resident who is a professor emerita of theatre and former adjunct professor of textiles, fashion merchandising and design, comes to URI almost daily to continue her work as curator of URI’s extensive pattern collection, the largest in the world. This year, Emery with the help of a cadre of community volunteers and students, completed a two-volume CD that contains patterns dating from 1868 to 1956.

Then there’s James Findlay, professor emeritus of history who retired in 1999 . The 73-year-old Peace Dale resident recently received two awards: a $7,500 grant from the Louisville (Ky.) Institute, which serves as both a grant-making arm of the Lilly Endowment and a center for research and leadership on American religion, and a $3,000 Presbyterian Historical Society Research Fellowship. The awards will finance Findlay’s research of the past 30-year history of the National Council of Churches of America in order to write an assessment. His completed essay will be a major component of an issue of The Journal of Presbyterian History devoted to the ecumenical movement in American churches, which will be published in 2006.

Although Peter Merenda of Warwick “retired” in 1984, he maintains a passion for his work. So far this year, the professor emeritus of psychology has appeared in nine publications, including the co-edited book, Adapting Educational and Psychological Tests for Cross-Cultural Assessment, in which he wrote a chapter. He has also reviewed two or three manuscripts each month submitted by researchers around the world. He was just named the recipient of the 2005 Samuel Messick Distinguished Research Award from the American Psychology Association for his distinguished record in measurement, assessment, evaluation, research methods, and statistics.

Merenda co-founded URI’s Psychology Department in 1960 and its Computer Science and Statistics Department in 1968. Until two years ago, he continued to serve as the major professor for numerous doctoral candidates. He only stopped, he says, because the road to a Ph.D. can take many years and since he can no longer guarantee that he will always be around, he doesn’t want to leave a candidate who has put years into a project without guidance. Merenda quickly adds that he remains available to talk about dissertations.

Perhaps this eminent psychologist best sums up his and his fellow emeriti professors feelings about remaining active. “You have to keep your mind working.”

Pictured above from left to right are Faculty Emeriti James Findlay, Joy Emery and Saul Saila. Peter Merenda was in Italy at the time the photo was taken.