I won the job lottery': San Jac employees going strong past retirement age

Jul 31, 2020Courtney Morris

Many adults anticipate retirement the way kids count the days until Christmas.

But at San Jacinto College, some faculty and staff keep office hours beyond typical retirement age, enjoying the work itself. A few shared what keeps them at San Jac and motivates them each day. (Hint: It's not just the paycheck.)

RICHARD MCKAY, 68: Hired thanks to an argument

The South Campus library director has been with the College 35 years, starting as the public services librarian (a.k.a. reference librarian) in 1985 and advancing to his current role in 1992.

Q: How does your job keep you young?

A: My typical work week is predictably quiet but not without its gratifying moments. I think it's more personal momentum than anything else. I have a fun job. I keep telling people this, but nobody believes me!

Q: How do you maintain energy and positivity on the job?

A: I won the job lottery. I've spent the past 35 years doing work I find rewarding and useful to others. When I was in parochial school, the teacher made us pray for a vocation. I guess things worked out — for me, at least.

Q: What is most challenging about your job? Most rewarding?

A: Once in a blue moon, I'll find myself needing to have an uncomfortable conversation with a library patron or an employee. At times like these, I remind myself I need to be wide awake and aware of what's best for the school and for the person I'm talking with. Every conscious breath I draw in the library is a gift, and I'm thankful for it. I work with, for, and around wonderful people.

Q: How do you maintain work/life balance?

A: I'm lucky. The things I do as part of my job are so similar to things I do for enjoyment and personal enrichment that there's little question of the two being at odds with each other.

Q: What's an interesting fact about you?

A: I got my job here by accident. When I interviewed for public services librarian, I wasn't the committee's first choice. Dr. Parker Williams (South Campus president at the time) called her No. 1 pick to offer him the job and got into an argument with him that ended with her taking back the offer. I know this because Dr. Williams told me about it. She was still upset about it years afterward.

KEVIN HALE, 59: World record holder

The professor of business management and maritime administration has been with San Jac since 2013. After serving as a temporary instructor, he transitioned to full-time professor.

Q: What is a typical work week like for you?

A: It consists of teaching five to six classes in person and online, attending to faculty senate business, and working on initiatives such as the South Campus "Speaking of Business" series and Venture Pitch Competition.

Q: How does your job keep you young?

A: I find myself learning new things all the time and doing a great deal of reading and research to provide current information to my students.

Q: What is most rewarding about your job?

A: The most rewarding parts of my job are three-fold: first, when a student graduates with a degree or certificate; second, when a student graduates and then moves on to a four-year college; and, third, when a student earns a promotion at work using the knowledge she gained in class.

Q: How do you maintain work/life balance?

A: I set a schedule and keep to it. I learned early during my service as a naval officer it is easier to set a time to complete a task correctly initially than to need to find the time to have to complete it correctly a second time.

Q: What's an interesting fact about you?

A: When I was 19, I held 1/100th of the world record for the 100-mile relay run indoors. I was part of a group of 100 runners who ran 1 mile each. We covered 100 miles indoors faster than had ever been done previously.

MARY GILLISPIE, 79: Positive part-timer

When she retired early from hospital nursing management, Gillispie wasn't ready for full retirement. The associate degree nursing adjunct faculty member has been with the College since 1994 and teaches two health assessment classes each semester.

Q: How does your job keep you young?

A: I continue to work because I feel I have some small part in developing the nurses of tomorrow. Also, coming to work gives me something to look forward to. I have to get out of bed, put on some makeup, and be ready for the day. I also have to stay current with what is happening in the profession.

Q: How do you maintain energy and positivity on the job?

A: I am the kind of person who does much better when I am active, so having a schedule works well for me. The students help keep me positive. There is an energy that exists in the nursing classroom that creates excitement as we explore the concepts of nursing.

Q: What is most rewarding about your job?

A: It is always a beautiful experience to attend the pinning ceremony for new graduates. These graduates, dressed in new white nursing uniforms, are presented the Central Campus nursing pin, symbolic of their successful completion of the nursing program. We, the faculty, watch with pride as these intelligent, eager new nurses enter the profession.

Q: What would you tell someone considering retirement?

A: If you are considering retirement, have a plan! You have been active for many years. You will appreciate "a breather" but then may become bored. Working part time works great for me. I get to work with students but also have time for other activities.

Q: What's an interesting fact about you?

A: I have a daughter, son-in-law, two grown granddaughters, and two great-grandchildren.