Pioneer Club Planning Committee 

Planning Committee Chairs

  • Bob Gaylor
  • Art Griggs

Planning Committee Members

  • Kathy Barrett
  • Jane Bentham
  • Anne Dunlop
  • Sandra Fick
  • William Fish
  • George Gamboa
  • Teresa Gamboa
  • Barbara Hamilton
  • *Colette O'Connor
  • *Erin Kjoller

*OU Representative 

Pioneer Profiles

PIONEER PROFILES

Read how others are experiencing retirement and showcase hobbies, recent travels, volunteer commitments and family life.

Our Pioneer Profiles articles are written by:

Gerry Palmer Coon,  served as administrative assistant and adjunct faculty member in the school of Education and Human Services from 1971 to 1991.  She retired after 11 years as co-editor Rochester OPC's (Older Persons' Commission) quarterly publication, Vintage Views, and is a member of the Pioneer Club. 

An OU Pioneer Profile is a feature that appears monthly in the Pioneer Club eNewsletter. Anyone interested in being profiled or if you have suggestions on fellow retirees to showcase, please share your contact information and details with us at oupioneerclub@oakland.edu

Geoff Brieger, College of Arts and Sciences

Geoff Brieger

Geoff Brieger, retired professor, Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences

As with all retirees who are enjoying their additional leisure time, Gottfried (Geoff) Brieger continues to pursue the same extracurricular interests as he did when he was working as a professor of chemistry at Oakland University. “I always felt that I owed my employer a 40 hour week,” he says, “and that the things I did with the rest of the time ought to follow my own interests. But I was always extremely thankful for the opportunity to teach, paid ‘on the public dole’ as it were. I therefore felt that I had an obligation to return something to those who were paying my salary.”

Geoff and his wife, Inge, lived in Pontiac during the first 15 years after they moved to Michigan from California. Though they now live in Huntington Woods, they have fond memories of those years spent in Seminole Hills. “It was the greatest neighborhood I have ever lived in,” he commented. His commitment to community, therefore, focuses on the socio/economic conditions of Pontiac.

His participation in that community ranged from racial relations, mayoral campaigns and hospital trusteeship to esquicentennial preparations where he organized symposia sponsored by Oakland University, Oakland Community College and Baker College with the theme of building Pontiac through public, private and citizen partnership. Largely because of this past experience he is currently acting as intermediary for President Hynd’s new initiative for collaboration between Oakland University and the city. Read more about the "Town-and-Gown" partnership here. As chair of the Economic Development Transition Task Force in Pontiac, he is working with the mayor and was a member of the steering committee for the city’s 2014 Masterplan.

The redevelopment of failing metropolises is only one of Brieger’s major interests. The second issue that concerns him greatly is the relationship between man and war. He teaches one class in the Honors College per semester, with the subject being entirely at his own discretion. This semester his topic is War and Peace (not the novel, but the concepts and implications). His previous experiences with this topic include serving on the board of the Cranbrook Peace Foundation, a Conflict Resolution Center, and the American Friends’ Service Committee. He reasons that college students need to be encouraged to examine this subject because they are often so immersed in study that they fail to keep abreast of current world affairs and issues.

There is also a lighter side to Geoff’s interests. He has self-published a book of “occasional” poems called "Well-Versed Friends". Many of the friends are, of course, Oakland colleagues, past and present. He has also volunteered with the Oakland County Pioneer Historical Society in Pontiac and has published a book, "Pontiac, Michigan: A Postcard Album", based on over 1,000 postcards of Pontiac collected since the 1970s.

Geoff and Inge continue to travel widely. Their next trips include one to Durango, Colorado, to visit his grandson and family.

Gottfried Brieger sums up his current activities as “…a continuation and expansion of the things I have always done in the areas of peace, public service, and history since 1963.” Not a bad way to spend those retirement years.

~by Gerry Coon

Dolores Burdick, College of Arts and Sciences

Professor Dolores Burdick, Department of Modern Languages, French

Now living in Wisconsin, Professor Burdick sends us this update on her retirement pursuits.

“Since I retired in 1988, my reading has been mainly in physics; the books I turn to are those aimed at laymen, because my mathematics are minimal.  But I have been studying relativity and quantum theory, and a whole new world has opened up to me. These fields are as intricate and implicative as poetry, and I feel I've made some progress!  In the process, I realize how sad it is that the academic life tends to limit its practitioners to narrower and narrower arenas, with the goal of our becoming "specialists".  This means we normally haven't the time to investigate the larger intellectual world.  By looking into physics -- its history, both its errors and achievements -- I have been exploring a new source of beauty, one as profound as that of the arts.  I am so grateful that retirement has offered me the chance to expand my horizons!  It's kept me "young", almost as though I've been going back to school!”

