Retiring Community Members Recall Time at Tech

Next week, members of the Georgia Tech community will be feted at the annual retirement dinner. Themed “Aloha Retirement,” the event will celebrate the combined hundreds of years spent by faculty and staff members—helping students, aiding fellow Tech employees, assisting with campus visitors—who every day are the public face of Georgia Tech.

Campanile
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Georgia Tech Campanile

Some of the Institute’s retiring colleagues take a moment to reminisce about their time at Tech.

College of Architecture Professor Elizabeth A. Dowling

  • First Day: “I actually started at Georgia Tech as a student in 1966. I had attended a small private school with 22 seniors, and my first day was terrifying—thousands of people in one place was an experience I never had before. I also thought there would be more than 200 women at Tech. The fellows liked to refer to us as ‘Co-Techs.’ My teaching began as a part-timer in 1973. That was 37 years ago, thousands of students ago, hundreds of colleagues ago, and I don’t recall it. I applied for a tenure track position after receiving my Ph.D. from UPenn [University of Pennsylvania] in 1981.”
  • Outstanding Memories: “It’s hard to pick out one. I recall once showing up to teach an 8 a.m. class and realizing I was still wearing my bedroom slippers. One special memory was coming to the final exam and finding a can of Budweiser on the podium with a thanks for the quarter and the note: ‘This Bud's for you.’ I also started a summer program in Italy and took students there for 17 consecutive summers—so many great memories.”

School of Mathematics Academic Professional Rena Brakebill

  • First Day: “I was hired as a part-time instructor in the School of Mathematics in 1982. However, my first day at Tech was in 1972 as an architecture undergraduate student. I switched to Engineering Science and Mechanics [earning a bachelor’s and master’s]. While in the ESM program, I was hired to be a Math Lab tutor and grader. After receiving a master’s in ESM, I decided to pursue a degree in Mathematics [master’s in Applied Mathematics]. My first term as an instructor wasn't different than my graduate student years—other than not having to attend classes.”
  • Unusual or Exciting Moment: “A crazy ‘escaped prisoner’ ran through Physics Lecture Hall No. 1 during my math lecture a few years ago. It turns out the ‘prisoner’ was just a student dressed up in a black-and-white striped outfit who belonged to a student organization that decided to do this as a stress-reducer for Tech students.”

Associate Vice Provost of Enrollment Services Deborah Smith

  • First Day: “My first day on the job was in January 1981, the first day of Phase II registration. I was an admissions counselor, and the hallway [of the building] was filled with students who needed an overload slip or permission to take a certain class. A big student from Alabama—he was a wrestler—had come to campus to appeal the decision which denied his admission to Georgia Tech, which in turn was denied. He just broke down and cried, sobbing in my office. I figured if I could get through that, I could get through anything.”
  • Biggest Accomplishment: “A few years ago, my husband and I created a needs-based scholarship for deserving students. It took a few years to endow it, but it’s nice to be able to help students in some way.”

We at Georgia Tech wish all the retiring faculty, researchers and staff a safe journey to wherever life takes them, and we thank them for their many years of service and dedication to the White and Gold.