Work–paid and volunteer–plays a prominent role in the lives of six alumni who have no intention of slowing down.

By Susan DeGrane

JACK RIDDLE, ’42, worked with Enrico Fermi and others at the University of Chicago on the Manhattan Project. Later, he patented many inventions that now have an impact on our lives, among them automatic bank teller cards and dollar bill change machines. At 79, Riddle is still going strong, returning to college to learn computer languages so he can perfect an invention for the Internet.

While Riddle is exceptional in many ways, he has a lot in common with other Americans age 65 and older who continue to utilize their talents and knowledge through paid and volunteer work. Retirees today are making their mark as active contributors to society, as entrepreneurs, employees, mentors, and volunteers. According to a 1999 study by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, 4 out of 10 older workers plan to work at other jobs or as volunteers after retiring. Predictions call for this trend to gain further momentum as the first of 76 million baby boomers–Americans born between 1946 and 1964–turn 60 in 2006.

Chicago alumni appear to be following the trend–or perhaps even setting it. We spoke to six alumni for whom retirement has been not an end but a continuation or a new beginning.

 

To read about the alumni profiled in this feature, scroll down or click on one of the names below.

Leonard Afremow, XP-31 (’72)

Harold Autrey, ’58

Dan'l Brush, ’59

John B. Malloy, ’59

Jack Riddle, ’42

Herbert Wilson, ’59

 

Keeping active
Leonard Afremow, XP-31 (’72)


“If you’re not living on the edge,” said Leonard Afremow, “you’re taking up too much space.”

Afremow is 66, but his daily exercise regimen would exhaust some 20-year-olds. The winner of last year’s Chicago Sprint Triathlon for his age group and an avid mountain climber, Afremow has been accustomed to a full life both at and outside of work. He made certain to plan his retirement carefully before stepping down as vice president of the packaging division of the Dexter Corporation in 1994.

“Know how you’re going to spend your life in retirement,” Afremow advised. “It’s a tremendous change. If you’re not prepared for the transition, it could be devastating.”

Since retiring, Afremow has traveled extensively, including trips to Bulgaria and Romania as a volunteer for the International Executive Service Corps. Having served a distinguished career in the paint and industrial coatings industry, Afremow was asked to analyze the viability of privatizing two paint and industrial coatings manufacturers that had operated in the communist states. He recommended privatizing and merging and suggested ways to compete in the European market. The resulting concern became the largest paint and industrial coatings manufacturer in eastern Europe, he said.

Besides traveling–his next trip will be a drive to Alaska–Afremow said he enjoys pastimes for which he once had little time: reading, using his personal computer, and spending time with his wife and family. “The transition to retirement has included tremendous changes–all to my liking.”


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To read more about the International Executive Service Corps, click here.

 

Giving back
Harold Autrey, ’58


When Harold Autrey, retired at age 61 in 1987, he had no intention of working, but golf wasn’t enough to satisfy his desire to remain actively involved in shaping the world. At the peak of his career, the former hospital administrator had served as the CEO for a health care facility in Princeton, Illinois.

“You spend all your life becoming an expert and then you retire,” said Autrey, 73. “If you don’t become involved in some way, all that knowledge and experience are not used.”

Since retiring, Autrey has accepted volunteer assignments with the International Executive Service Corps, taking him to Bangladesh, Belize, Brazil, Jordan, Russia, and Thailand. Some assignments have lasted two to three months, others more than a year.

“For me it is a matter of wanting to give something back to the world, becoming involved in making improvements in the way things are done,” he said.

Autrey’s last overseas assignment took him to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, near Siberia, where defense manufacturing operations have created serious health problems, including deformities among developing fetuses. “To walk back to the hotel would burn our throats because the pollution was so bad,” he said. Autrey worked with hospital administrators as well as public health officials to improve the quality of life.

“There are problems in the world that you just can’t imagine,” he said, “but it’s rewarding to do the little bit that you can.”


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To read more about the International Executive Service Corps, click here.

 

Surviving and thriving
Dan'l Brush, ’59


Dan’l Brush is a bit of a rarity among Chicago graduates. Nearing age 70, the chairman of D.H. Brush & Associates said that he must work.

It’s not because Brush didn’t make solid retirement plans or that he was not successful in business–he has owned or managed three brokerage firms in his career. It is because the stock market can be a brutal business, Brush explained. While recovering from a heart attack four years ago, he was betrayed by a partner and his retirement plans “went south.”

Fortunately, the company that Brush incorporated in 1986 survived and is thriving. Approximately 55 brokers are registered with D.H. Brush & Associates nationwide. Twelve are in Chicago. “We have a good reputation,” Brush said. “We’re a niche business.”

The firm executes buy-sell services. “We place the orders, we have a tracking department. We make sure the bills are paid and everything is in compliance. It’s a clean and well-run operation. If there’s a problem, we solve it quickly,” he said.

While Brush said he still finds his work invigorating, he acknowledged that he has begun to slow down. Many days he works from an office in his home with four phone lines and a computer; some days he doesn’t go to the office at all. “Everything I do in the office I can do away from the office,” he said. “That’s almost like retirement.”

