The Renegade Rip

Faculty retirees look forward to politics, projects and travel

Jarrod M. Graham

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When she retires in May after 33 years, Bakersfield College speech professor Dr. Mary Copelin is going to miss her students the most.

“I learn a lot from students, and I have learned a lot from students,” she said. “I just appreciate that connection you have with students, especially seeing students who are a little bit unsure of themselves come in and just grow and do things they never dreamed they could do. That’s very rewarding.”

That was a sentiment shared by other faculty members who are retiring in May, including Gary Cox, Sharon Edgmon, Sally Hill and Dr. Greg Goodwin.

“A fine feature of my enjoyment through the years has been the students,” said Cox, who has taught woodworking, welding and mechanical drafting classes at BC since 1976. “Some of the largest cabinet shops in town are owned by people that are former students, and that’s been a source of pride.”

But some among the retirees aren’t quite ready to hang it up just yet. Edgmon and Hill, who attended BC in her youth, plan to continue teaching part-time.

“I can’t go cold turkey. I’m going to teach one class in the fall,” Hill said. “I’ve taught here for 33 years, but then as a student too. It’s just been my life from the age of 18, well, I’ll be 55 this summer, so it’s a part of my identity.”

Edgmon, a 27-year veteran, agreed.

“I’m going to stay and teach part-time for a while, so I won’t be totally gone,” she said. “I’ve been teaching five classes every semester for several years now and it’s a lot. So I’m just looking forward to going at a slower pace.”

Other retirement plans included a variety of things. Copelin, who will continue working part-time at California State University, Bakersfield, where she now splits her time teaching with BC, will engage in a bit of political activism.

“One of the things I want to do when I retire is to work on changing some legislation in California, dealing with protecting children from abusive parents,” she said. “I also plan to do some things relating to animal rights, but that’s less specific in my mind right now.”

Three campus police officers among retiring classified employees

A number of Bakersfield College classified employees have filed their retirement papers as well, according to Sharon Miller, BC human resources assistant.

Campus police officers Joe Johnson and Barbara Mickey are on leave until their respective retirement dates of March 31 and April 1. Johnson has been at BC 17 years, while Mickey has been here for 27 years, Miller said. Also, campus police chief Sgt. Jess Soto said he will retire June 30 after 20 years.

Custodian Gary Galli is set to retire March 6 after 28 years. Shirley McMahan, a cook and baker for the Child Development Center, will retire June 4 after 23 years, Miller said.

Hill also hopes to do some work to benefit children by volunteering as a CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocate.

“You’re an advocate for the kids in the court system for any variety of reasons,” she said. “If they’ve been in foster care, you visit with them once a week. You’re kind of a go-between between them and the court system.”

Cox has some projects that he wants to tackle in his spare time.

“I plan to do work, to do some building maybe, make some furniture or cabinets,” he said. “I have grown children that need things that live out of town, and I’ll be helping them with things and so forth.”

Goodwin, who has been with the district since 1962, plans to continue his involvement with the BC Archive Project to help preserve and catalog the college’s history. He also is looking forward to doing some traveling to visit his son in Oregon, his daughter in London and a vacation to Australia is planned for the fall, as well as resurrecting his golf game.

“It’s been neglected, so I plan to remedy that,” he said.

Many of the retirees offered some parting words of advice to the students of Bakersfield College.

“I guess my advice would be don’t rely solely upon yourself for your strength. Strength comes from faith in a supreme being, but at the same time, you have to be to confident in what you can do and give it your best shot,” Cox said. “It took me a long time to learn that.”

Copelin asked people to reflect on learning.

“These aren’t my words of wisdom, it’s just something I would ask people to reflect on is the one thing no one can take away from you is what you learn,” she said. “And education, in my opinion, is truly what sets people free. That doesn’t mean getting degrees — that means education, truly learning. And I think that the more all of us can commit ourselves to a lifetime of learning, the better off we’re all going to be in all aspects of our consciousness.”

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Faculty retirees look forward to politics, projects and travel