“There.  I've said it”

Sandy Fick and Sheryl Clark Klemanski, Academic Affairs

Sandy Sheryl

Sandy Fick, retired clerical technician, Academic Affairs and Sheryl Clark Klemanski, retired administrative professional, Academic Affairs

“I’m grateful to Oakland University for many things, but mostly for the opportunity to make so many lasting friendships,” says retired CT Sandy Fick. Primary among those friendships is retired AP Sheryl Clark Klemanski. The three of us spent a delightful afternoon recently as these two “sisters” reunited and relished some of the joyful and not so joyful moments of their shared experiences.

“We had a lot of fun,” says Sheryl, “but we got the work done. And the goal for our turn-around time was just three days. They can’t say that anymore.” They forged their friendship while working in a low-budget department where they had to scrounge for materials and equipment and depend on one another to help out wherever needed. Sheryl laughed as she recounted the time that she tried to add a file to Sandy’s overflowing inbox and Sandy looked up at her and said, “Don’t you dare put that in there.”

Anyone who worked with them as they moved together from the Graduate Office to the School of Business and then to Academic Affairs will remember that they made each office a place where people enjoyed coming to work. We laughed together as they recollected stories about getting the Provost to decorate Christmas cookies with them and convincing all of the deans to decorate bears for a student raffle. “We even had a bear on a treadmill made by the Dean of Health Sciences, and the President dressed a huge bear in an Oakland University cap and gown.”

But it wasn’t all business and fun, either. Sandy recalls the needed support she received from Sheryl when Sandy’s younger son, Jeffrey, was assigned to two deployments in Iraq while they were working in the Provost’s office.

It hasn’t been easy to maintain this deep friendship over the years. Sheryl left the Rochester area in 2007 to live at her condo in North Carolina, where she worked for a year at Brevard College as Director of Institutional Research. She returned to OU briefly, where her husband, John Klemanski, is a professor in the Political Science department. But The North Carolina Arboretum offered her the position of finance director and she returned to Western North Carolina and a long-distance relationship with John for the next six years. She has recently retired from that job and plans to split her time between her homes in the Asheville area and the Rochester area, reuniting with family and friends and traveling with John.

“I missed her while she was gone,” says Sandy, “but she was always there for me when I needed her.” Sheryl’s support was especially needed in 2011 when Sandy’s husband, Tom, passed away within five months of his retirement.

When she learned that Sheryl was planning on leaving OU, Sandy applied for a position with the Department of Campus Recreation, where she worked until 2012. Mention of this brought back more laughter as the two friends remembered splashing with the swim team during their early morning practices before going to work. Sandy still works out at the pool three times a week when not needed as a babysitter for her new granddaughter, Anna.

They say life happens while you are making plans. Sandy and Tom had planned to travel extensively after his retirement, and did manage to travel to Hawaii together before his untimely death. Sandy has regrouped now, and has continued with some of those plans, traveling to China and to Austria, Prague and Budapest with Viking River Cruises. This year she plans to travel to Oregon and France, and is sure to visit her older son, Robert, at his home in North Denver, Colorado. Now that Sheryl is back in town, the two friends plan to spend more time together, reminiscing and yes, supporting one another through the trying times of caring for aging parents and the joys of grandparenting.

~by Gerry Coon

Robert Gaylor, Kresge Library

Robert Gaylor, Professor Emeritus, Kresge Library, August 2003

The Rochester area is a great place to live (number 1 in the state and 19th in the nation), partially due to the efforts of people such as Robert Gaylor, retired faculty member from Kresge Library, who give generously of their time and energy to make it so. He may have retired from Oakland University, but he has certainly not retired from life. He vigorously continues to contribute to the wellbeing of his community.

Bob serves on the board of the Oakland County Literacy Council and is justifiably proud of the fact that over 13,000 adults have learned to read through the efforts of the volunteers in this nonprofit organization that he helped to found 30 years ago. Because the Council receives no state or federal funding, it became necessary to organize some fundraising events to support it.

In March 2012, Bob started the Motor City Wine and Food Festival to raise money for the Literacy Council. In May 2013, the festival hosted two successful events. The first was a cooking class held in Birmingham where participants each paid $200 for lessons on gourmet food preparation and choosing the wines to accompany each meal. The second event involved the Players Club on Jefferson Avenue in Detroit. Each participant paid $125 to see a performance of a Greek tragedy. All in all, the Motor City Wine and Food Festival raised $20,000 to support the work of the Oakland County Literacy Council.

Forty years ago Bob helped found the Metropolitan Detroit Book and Author Society, which recently held its 80th luncheon at the Burton Manor in Southfield. It is the largest book and author luncheon in the United States, with an average attendance of 900 to 1,000. Famous authors of the past included Truman Capote and Lee Iacocca. The Society is sponsored by 30 organizations, including the Detroit News. After 40 years, Bob still serves on the board.

