Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

The secret lives of retired Miami professors

By Audrey Davis, News Editor

Allan Winkler's study in his Oxford home is filled with books -- hundreds of books that line the shelves built into the wall. The room is cozy. A dog crate sits on the floor with a bed and chew toy inside. A few guitars are placed on their stands. Pictures and papers fill the desks. It's a room where Allan clearly spends much of his time.

He spent seven years teaching history at the University of Oregon and five years at Yale University before moving to Oxford to accept the position as chair of Miami University's history department in 1986.

"It was an attractive position, so I came," he said. "I was chair of the department for nine years and rebuilt the department entirely."

Allan has been retired for two years now. Almost every Friday, he goes to The Knolls of Oxford to play music and sing to the people in the Alzheimer's unit.

"I've been playing with a group for some time," Allan said. "I was doing that before retirement."

For the foreseeable future at least, Allan plans to continue living here with his wife who is also a retired professor.

Oxford, he said, is a very different place in the summer.

"There's no traffic jams all along Chestnut," he said. "You can easily find parking spaces Uptown, and I know it's hard on the merchants, but it means you have access when you're going to dinner and things like that."

Allan and his wife enjoy the Thursday night summer music festivals. They love to have a drink and eat in the gazebo in their backyard and see friends. Allan regularly goes to the rec center and loves to ride his bicycle to Hueston Woods and all around town.

"I'm wondering if I'll get on it anymore [this year]," Allan said. "The weather is just beginning to turn. I did 10 miles yesterday or the day before, but you know, who knows."

Other than that, Allan said, his plans don't really change in the summer.

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

He and his wife travel a frequently. In fact, they just got back from Madagascar about a month or two ago after being there for three weeks.

"We're going to Antarctica on January 5 for two weeks, and we just made plans to go to Cuba in March," Allan said. "We traveled much like that before retiring but perhaps couldn't do that as much during the academic year. We're still doing the same things, but it's just easier now."

Allan has been to over 66 different countries and doesn't plan on slowing down anytime soon.

Two years before retiring, Allan taught at Miami's Dolibois European Center in Luxembourg and loved being there.

"But," he said, "that's what persuaded me it was time to retire."

He lived in the chateau and had one class with 25 people that met three times a week.

"I wanted people to do the reading, so I assigned a paper on the reading due every Friday," Allan said. "That meant that as I was on the train going to Paris or Brussels or Bruges or wherever, I was always grading. That told me: 'I'm tired of doing this.'"

So, he retired. Now, he spends most of his time just enjoying what Oxford has to offer.

"I don't think there are any disadvantages at all [to living here]," Allan said. "It's a small college town. It has a Walmart. There are plenty of nice places to go eat. But, you know, we do have to drive to Cincinnati for other sorts of things like shopping at the mall."

That's just a small price for living here, Allan said.

"Small businesses come and go in other towns," he said. "But that seems to be less true in Oxford. The people find a way of doing well enough during the academic year to get through the summer with the permanent population pool."

One of his favorite things about living in such a small town is the relationship he's built with many of the merchants.

"Jeff MacDonald owns Ace Hardware along with his wife, and maybe 10 years ago he sold us a gas grill," Allan said. "It broke down a couple of years ago, and he personally came and rebuilt it for us. You wouldn't get that in a big city or in Cincinnati or New York. I love going in there and just schmoozing with him."

Even if he hadn't been a professor, Allan thinks he would have enjoyed living in a college town.

"Eugene, Oregon had about 100,000 people, but it still felt like a college town," Allan said. "You use the events that are going on: the concerts, the musical events, the plays and things like that. For us, this is an ideal, delightful community. It really has been pleasant."

Jean Lutz, a retired English professor, moved to Oxford in 1983 to take up a job offer for a new master's program.

"I didn't come here as a literature person," Jean said. "I came as a writer with a degree in rhetoric."

The program she came to teach in was a masters for technical and scientific communication, now known as professional writing.

Jean retired from Miami in the spring of 2015.

"I plan to stay [in Oxford] for a good while, but I'm very wed to the ocean and to the East Coast," she said. "My family is there, and I never married, and I don't have children."

Jean has a good number of close friends who are almost like her family.

"That really entices me to stay here," she said.

Since retiring, Jean has had taken up a few art classes.

"It's not high art because I've never studied drawing or painting, but I love painting," she said. "There's a program in Hamilton called Art and Wine, and I have participated in that for a couple of years now."

Her apartment is filled with many of her paintings that she's done in the past.

Like Allan, Jean said the community of Oxford is crowded and very student-oriented during the school year.

"Most of the time I like that, but sometimes the traffic is wearing," she said.

Jean is annoyed by the limited passage that retired faculty have on campus. She has a lot of friends who she would love to see and do things with on campus. But most of all, Jean really misses the students.

"I love to teach," she said. "I just miss teaching."

When Jean begins to feel the rhythm of the band playing in the fall and hear them play all over town, that's her signal that the fall semester is about to begin.

"It's quieter in the summer here," Jean said. "And I'm a summer girl, so I really hunker down in the winter. I'm just not as active. In the winter, it's hard for me to even make myself get up and go."

Jean reiterated that the best part of living in a college town is the intellectual stimulation that comes with it.

"It is neat to be around young people," Jean said. "There's nowhere else where there's such a concentration of young people. It's invigorating, and it makes me kick myself and say, 'Get over to the gym and work out! Go do stuff!'"