It’s a full life for retirees at Harvard. In addition to the Harvard University Retirees Association, there’s the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement. Last year they performed a medley of Shakespearean scenes to celebrate the 100th birthday of member Frances Addelson (far right).

Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

Hardly the retiring kind

4 min read

Harvard group, made up of former employees, keeps busy schedule

When Malcolm Hamilton walked into his first meeting of the board of directors of the Harvard University Retirees Association (HURA) in 2004, he was more than a little taken aback.

“I thought, my God,” he recalled, “the room is full of old people.”

Little did Hamilton realize that this group of distinguished senior citizens, all former Harvard employees like himself, would become, in his words, “The most energized, creative, and interesting group of people I have ever worked with.”

“It’s been a great delight to work with them, and for the hundreds of retirees I have come to know so well,” said Hamilton, who is now president of the association.

Established in 1991, HURA is a nonprofit organization for former Harvard employees at all levels. With partial financial backing from the University, the group offers a range of programs and services for retired Harvard faculty and staff who are eager to stay connected to the University. For this dynamic group, age is just a number.

Eighty-year-old tango dancer Anne Atheling, who retired as business manager at the Arnold Arboretum in 1997, loves the Argentine art form and the fact that HURA helps her publicize her Tango Society of Boston events.

“It’s a wonderful resource,” Atheling said.

As a longtime University library administrator and human resources officer, Hamilton followed a simple mantra during his 37 years at Harvard, one he relies on as HURA president: “Set goals, secure the resources people need to reach those goals, and then stay out of their way.”

His philosophy has “worked very well with HURA,” said Hamilton, who has led HURA for six years and helped usher the organization into the computer age. There is a new website on HARVie and a robust electronic mailing list that the organization uses to convey information to 1,000 subscribers.

The group coordinates trips to the ballet, behind-the-scenes visits to Symphony Hall and Fenway Park, and of course, outings to Harvard football and hockey games, as well as popular “rambles” ­­— leisurely walking tours of local reservations and parks. Through HURA, members can also connect with volunteer groups and other enrichment opportunities, as well as to each other.

What began as a small group of retirees in the 1980s — brought together initially to help organize Harvard’s 350th anniversary celebration — has blossomed into a network of more than 1,200 members. The group, which has officers and a board of directors, also hosts three major yearly gatherings: a holiday party, an annual meeting, and HURA Day in the spring.

Each March during spring break, the group commandeers the Science Center for a day of meetings and discussions with Harvard’s faculty and University administrators. During the event, Harvard-affiliated organizations like Outings & Innings, the Harvard University Employees Credit Union, and Harvard University Health Services set up information tables.

“We try to give people some impression of all of the services that the University offers to all of its retirees,” said Hamilton.

HURA also produces a newsletter five times a year containing information of interest to retirees, along with cultural and educational happenings, HURA activities, and updates on retiree benefits. HURA members also receive the “Harvard Resources for Retirees” handbook, which describes the services and resources available to them.

“It’s a very vibrant, caring group,” said its longtime secretary and former human resources administrator Carole Lee. “I have stayed with it this long because I enjoy it so much.”

Membership costs $15 a year and is open to all benefits-eligible Harvard retirees.  For more information, contact Carole Lee, 15 Yerxa Road, Cambridge, MA 02140. You also can call 617.864.8694, or email