aybe because I am as loathe to
confront mortality as I was to
digest Heidegger and Kierkegaard
in Professor Michael Payne’s
freshman English class (if only
they had played bass in the great
existentialist rock band), I tend to deflect retirement
scenarios with the same jokes that I once used to stay
away from advanced chemistry and physics.
Sometimes, when I am asked about “our plans,” I
talk about “retiring to Shakespeare,” and the idea that I
would love to devote my sunset years to discovering the
plays and the Elizabethan language that were lost to my
In these daydreams, my wife and I live opposite
London’s Globe Theatre, and each afternoon I amble
across the mews for a forced feeding from the bard. Over
tea I quote Hamlet (“Age, with his stealing steps/Hath
clawed me in his clutch”) and pretend I am not Lear (“Sir,
I am too old to learn”).
Not long ago at my 40th Reunion, I discovered
— especially if the music is loud, as it was often —
that if you tell someone you’re planning “to move to
Shakespeare,” they assume you’re talking about a gated
community in Scottsdale.
During Reunion Weekend I heard other options put
on the table. As I was driving around Lewisburg with my
classmate and friend Judy Ellicott Rader ’76, she said:
“Why don’t we all move back here for retirement?”
Lewisburg never looks better than on a June weekend,
when the Susquehanna has the idyllic qualities of Huck
Finn’s Mississippi and the campus (drained of Frisbees)
has aspects of Utopia (and not those Lilliputian planned
communities that so amused Professor of English John
Tilton ’52 in his class on satire).
Mulling over ‘the Murphy option’
and other retirement scenarios
By Matthew Stevenson ’76
M I would love being near a college toward the end of my life, when I could appreciate (maybe) the complex constructions of William Faulkner or contribute some- thing concrete to a Tom Travis seminar on American foreign policy. Besides, Lewisburg now has BILL (the Bucknell Institute for Lifelong Learning), a Jan Plan for
all ages. (See Page 8 for more on BILL.)
Then I remember winters in the Susquehanna Valley
(all that freezing rain that filled up my supposedly
waterproof hiking boots), and I lean toward what my wife
and I call “the Murphy option.”
We have named it in honor of Professor John Murphy
and his wife, Danielle, who live part of every year in
Chamonix, the French ski resort (where she has family),
and the rest in Lewisburg (where he taught in Bucknell’s
As we live in nearby Geneva, Switzerland, we see them
often, and have come to admire their approach to getting
older, which is to balance the old world and the new. I
know Shakespeare (“dreams are toys”) would approve.
In their divided world, they live — handsomely, we
think — with a French sensibility in Lewisburg, and with
American verve in France. Who knew that a Bucknell
retirement could come with a continental plan?
Matthew Stevenson ’76 is the author of many books including
An April Across America and, most recently, Reading the Rails.
I tend to deflect retirement scenarios
with the same jokes that I once
used to stay away from advanced
chemistry and physics.