Fall 2014 Newsletter header


Chuck Karr TAURA Fall Meeting

TUARA’s September 25th luncheon and meeting featured guest speaker Chuck Karr, Dean of the College of Engineering at UA. Karr’s dynamic speaking style and humorous asides made for an attentive audience. Karr’s nine year tenure as Dean followed a 25+ year career in teaching and research positions at UA.
As Dean he has helped achieve an impressive record of accomplishments by faculty and students. For example, undergraduate and graduate enrollment have increased along with the number and prestige of faculty appointments. Achievements of students keep increasing (e.g., entering students score in the 93rd percentile for ACT scores). The college is not just set to build on its great record, it’s now a leader in the state and nation among schools of Engineering.

The luncheon meeting, attended by 100+ TUARA members and guests, included the organization’s fall business meeting and speakers from the United Way and an overview of the UA Health Fair, to be held at the Coleman Coliseum on October 8.

TUARA members were pleased to greet Alabama legislators Gerald Allen and Bill Poole, as well as AERA representives Alma Jones and Jim Shannon, during the organization’s preluncheon social at the Child Development Research Center on the UA campus. TUARA has been fortunate to receive the support of many individuals and organizations at it membership meetings. Let’s keep this going.

Dean Chuck Karr with Mildred Switzer, TAURA President

See additional activities planned for 20014-15 in this issue of our TUARA Newsletter.


Legislative Rep Elizabeth Aversa

As your representative on the Legislative Committee of the Alabama Education Retirees Association (AERA), I receive copious communications from the Committee, from Janice Charlesworth (AERA Executive Secretary), and from Bill King who maintains a distribution list for information affecting retired educators across Alabama. You might say I suffer from information overload, and as we approach election season the number of messages I get will likely grow exponentially.

Since appointment to this committee I have tried to pass on the messages that I thought might be of interest to TUARA members. I routinely delete tons of messages about K-12 incidents in distant school districts, political rants about school boards and personnel around the state, and activities such as town hall meetings and hearings in places remote to Tuscaloosa. I do hear from some of our members about the messages I forward on the TUARA listserv; but what I hear ranges from comments like “Thanks for sending this useful information,” to “Don’t send this liberal political stuff,” and, the one I hate seeing the most, “Please remove me from the listserv,” or “How can I get off this listserv?”

As a former librarian and library and information science educator, I know that readers want precisely what they want and they usually don’t want “all the information” on anything! So it finally dawned on me to reach out to TUARA members, to find out what kinds of information you would like to get and what kinds I should discard.

To this end, I classified (like a good librarian!) the messages into categories. They are listed below, and if you’d be kind enough to let me know which categories of information are of interest to you, I’ll count up the votes and send what the majority of respondents want. There is a caution here, however: please don’t vote for all the categories because if I send everything I get, you, too, will have several dozen (or many more) messages each month! Even as retirees, we don’t need that.

This is by no means a scientific survey, just an opinion gathering attempt, so please don’t ask about sample sizes, etc. I just want your opinion so that I can better meet your information need.
Please send a simple e-mail to me at eaversa@slis.ua.edu with “TUARA OPINION” in the subject line. List the identification numbers of the categories that you’d like to see represented in my posts to you, and I’ll let you know via the listserv when our members have spoken. To be counted, you’ll need to reply by December 1 at noon.
Here are the category numbers and the kinds of material they represent. Cast your votes for as many or as few as you wish. Contact me by email or phone (see below). And, in advance, thanks for participating in this inquiry!

Category Type of information
1.  Reports on AERA statewide issues connected with elementary and secondary education (K-12)
2.  Reports on AERA statewide issues connected with higher education (community college thru university – level)
3.  Reminders of elections, candidate lists, voter registration deadlines statewide and in our region of Alabama
4.  Reminders of elections, candidate lists, voter registration deadlines in other areas of the state
5.  Information in retiree insurance issues (PEEHIP, etc.)
6.  Reports on issues affecting state employees (not just education workers)
7.  Reports on Tuscaloosa area issues connected with elementary and secondary education (K-12)
8.  Reports on higher ed system issues – UA, UAB, UAH only
9.  Reports on higher ed issues from all public institutions
10.  Information about the activities of the governor and his staff outside the realm of education and education retirees
11.  Information about retiree pay, Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA), and other things related to retirement income
12.  Other (please specify)

TUARA legislative representative to AERA, Elizabeth Aversa. Send your preferences to: eaversa@slis.ua.edu, subject line: TUARA OPINION, or call 1-205-394-0055.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________President's report

Feels good to belong to a winning team. TUARA is your winning team. As a member you share the distinction of being part of a select group under the leadership of productive officers and board members. This can be confirmed by reviewing what has been accomplished already this year; and looking forward to what is still on our calendar.