Brush thinks that more people may be in the predicament of having to work than the experts believe. “I think a lot of people can’t afford to retire. The good life? You can’t do it now for less than $100,000 a year.”

Even in his own office, Brush is not alone in working into his retirement years. One of his brokers is 75. “We’re glad to have him,” Brush said. “He’s valuable and reliable, a man with a lot of talent.”


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Professor Robert Fogel says the future will bring less work and more play. To read more, click here.

A new chapter
John B. Malloy, ’59


“When I retired [at age 59], I didn’t want my experience to go to waste so I decided to start writing books,” said John Malloy, a 36-year veteran of Amoco Corporation. Malloy, 71, joined Amoco as a research engineer in 1951, but nine years into his career he received an M.B.A. from the Executive Program and moved from research to economic analysis.

“While assessing the viability of possible acquisitions, I was doing what stock analysts do,” said Malloy. “My dream after retirement was to write a series of books using my economic expertise to help serious investors analyze securities.”

Getting published was hard, as publishers want books that are easy to sell. They objected to his first book, Winning Investment Strategies, because it contained equations. Only after he rewrote the equations as worksheets did TAB Books, a division of McGraw-Hill, publish the book. Malloy soon wrote another book, What Are Stocks Really Worth? The SmartValue Formula for Buying Low and Selling High. Mainstream publishers reacted the same way they had to his first book: they feared it would not be an easy read and therefore would be too hard to sell.

Consequently, Malloy formed a self-publishing operation, Analytical Books, which allows him to set his own hours and work at his own pace. By staying a one-man shop, Malloy keeps his expenses low. Malloy also writes articles for investor magazines and has developed a Web site, www.analyticalbooks.com. His next book will show investors how to pick mutual funds that meet personal investment risk profiles.


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Inventing the future
John B. “Jack” Riddle, ’42


Jack Riddle, 79, has always been ahead of the pack, obtaining his M.B.A. in one intense 26-hour semester in 1942 after working his way through college. He assisted with the Manhattan Project and was snatched up by the federal government for various metallurgical research projects. He developed an industrial defense mobilization plan to be implemented in the event of a third world war and later invented several important money transfer devices–decades before the world was ready for them.

Being first can be rough, Riddle insisted. “I have plenty of scars. I tell people to be a quick second. The cost of being first is not always worth the rewards.”

Still, Riddle hasn’t been able to follow his own advice.

In 1960, he established Micro-Magnetic Industries Inc., which focused on electronic money transfer and credit recognition. The bankers he approached in 1961 didn’t know what to make of the first electronic bank teller card. “The younger bankers were OK with my idea, but the oldest one of the bunch said, ‘I like looking at my passbook,’” Riddle said. Twenty years later, the banking industry was using automatic teller cards.

Similar scenarios played out with Riddle’s other inventions: an automatic fare collection device for public transportation, a paper money changer, and an infrared reader that tells phone companies how much money has been placed in pay phones.

Riddle’s inventions were mass-produced by the “quick seconds” he referred to–those who work with ideas originated by others. “I’ve made more money from the sale of patents than from the production of any device,” he said.

Today Riddle is president of Tele-Smart Tsi, a small firm in Menlo Park, California, where he is still exercising his inventive mind. Despite his advice to others, he is currently working on another invention–this one for the Internet.


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No slowing down
Herbert A. Wilson, ’59


Herbert A. Wilson, 71, of Coralville, Iowa, still rises at 5 a.m. for work. On his busiest days, he remains at his office until 10 p.m.

“Things are hectic around here,” he said. Yet, he seems to like it that way: “I can tell you I have no intention of retiring. My wife thinks I’m crazy.”

Wilson bought Micro-Surface Finishing Products in 1980. The firm in Wilton, Iowa, now employs 30 people, making fine sandpapers and creams and powders used to “enhance surfaces” of helicopter bubbles, airplane cabin windows, car windshields, crankshafts, even jewelry.

The products and special processes minimize scratches visible to the human eye. “A micromesh actually scratches the surfaces,” Wilson said. “The difference is these abrasions are invisible. You would need a microscope to see them.”

Wilson’s company has landed several steady contracts, the biggest with Ford Motor Co. He eventually hired someone to manage the com-pany, but not so that he could take it easy. In 1993, at age 65, he started a business that helps other businesses get started.

Start-Ups Unlimited Inc. has launched an astonishing array of endeavors: high-tech crop sprayers, brain wave measuring devices, audio/video conferencing equipment, even medical breakthroughs. A thoracic surgeon requested help launching a biodegradable polymer that would prevent leakage in lungs of cancer patients who had undergone surgery. The product is now in use.

Wilson says his engineering and corporate planning experience in the printing and steel industries have suited him well for the role of helping fledgling businesses maximize growth. He has served as vice president for several local companies and held board positions with local business organizations.

In many cases Start-Ups Unlimited develops or fine-tunes products, assists in assembling financial backing, and counsels clients about production arrangements and distribution. The company has business connections in Iowa City and a special advisory board made up of retirees who, Wilson said, “want to give something back.”


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