Bored? Not this active retiree. You might run into him serving as cashier at one of the used book sales sponsored by the Friends of the Rochester Hills Public Library. He no longer serves on the board, but this year stepped in to chair the Friends annual Christmas Walk. Or you might find him aproned and up to his elbows in pie dough during the preparations for the annual pie sale of the Older Persons’ Commission (OPC). Perhaps you’ll see him on the walking track there at OPC or on your neighborhood street as he walks daily to keep fit. And, if you decide to attend a lecture on the history of Meadow Brook Hall and the Wilson/Dodge family, you just might recognize him behind the podium.

To help keep all of these community activities from running into one another, Bob also serves on CORE, a local organization comprised of representatives from 28 non-profits. This group meets weekly to develop and maintain a yearly calendar that lists all the events planned by non-profits. It is a clearinghouse designed to prevent too many events from occurring in the same week.

Bob’s latest, and at present, favorite commitment is to the Pioneer Club, a brand new organization for all OU retirees, initiated by Development and Alumni Relations staff. “I complained that the only news we ever received from Oakland after we retired was about recent deaths of our colleagues. Now, we have a planning committee that represents faculty, administrators, clerical and public safety retirees and a newsletter that tells us about recent and coming events.”

~by Gerry Coon

Glenn and May Jackson, School of Engineering and Computer Science

Glenn and May Jackson

Glenn and May Jackson “Retirement means spending time with friends and family—a time to relax and enjoy life. I thought I might teach a few classes, but within a month I knew better,” says Glenn Jackson. His wife, May, adds: “Travel is important and we enjoyed it a lot, especially walking trails in Austria and the Southern Alps.” In fact, the year Glenn retired the Jacksons took a raft trip halfway through the Grand Canyon and then walked out from the bottom to the south rim. It was a walk that was 8.5 miles long and a change of one mile in altitude.

Five months later they took a six-week trip to New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii. Traveling with another couple, they made all of their own travel and housing arrangements, driving all over the North and South islands in New Zealand.

Their travel has included many trips to Europe, including Denmark, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Finland and Norway. May’s parents were born in Denmark, where she still has many relatives in cities, small towns and farms. They have visited them three times.

During Glenn’s career at Oakland an Opel Executive from Nauheim, Germany, brought his family to Rochester for a two-year assignment. Because they had children the same ages as the Jackson children the families became very close, spending a lot of time on the Adams High School tennis courts with the young people. The couples’ families have remained close and have visited back and forth many times. The wife of the family has served as their guide on trips to Germany, Austria and Italy, allowing them to spend time in locations where the average tourist doesn’t get to visit. One of their favorite places is a farm-stay near Maria Alm, Austria. Glenn says, “Every time we looked out the window we expected Julie Andrews to come singing over the hill.”

The School of Engineering (now called the School of Engineering and Computer Science) was started in the mid-1960s. In August of 1967, Glenn was the seventh faculty member hired in the school and was the first to retire in August of 1996. He still meets weekly with other retired engineers for breakfast.

Spending just a little time with May and Glenn confirms that their retirement years have been fun, rewarding, and satisfying in many ways.

The Jacksons were always active and interested in sports and physical education. Glenn was the NCAA Faculty Representative for 22 years and was given a lifetime pass to all OU games. They are avid supporters of Oakland’s Grizzlies. May helped develop the sports component at the Woodward School site of the Older Persons’ Commission (OPC) even before retirement, and when Glenn retired she got him involved in Senior Volleyball. Over the course of 15 years he played in the National Senior Olympics in Tucson, Baton Rouge, Palo Alto and Orlando; in the US Open Volleyball National Championships in Austin, Atlanta and Denver; and several times in the Huntsman Senior Games in St. George, Utah. He played on several teams that won national championships, but stopped playing volleyball about six years ago, when he discovered that when he jumped he never left the floor! However, he still plays golf and has finally reached his goal of being able to shoot his age. 

In the early years of their retirement the Jacksons did their share of volunteering at OPC, including serving on the committee that developed the general concept of the sports areas for the new building. They also volunteered at the Baldwin Center in Pontiac and at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. Until recently May sang in the Epworth Choir there.

No longer comfortable with extended traveling, the Jacksons currently spend their time reading, attending athletic and cultural events at OU, playing bridge with friends, enjoying neighborhood activities and visiting with children and grandchildren. Their oldest son, Alan, lives in Ann Arbor with his wife and two children. Mark lives in the Historic Village in Pontiac.

Looking back on their retirement years the Jacksons agree that they have enjoyed the life and leisure and time with family and friends. Even though they are no longer able to do the things they did when they first retired, they find that retirement life is good.