  • TUARA started the 2014-2015 year with a highly successful bus trip to UA’s Kickoff Game in Atlanta. As you read inside this newsletter about the current Robert E. Witt First Generation Scholarship recipients, it feels good to know that additional funding will be available for our next award cycle.
  • At our well-attended Fall General Meeting, Dr. Chuck Karr, Dean of Engineering erased any doubts that one might have concerning the University of Alabama growth. Dr. Karr’s recap of the School of Engineering’s programs and students was impressive, confirming that UA is a champion on many levels, including enrollment, program expansion, and student academic quality.
  • By joining with the UA Employees Health Fair, TUARA was able to greatly expand the shots, screenings and health information available to retirees.
  •  And, there’s more to come . . .
  • Legislative Forum – partnering with The League of Women Voters (October 28)
  • Impact of Fracking on Alabama
  • Hilaritas – for fun and comradely!
  • Affordable Care Act Panel – partnering with OLLI

Each of these programs is planned to meet one or more of the purposes for which TUARA was organized. Among the more important is our pledge to communicate the needs of retired UA personnel to the government. The Alabama legislature is the gatekeeper for education retiree pay and benefits. As retirees we can no longer look to UA only to promote our needs to this body, but rather we must advocate for ourselves. TUARA, partnering with AERA, strives to accomplish this end. However, this charge cannot be left to the TUARA Board, its legislative representatives, or AERA. Every TUARA member must share responsibility by being aware of the level of commitment of our elected state legislature to retiree issues. Between now and the November election, TUARA members are encourage to become fully informed of legislative issues and candidates. Attend the Legislative Forum on October 28th, as well as take every opportunity to meet all candidates to ascertain their awareness and opinion of retiree concerns.

A major factor in TUARA’s influence on legislative issues is the size of our membership roster. Currently, membership has reached a plateau of approximately 1,000; therefore, seek out potential members and encourage them to join TUARA, as well as AERA. One of the benefits of an AERA membership is to provide the opportunity to serve on the TUARA Board and hold a local or state office. Additionally, be aware that membership is open to current UA employees within five years of retirement. Let’s keep our numbers high and TUARA strong.


Taura Members Health Fair

TUARA changed partners this year for its health fair from the Public Education Employees Health Insurance Program (PEEHIP) to UA. Advantages of the change included additional tests and screenings for members. Seems as if there are always advantages and disadvantages to change. Spouses of TUARA retiree members could not participate in the fair. Contact a board member with your opinion on this change.

During the 5 ½ hour fair, seventeen TUARA volunteers worked at the event to register guests, hand out refreshments, welcome guest at the TUARA table, and a myriad of other jobs. Hundreds of flu shots and shingles vaccinations were given as well as dozens of hearing and vision test. Thanks to all who were there and supported this annual event.


New Members Fall 2014


In Memoriam Fall 2014


2014 Scholarship Recipents

Stephanie Perdomo
I am a sophomore majoring in Telecommunication and Film with a minor in Political Science. Not only am I a student, but also a cadet in the Air Force ROTC to become a future airman. I spend my time volunteering for the Women’s Resource Center, and mentoring two young girls. I lost both parents when I was young and was brought up by my older sister and her husband. They did a great job! Receiving my acceptance letter from The University of Alabama changed my life. Even though it is expensive to attend college I know this is where I belong. This semester I was awarded a $250.00 book scholarship through the Witt First Generation Book Scholarship because of my academic success. I am truly thankful, because without this scholarship I would have not been able to purchase the five required books for just one of my classes- not taking into account my other four.

