Lydia Hines has been an ACS member for more than 50 years and recently retired as a chemistry lecturer from Western Michigan University. She is known as the “face of chemistry” in her home of Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she has spent decades engaging the community with science through her volunteer efforts. In particular, she is the founder and organizer of an annual Chemistry Day event at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, held in conjunction with ACS’ National Chemistry Week. Lydia brings interactive science experiments to classrooms around her community and has been a mentor to college chemistry students.
In 1971, Lydia earned a PhD in chemistry from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, worked in the industrial sector for 15 years, and has held numerous leadership positions within ACS membership. She has served as chair of the Kalamazoo Local Section and the Great Lakes Region Board, she has been general chair of two regional meetings, and an ACS Councilor for 36 years. After more than 20 years outside the salaried workforce, she returned to the classroom in 2004, first at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, then at Western Michigan University. She continues to mentor other chemists in their own outreach efforts.
Did you choose retirement? Or was it chosen for you?
I chose to retire when I found myself increasingly troubled by a shift in students’ attitudes from being “learners of the subject” to being “grade-seeking consumers.”
How was the transition from the working world to retirement?
Mine was gradual as I had been involved in caring for ill family members over several years prior to my full retirement.
Looking back, what do you wish you knew about retirement before you retired?
That I should have been intentional in developing a larger and more varied network of personal, rather than family friends (which would have made more tolerable my now being a widow).
So far, what has surprised you most about retirement?
The greatly diminished number of requests from colleagues for programmatic input, and the precipitous decline in the frequency of questions dealing with expertise for which I had been consulted prior to retirement.
George Bernard Shaw said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Assuming they would listen, what’s your best advice for someone in their 20s/30s?
Develop a regimen of physical activity which you may maintain as you grow older; set high ethical standards for yourself and select your friends wisely; do not be afraid of challenges even when they may make you vulnerable; engage in leadership opportunities when offered to you, and learn to be a good listener (remembering that we have two ears and one mouth); be generous in your offer of time as a mentor; learn to serve joyfully.
What do you enjoy most about being retired?
Freedom from an externally imposed schedule, and not having to spend the large amount of “prep” time for prescribed activities.
What’s the biggest challenge you have confronted to this point in your retirement?
Giving myself the luxury of seeking personal fulfillment.
How do you stay connected to the chemistry enterprise as a retiree?
Through participation in some webinars offered by ACS; being active in science outreach events in my community - as well as overseas, thanks to the internet - with groups and teachers, as well as impromptu one-on-one; and keeping on as local section representative on my Great Lakes Region Board, as well as one who encourages and supports the development of Regional Meetings in my region.
What’s a travel destination you can’t wait to get back to?
The beautiful island of Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean where I spent my formative years - a place filled with history, warm hospitality, amazing natural beauty, and delicious food.
What do you like most about where you are living in retirement? What’s one thing you wish you could change about where you live?
Living in Kalamazoo, MI, provides many opportunities for participation and involvement in cultural events and in Christian service opportunities; I live in a condominium cul-de-sac area, which also offers situations to be of service to others around me - as well as to their grandchildren. Being able to hire dependable service, especially in the winter months, is one thing I wish I could change.
What guidance do you have for people who are getting ready to retire?
Evaluate your priorities, keeping in mind interests which bring you fulfillment, be open to learning new skills, and consider the location in which you plan to live. Start to down-size early rather than when the need is forced on you, and learn to hold your physical possessions loosely - especially your much-used chemistry journals and library of books accumulated over years (and at great expense). Be prepared for the inevitable “we don’t need that/don’t have room; it is all online.”
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.