May 21, 2014 by Jean

As I make final preparations for my move away from Gettysburg, this has been a week of “lasts.” On Sunday, I participated in my last official act as a member of the Gettysburg College faculty, donning my academic robes one last time and taking part in the Commencement ceremonies. This Commencement was different from all the others that I have participated in for the past 25 years, however; instead of processing with my faculty colleagues, I was part of the “platform party” – marching at the front of the academic procession with the honorary degree recipients, the officers of the college and the trustees and sitting with them up on the platform above the faculty, graduates, and families. The reason I was not with the rest of the faculty is that I was being honored with the college’s Award for Distinguished Teaching – something I have long dreamed of and a very gratifying way to mark the end of my teaching career.

It felt right that this last Commencement ceremony was markedly different from all the others. The day had a dream-like quality to it, from the breakfast with the President of the College and the honorary degree recipients, to the near-perfect weather, to the feeling of floating across campus after the ceremony and having congratulations called to me by people I had never met before. A particularly sweet moment came when I was receiving my award and, as I looked out at the graduates, happened to make eye contact with my honors student, Chad. He was just beaming, wearing a look that one most often sees on the faces of proud parents – a delightful role reversal.

After the high of Sunday, it’s not surprising that Monday was an emotional letdown, as I crashed into the reality of only four days to finish packing for my move. As I’ve slogged through this difficult week, I’ve been confronted by a series of goodbyes and “lasts.” Yesterday, I turned in my change of address to the Human Resources office and walked over to the College library to return my last library books. Today, I closed the door on my empty office for the last time and turned in both my keys and my parking permit, bringing home the point that I am now a visitor to campus. As I drove by the parking lot that I have walked through each morning on my way to work, I was struck by the realization that “I’ll never walk this way again.”

As I’ve worked on packing up all my belongings to move out of the townhouse that I have rented for the past thirteen years, I’ve become aware of just how happy I’ve been here, in a quiet neighborhood, within walking distance of work but outside the student noise zone, and with room for a garden. Although I have no doubts about my decision to retire and am very much looking forward to this new chapter in my life, this week of “lasts” has brought a hint of sadness and a sense of loss.

8 thoughts on “Lasts

  1. Jean says:

    I am so happy for you, that you got the send off you did with all the parties you wrote about earlier and that you got such a meaningful closure to your distinguished career. Caring teachers are the best! Now, on to your new adventure!

    • Jean says:

      Jean, This really was a dream ending to a career. I feel very lucky to have had so many opportunities to both celebrate a lifetime of teaching and to say farewell.

  2. What a great week you had and here’s to all the firsts that are about to come your way. 🙂

  3. Diana Studer says:

    looking back, looking forward – to your next steps.

    • Jean says:

      Diana, Yes; this really is the step into the future that I have been anticipating for more than a year. It is very exciting.

  4. Oh how well I know the sadness of those lasts….what a fabulous honor and now to walk your new path making your way to many new, wonderful days….how excited I am for you Jean!!

    • Jean says:

      Donna, Despite moments of sadness, my last days at Gettysburg had a fantasy-quality to them. I couldn’t have imagined a better ending to my career. Now forward into the future.

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I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

Please join me as I step into my future.

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