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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    40 years later, Ulreich retires from the UA

    Alex McIntyre

    English professor John Ulreich in his office in the Modern Languages building on May 6. Ulreich will be retiring after 40 years at the UA.

    As graduation day takes over campus and friends and family flock to the university to celebrate their loved ones’ accomplishments, one individual quietly begins to exit the back door to retirement. The Daily Wildcat spoke with retiring English professor John Ulreich about his tenure at the university and his retirement plans.

    Daily Wildcat: You are retiring this month, correct?

    Ulreich: Yes, that’s correct. With a footnote, I get to be here for a year, keep this office and I get paid, and I get benefits — I don’t have to do anything except exist. It’s a good deal.

    How long have you taught at the UA?

    Forty-four years. I came here in 1971.

    How do you feel about retiring after a long career?

    I’m getting [used] to the idea. Now, I have been going to school since I was in kindergarten back in [1946, 1947] — a long time. I would have taken a couple of years off if it hadn’t been for the Vietnam War, which there was a draft [for], and students were deferred. I managed to defer it forever.

    What are some of your fondest memories while teaching at the UA?

    Well, almost all of them involve students. The students I feel I have helped, the students who are very smart or very eager to learn, even if they weren’t the best students you wanted. I have memories of teaching all levels of graduate students, freshmen. … Right now, I’m teaching freshmen, and then mostly sophomores, juniors, and those classes are as interesting in their own way as graduate classes. Students tend to be more diverse in their abilities.

    What was the most enjoyable part of being a professor for you? Or, what made teaching worth it?

    Talking with students, not just talking to them. I mean, lecturing is fun, too — you get to be the star, you know — but I’ve never exactly been the rock star lecturer. Just talking with the students. It’s more fun to talk to students after class or in office hours. Or, in a good class, a small class where everyone is talking, everybody has ideas that go back and forth. That’s the most fun, the most exciting, most rewarding, and I would still be doing it, except it does get harder.

    You were in charge of the Milton Marathon on campus for 17 years. Do you, as a Milton enthusiast, hope they continue on despite your retirement?

    I don’t think it will. I’ve asked a few people if they have an interest, I may make one last appeal, but I don’t think there is anyone who really wants to take it over. … I’ve had a couple of students — graduate students — who volunteered, but I think it takes a faculty member. If somebody decides to do it again, I’ll go. But I’m not going be tied down that length of time.

    What do you plan on doing once you retire?

    Well, mostly birding with my wife. That’s the thing we most like to do. We also play a little blackjack. Maybe stay overnight in a casino. But we love to bird. I can sit out on the porch in the mornings and watch the birds in our backyard, which my wife does fairly regularly, which I only get to do once a week. That, and I have a project: I’m working on a memoir on Owen Barfield, one of the most interesting thinkers of the 20th century.

    Any words of advice for students or new professors?

    Way too many words to boil down. Keep in mind these words: “This too shall pass.” If you’re happy and remember that -— it might make you melancholy. You got to remember that the good times don’t last, but neither do the bad times.


    Follow Ivana Goldtooth on Twitter.

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