Since history professor Hy Berman began teaching at the University in 1961, he has occasionally lectured to college students whose parents also took his classes.
But Berman will give serious thought to retirement when he starts teaching their grandchildren, he said.
Berman has thought about retiring after he teaches his Minnesota history class next fall, he said. At this point, though, he’s not sure what he would do with all of his spare time.
Berman is not alone in pondering retirement. University departments have begun filling more vacant positions left after faculty members have retired. But the average age of University teachers is rising, and many predict that trend could trigger a rash of retirements in the next 10 to 15 years.
The average age of a full professor in the College of Liberal Arts is 56, said Peter Zetterberg, Office of Institutional Research and Reporting.
To top it off, there might be fewer doctoral candidates to replace them. According to a report released this week by the Chronicle of Higher Education, universities are accepting smaller classes of graduate students so they can provide more financial assistance to each student.
World War II had a profound impact on the careers of many University professors. After the war, many people who might not have had the chance to go to college got benefits from the GI Bill that paid for tuition. For others, like Berman, the war simply delayed education.
The retirement phenomenon is happening at schools across the nation, said Iris Molotsky, public affairs director for the Association of American University Professors.
Until 1994, University policy forced professors to retire at age 70. A 1986 federal mandate forced the University and other institutions across the country to abolish the policy to prevent age discrimination.
Molotsky said even though mandatory retirement ages were eliminated, many professors are still retiring around age 65.
At large research universities like the University, some faculty members are choosing phased-out plans, which allow them to teach fewer classes.
University history professor Sara Evans said her department will hire five new professors for the 1999-2000 academic year. More than 1,300 candidates applied for the open positions, said Evans, who is also chairwoman of the Faculty Consultative Committee.
The department’s hiring spree is spurred by the number of history professors who will retire at the end of this year. Evans said the English department hired eight new professors before the school year began.
Zetterberg said some departments and colleges will be more affected than others.
Not all of the professors who leave the University retire. Zetterberg said more than 150 professors left the University during the 1996-97 school year, but only 29 left because they retired.
College administrators don’t always know when professors will retire, said Eugenia Smith, communications coordinator for CLA. Some professors come back to teach classes even after they officially retire.
Smith said while it will be hard to know how many professors will retire over the next few years, the college plans to hire more faculty members to reduce the ratio of students to professors.
Administrators have other initiatives for hiring new faculty members as well. University President Mark Yudof included a funding request to hire 100 professors to boost undergraduate education in his budget.
Bob Bruininks, executive vice president and provost, said under the molecular and cellular biology initiative, the University will hire additional professors. Those positions could be filled later this spring.
The number of retiring faculty could be a challenge across the country, especially in certain fields, Bruininks said.
Bruininks also noted the possibility of widespread labor shortages as the general population gets older.
Overall, Minnesota employers could face long-term labor shortages, according to the 1998 Economic Report to the Governor. The report indicates the state’s labor force is not growing fast enough to keep up with demand.
A majority of the state’s baby boomers will reach the age of 65 in 15 years, said Martha McMurry, research analyst for Minnesota Planning at the state demographic center.