David Jaymes, College of Arts and Sciences

David Jaymes, Professor Emeritus, Modern Languages and Literatures, College of Arts and Sciences, August 2004

Professor Jaymes and his wife, Chris, ventured northward toward Traverse City when they retired. They actually enjoy the winters, even though the most recent one was somewhat annoying. Both remain active, kayaking in East Grand Traverse Bay in the summer and biking all spring and fall.

They manage to see their son and grandchildren occasionally in southeast Michigan as well as up in Traverse City, and they keep up with Oakland University friends and colleagues as well. They also visit friends abroad, most recently, Jutland and Copenhagen. The latter was voted the most invisible city in the world, an observation with which they agree. David was a professor of French so they have lots of contacts in France to visit and who also come here to see something other than Detroit.

David’s research includes work on Blaise Pascal, 17th century French writer, mathematician and scientist. A recently published article in the Oakland Review describes his Quaker and Waldensian (medieval Catholic heretics) genealogy. Among other things, he discovered ancestral Jaymes signatures in an almost 500-year old Waldensian manuscript, New Testament.

Despite travel, research and grandchildren, David has a job. He is popcorn chef, drink pourer and cashier on Friday afternoons at the State or Bijou by the Bay Theatres in Traverse City. He also volunteers in various capacities at the summer Traverse City Film Festival.

How did we ever find time to maintain gainful employment?

~by Amanda Iodice

Sharon Pray Muir, School of Education and Human Services

Sharon Pray Muir, Professor Emeritus, Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Leadership, School of Education and Human Services, August 2001

When Sharon Pray Muir took an early retirement from the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Leadership in SEHS at Oakland University in 2001, she set three major goals for herself. She determined to visit personally as many as possible of the cultures and countries that she had been discussing with students during her career as a social studies instructor, she was anxious to devote full time to attending several film festivals each year, and she also wanted to return something to the community in which she had lived for 15 years.

“While I was working,” she explains, “I did do some traveling, but semester breaks did not allow for the in-depth kind of experiences I wanted, and I just didn’t have the time to do any volunteer work, so I promised myself I would make up for that when I retired.”

And she certainly did. Shortly after her retirement she joined the Friends of the Rochester Hills Public Library. Acknowledging her lifetime interest in literature and film, the Friends put her to work in the storage room where donated books were kept. Her first job was to sort materials for the book sales that are held three times a year. She quickly found ways to organize the limited space and volunteers more efficiently and eventually became one of the directors of the program that provides $80,000 additional annual income for library purchases of new materials.

When donated books began to regularly overwhelm the limited space provided for them, Sharon invented ways to clear them out more quickly, and for a greater profit. She organized a troop of volunteers who agreed to staff a book cart in the library lobby for several hours at a time to sell the newest and best donated books for a slightly higher price than they would sell at the regular sales. Sharon selects the books and makes sure that the selections are updated regularly, and there are currently 35 volunteers who staff the book cart an average of 4 hours per month. Book cart sales contribute annually another $20,000 - $25,000 to the library’s funds.

Considering the depth and scope of the volunteer work described above that others might consider a fulltime job, it seems unlikely that she would have found time to do the in-depth traveling that was her other major goal. Not so! The many volunteers carry on the work in her absences and she is always present for the quarterly sales.

Her travels since retirement to over 54 countries have been carefully documented in travel letters, slide shows and PowerPoint presentations which she has shared with friends, retirement residences and other small groups. Sharon got the travel bug after living abroad four times on sabbaticals and as a Fulbright Scholar. She manages to attend the film festivals in Toronto and Palm Springs each year, where she views and rates over 50 films in 12 days at each festival. This year she was particularly taken with the British film, “Theory of Everything”, about Stephen Hawking.

Sharon frequently travels alone as well as with small groups. “I find that I’m more likely to make a closer contact with the people of the area if I am unattached to a group or another person,” she says. She cites an incident when she was invited to follow a Syrian soldier home to meet his family. “I’m always telling them how nice Americans are,” he told her, “and I’d like them to meet one.” She surreptitiously trailed him out of the bus station so he wouldn’t be identified as being with an American, then joined him and his family for a typical meal eaten with fingers while seated on floor cushions. “An experience I’d never have had if I had been attached to a tour,” she added.

What’s next for this active retiree? A solo trip to Amsterdam to see the many Bruegel paintings on display since the reopening of the Rijksmuseum after a four-year reconstruction, a Danube cruise from Bucharest to Budapest, and next year the Panama Canal and Colombia.

And she hopes to continue to emulate her active 102-year old mother who still teaches exercise classes to the other inhabitants of her assisted living facility.

~by Gerry Coon