Dear Dr. Byrd,
You won’t remember me, but I had you for three classes from 1968-1970. I was very surprised and delighted when I looked at my freshman granddaughter’s schedule and discovered she would have you for class this fall. As I did the arithmetic, that’s over 50 years of teaching. I’m so excited for Betsey to meet you and to be guided by you as I was.
The above is from an email I received last fall. Indeed her arithmetic was right, and this past year was my 51st year of teaching. I never felt the time was right to say goodbye. It felt like I would be abandoning students in the middle of their academic careers.
Sometimes you don’t have the choices in life you thought you would have. This May I was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. I was told that the treatment could be rough, and it has been. I unfortunately had no option but to retire.
I’ve learned that retirement does not mean saying goodbye or no longer contributing. I’m still interacting with students and alumni, and still providing academic and career advice. I am teaching an online class, so technically this is my 52nd year of teaching. As I’m recovering from treatment, I’ve been thinking of a number of new initiatives that I hope to bring to fruition should my treatment be successful.
I want to say thank you to all those I have taught. It’s been a joy watching your success. When I’m especially low, I connect to LinkedIn and read the career profiles of graduates of our college, most of whom I have taught. I’m so proud of what our alumni are doing. I hope that I contributed in some part to your unfolding careers.
One of the last things I tell each senior class is that I refuse to say goodbye, because I believe we’ll continue to stay connected. We’ll continue to be a part of each other’s lives. While I may be retired, I still refuse to say goodbye.
You can reach Dr. Byrd at firstname.lastname@example.org