DANVILLE — "Dinosaurs" are alive and well at Centre College's "Jurassic Park."
That's the tongue-in-cheek name given to Centre's Emeritus House, a 1908 house on Danville's North Maple Avenue, where the "dinosaurs," or retired professors and administrators, go to continue their scholarly pursuits and keep a connection with the student body.
For example, Brent White, professor emeritus of psychology, works with students in continuing research of animals at the Louisville Zoo.
Across the hall, Mike Hamm, professor emeritus of history, pursues his interests in conservation and reforestation of a monarch butterfly reserve in Mexico.
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At the top of the stairs of the 2½ story house, Mike Norris, former director of communications for Centre, has completed his third children's book since retiring in 2011.
The house has offices, telephones, computers, shelves and a shared printer for a dozen retirees. "Jurassic Park" offers the occupants a way to maintain ties with Centre.
Retired faculty across the nation desire to be connected to the intellectual life of their institutions. In a survey of pre- and post-retirement faculty conducted for the American Council on Education, three-quarters of the 3,300 respondents said they wanted to remain connected to their campuses and to stay active academically through teaching, research or volunteer service.
White, 73, can identify with that.
"I had always wanted to continue the research and involve students in it," White said. "This gives me a place to meet the students. Otherwise, I'd probably have to find a spot in the library or some other place to meet."
It's not uncommon for higher education institutions to give retired faculty access to the campus library, technology services, and the opportunity to attend campus events and activities, said Gary Cox, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Kentucky.
But apparently few have a specific place for those retirees. Centre, a private liberal arts college with an enrollment of 1,400 students, has had a designated house for retired emeritus professors since 1995.
"It is no coincidence that we do this at Centre," President John Roush wrote in an email, "because community and lifelong learning are part of our DNA. In the process, this tradition makes Centre stronger and better because these men and women continue to be a vibrant part of our community."
The first Emeritus House was at the corner of Fifth and Main streets, but that property was later converted to student housing.
In 2009, Emeritus House moved to its present location on North Maple Avenue, across from Toliver Elementary School and just a couple of doors down from the house where Roush and his wife, Susie, live.
Eric Mount, 79, professor emeritus of religion, said he writes an annual report to Roush to let him know what he's been doing. Lately Mount, a member of a national Presbyterian Church U.S.A. advisory committee, has been writing on end-of-life issues for the panel.
Appreciative of the office space, Mount said he feels he has an obligation to let Roush know "I'm not just vegetating."
In return, Roush "always sends a note that he's read my report and he appreciates that I've done this and done that," Mount said.
Many people speak of "losing identity" upon retirement, or having a difficult transition from work to retirement. But Emeritus House helps in that respect, too.
"For me, there was no bump at all," Norris, 66, said. "You've got people you know, you've got a place to come. You just go to different projects. I thought it made that transition very, very smooth."
Marshall Wilt, 73, professor emeritus of physics, retired 10 years ago. At the time, he was six years into a long research project and he continues to collaborate on that work. He is finishing two more papers about spectroscopy, the study of the interaction between matter and electromagnetic radiation.
"Having us on campus, associating with each other, is another link in a chain that binds together all of the community," Wilt said.
Milton Scarborough, 75, professor emeritus of religion and philosophy, said his writing life has been more productive since retirement.
"We had a heavy teaching load," Scarborough said. "I always wanted to write, but teaching just took up so much time, I couldn't do it. So this was the place where I could finally get to doing it. I wrote only one book in 34 years, and then two here in two years."
Emeritus House members acknowledge that they could just as well write and follow their muses at home. Mount said he lives just six doors down from "Jurassic Park."
But if a computer or Internet connection goes on the fritz at Emeritus House, "the college will come and fix it," Hamm, 71, said. "If that happens at my computer at home, that's my baby."
Social activities are also a part of the Emeritus House life. Norris said the house hosts a Monday morning discussion "to solve the world's problems" over coffee. Candidates in Danville's 2014 mayoral election visited the house to present their platforms and answer questions.
Once, a psychologist spoke to the group about aging brains to, as Scarborough puts it, "explain ourselves to us."
"Where else could you find such a collection of aging brains?" Mount deadpanned.
The "Jurassic Park" nickname, borrowed from Michael Crichton's 1990 novel and Steven Spielberg's 1993 movie, was coined by the late David Newhall, a retired history professor.
Scarborough also recalls a contentious meeting where senior faculty members pushed for a change in the faculty handbook, and a young professor angrily stood up and said, "What is it these dinosaurs want?"
"We took it as a badge of honor," Scarborough said, laughing.
"He was looking at you when he said it," Hamm responded.
Scarborough made a wooden "Jurassic Park" sign for display next to the rear entrance. "I've embraced the whole idea of 'Jurassic Park' and dinosaurs," he said.
And have other Emeritus House occupants embraced the moniker as well?
"Well, it's better than 'aging brains,'" Hamm said. "Somewhat better."
"And the dinosaurs ruled the earth," Norris interjects.
"They also went extinct," Scarborough said.
Such is the banter among Centre College's "dinosaurs."