Indiana University       Research & Creative Activity      September 2001 • Volume XXIV, Number 2

Editor's Notes

A few months ago, I decided to take in a movie on a Saturday night. (I usually attend matinees, when the prices are less steep.) I waited in line, bought my ticket, and headed toward the theater in surprise. My ticket had cost only five bucks. “Hmm,” I thought, “must be a special deal.” Minutes later it dawned on me to check the ticket stub, and there it was in black-and-white: “Senior.”

Yes, I’m closing in on 50, but I’ve got a good five years yet before I sign my card from AARP. Still, my maternal grandfather passed me the genes for abundant snowy-white hair, so despite the leather jacket I donned for my evening outing, the teenage ticketseller made an honest mistake. A twinge later, I pocketed the stub and enjoyed my cheap film.

Loved ones were less sanguine: “Did you want to smack him?” said one friend. “Did you go back and make him change the ticket?” asked another. I got gasps of “Oh no!” shaking heads, sympathy, and denials that I looked “that old.” How America hates to age.

Coming to terms with white hair, wrinkles, early bedtimes, and senior discounts is especially challenging when you live in a college town, surrounded by a population that renews itself annually, staying forever young. When I walk around campus or spend time in a college class, I often feel as if I’m conducting fieldwork, observing a colorful, unfamiliar species whose language and customs I can not understand. But work on this issue of R&CA trained my eyes in a different direction, away from the dazzling display of youth outside my door to the equally marvelous community of older—even old—people that this university town harbors.

For various reasons, college towns can be great places to retire. Bloomington is no exception. The cultural opportunities, lovely countryside, and leisure options draw lots of folks, and retirement communities have sprung up all around the area. But beyond these many active seniors, the university itself is energized by its own retirees, hundreds of emeriti faculty who continue research, teaching, and service well past retirement. They are “aging well” with dignity, wisdom, and humor.

The stories about emeriti faculty and aging in this issue have shown me that aging is about the challenge of change and how we greet it. Some humans, of course, greet change with gusto; they beget it constantly in their lives. But most of us—me included—don’t like what we don’t know. We resist and evade, complain and cling. We are not at all sure we want to “go there.”

Aging gives us no choice, though, and I’m fast learning that it’s all about making the transition gracefully, with a sense of willingness, proportion, and strength. I’m less afraid—if not yet graceful—for having met and listened to elders of the university’s community. One of the most recent additions to that community is former IU Bloomington Chancellor Kenneth R. R. Gros Louis, who retired on July 1 of this year. (Meet his successor, Sharon Brehm, briefly in this issue). Few faculty have stood for grace and eloquence as well as Gros Louis has during his 37 years as a professor and more than 20 as chancellor. Those powers remain intact, as is obvious in his thoughts about retirement expressed to the graduating class of 2001:

“On July 1, I will retire and move into some wilderness of my own, not knowing what to expect, what exactly to do, how I will recreate myself. Yes, there are monsters in that wilderness; still, I want to meet the monsters. . . . Some of the wild things could turn out to be us, our surprising capabilities, our needs, even our fears. Let us face all of it, all that we are and want to be. Let us accept the notion of a frontier as something unknowable, yet reachable, something with risks, but great rewards if we clear ground and build correctly. Let us go for frontiers, not shy away from them. . . . I look forward to the frontier—no, to the many frontiers—that are now to come.”

May we all age as well as that. L. B.

Marjorie and Bernard Clayton Jr. share a joyful moment in the gazebo near their home in Bloomington's Meadowood Retirement Community. Marjorie holds an Indiana University business degree (1969); Bernard received an honorary degree from IU in 1997. A former Time-Life correspondent and news writer for IU, Bernard Clayton is author of seven cookbooks, including the baking classic The Complete Book of Breads. Photo © 2001 Tyagan Miller.

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