Professor adds retirement to personal equation


Story by Mykaela Cross, Assistant News Editor

For Associate Professor of Mathematics Gene Johnson, the close of this semester marks the end of his teaching tenure at Baker University.

Johnson admits that his decision to retire was unexpected, but he believes it is time for him to move on.

“It’s just about time,” Johnson said. “Baker has an early retirement package. That’s part of the incentive, and I just want to be doing some other things.”

With his newfound free time, Johnson intends to find a few new hobbies and enjoy activities he just has not had the time for while teaching at Baker.

“I don’t have specific plans, but there’s a long list of books to be read and things I haven’t studied since graduate school that I’ve wanted to get back to,” he said. “In the process of doing those things, I’m sure other things will come up. I’ve been taking an art class at the [Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art], and I’m going to be doing that again this summer. Maybe that will branch out into other things.”

Johnson said that despite his desire to retire, many of the Baker faculty members would rather he continue on campus.

“My department chair was somewhat dismayed, the dean also wanted me to rethink a little bit, but I decided it was time,” Johnson said. “I’m gratified that they weren’t just sweeping me out the door, but on the other hand, I had decided that this was it.”

Though he’s setting his sights on newer surroundings, Johnson would like to leave Baker with best wishes for the university’s future.

“I wish everyone well,” he said. “Even though Baker has been struggling financially, I have good hopes that it will come through in good shape and be able to build toward a better future.”

As one of his students, junior Benjamin Carpenter believes Johnson is a great teacher with high expectations for his students.

“He is very particular and can seem difficult at first, but once you figure out his expectations he is a pretty good professor,” Carpenter said in an email interview. “He has really helped to develop my attention to details.”

One of the things Carpenter will remember most about Johnson is his particular choice in fashion.

“He always wears a red cardigan to class everyday and has since I have known him,” Carpenter said.

The news of Johnson’s retirement came as a surprise to Assistant Professor of Mathematics Louis Levy, who was hired three years ago by Johnson and other department members. Levy admits that the upcoming change will be hard to imagine.

“I told him that ‘I know I haven’t been here that long, but I have a hard time picturing this place without you,'” Levy said.

Levy describes his first impression of Johnson as very positive, saying he was impressed during their first conversation.

“My first official meeting was through a phone interview,” Levy said. “We conversed for quite a while before we actually met, but he seemed as though he was a wealth of information. He knows a lot about mathematics, but he also knows a lot about things that are not mathematics. That was clear to me early on.”

Eric Hays, instructor of math and acting director of Student Academic Success on campus, has also been impressed by Johnson’s accumulated knowledge and will miss Johnson’s conversations.

“I always have had really good conversations with Gene,” Hays said. “He’s very well rounded and always read interesting books. I will definitely miss just running into him in the hall and starting a 20-minute conversation about something very random.”

Hays has known Johnson for nearly 12 years and has found him to be “very intelligent and approachable.”

“I’ve always felt that I could ask Gene anything about mathematics and get a great answer,” Hays said. “He has a very good way of explaining things.”

Both Hays and Levy say that Johnson’s retirement will be a loss for the Baker community.

“There’s a lot I’m going to miss about him,” Levy said. “We have occasional chats about various math topics, and it’s very interesting to get an opinion from someone so knowledgeable about so many things.”

As well as being knowledgeable about mathematics as a subject, Johnson has helped Levy progress as a professor.

“I hope he has an excellent retirement, but it’s not going to be the same around here,” Levy said as a farewell to Johnson.