Jake Zhang
Thank you so much for this generous gift! It is an honor to be chosen for the Witt Book scholarship. I am an only child from Huntsville, Alabama and I am here at The University of Alabama pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering. Growing up, my parents ran a full time business that required them to work twelve hours a day and seven days a week, so they didn’t have much time to help me with my schoolwork. Although my parents never helped me with schoolwork, I credit all my success to them because they taught me the fundamentals of being self-responsible. I’m not only working hard for myself to obtain a degree, but am also working hard to make my parents proud as I am the first in my family to go to college. Thanks to your kind gift, I do not have the carry the burden of buying books for this fall semester.

Soledad Cortes-Hernandez
I am from Albertville, Alabama and I am a first generation student here at The University of Alabama majoring in Mechanical Engineering. My parents never imagined that their daughter would one day attend college. I remember my parents came up to me one day during my senior year and told that they were very proud of everything that I had accomplished, but they would not be able to support me financially through my college career. With the help of scholarships and loans I am staying in college. Receiving the Robert Witt scholarship means so much to me, because it is helping me financially with my book expenses. I would also like to extend a special thank you to the UA Retiree Association for funding this scholarship.

Herbert Toles
Attending The University of Alabama has been a goal I pursued since I was in the fourth grade. Until my senior year in high school I never thought I would be able to achieve this goal but only through The Lord was I able to be accepted. As I entered my freshman year I was afraid I would not be capable of college level work. Though these fears came and went, I believed that through God I can achieve success. I am proud to say I finished my freshman year with a 3.7 G.P.A. Receiving the Witt Book Scholarship means a lot to me because it allows me to continue to pursue knowledge in the accounting field and strive for excellence.

Raven Ball
I am 19 years of age and currently a sophomore at The University of Alabama. I am pursuing a double major in Management Information Systems and Fashion Retail. I am from Pleasant Grove, Alabama. I am dedicated to passing all of my classes with A’s and, in order to do that, I need to purchase the books. I am so grateful for the Robert Witt First Generation Scholarship and to the UA Retiree Association for choosing me as a recipient of this scholarship. I would have been paying over $400 for books this semester, but because of the scholarship, I only had to pay about $60 out of pocket. I am so thankful again, to the UA Retiree Association.

Chelsea Isaac
I was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and have lived here most of my life. Ever since my freshman year in high school, I knew I would attend The University of Alabama. I am now a sophomore pursuing my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. I am a big fan of science and math. However, in my leisure time, I love to dance, sing, and act. The expenses of my books this year exceeded last year’s expenses tremendously. This scholarship really helped me to continue my love for learning. I am more than grateful that there is assistance like the Witt Book Scholarship. Without this scholarship, it would have been difficult to purchase my books this fall.

Josie Perry
I am a sophomore majoring in elementary education. I am originally from Rome, Georgia but lived in Florence, Alabama for 4 years; which is where I attended high school. My father is in federal prison and my mother is schizophrenic. Neither of my parents attended college and my father never even graduated high school. Not having parental guidance and financial support made attending The University of Alabama seem unattainable but with the assistance of financial aid and the First Scholars Program I was able to overcome a major dilemma and gratefully attend.
I am supporting myself and although loans can be detrimental I have been forced to accept many of them. Having the cost of books covered through the Robert. E Witt book scholarship allowed me to buy all the books that I needed this semester and check that off my list of financial burdens. I am so thankful to have received and even have been considered for this scholarship and will pay it forward in the future.


Recap volunteer and Community Service

Thanks to the TUARA members Martie Sample, Dwight and Carol Lammon, who joined me to help with the United States Postal Service Annual Food Drive. We were stationed at the Northport Post Office and collected 12, 340 pounds of food. Our donations went to The Salvation Army. The Grand Total for all areas was 64,282 pounds! Your food donations are appreciated.

• According to AARP the value of one hour of volunteer work is equivalent to $22.14 an hour. Our volunteer hour’s year-end tally was 5,099 translating to $112,891.86. Many TUARA members work at schools, civic clubs, DCH, and the ARTS! Thank you for your hard work!

• As we begin our New Year, “Satisfying Kids Improves Performance” (S.K.I.P.), I ask that we join the Alabama Credit Union “Secret Meals for Kids” by donating hours to help pack the bags (or) giving a $140 donation that will feed one child for a year! The teacher in

secret places the packet of food in the child’s backpack on Friday. This gives the child nutrient food for the weekend. Please contact me to assist in this much needed cause, 205.393-3067 (cell).

Members Volunteer  2014


Budget Update 2014