Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jim Hiett says Retirement is for the Birds (and the Grandchildren)

Jim Hiett has to pause when considering the many hats he has worn in higher education over the years. His retirement this semester brings to a close more than 30 years of service at Vol State.
“I started teaching in the 1960s,” Hiett said. “I was a charter faculty member at a community college in Kentucky. I taught at a couple of other community colleges. I didn’t think I would do more teaching, but Vol State pulled me in. I didn’t think I would be here for more than a year or two.”

Hiett began work as an adjunct instructor in psychology in 1980. Over the years he has also served as a counselor, chair of a division and assistant vice president of Academic Affairs since the 1990s. Each new position has brought new challenges.
“I think the fact that we reorganized several times since I have been here has helped my longevity. I was never bored,” he said. “In this job I have a lot of contact with students. I enjoy working with students. I’m really more interested in working on the academic side of the struggle.”

As assistant VP Hiett works with many students who are struggling academically, helping them to get back on track, if possible.
“Students here don’t take anything for granted. Most of our students have to sacrifice to be here. That’s something that people at private schools, and even big universities, might not understand.”

When asked about co-workers who have influenced him, or stood out in his memory, the list is long, but there is one name at the top.

“I think of Dr. Ramer first. He was a model of what a community college president should be and such an ethical and generous person.”

Jim is retiring at the same time as his wife, Sharon, who works at Belmont University. They have plenty of adventures planned. Tops on the retirement agenda is more time with family, and especially grandkids. However, Jim and Sharon are passionate birders, meaning they take bird watching quite seriously. They have traveled extensively over the years to observe different wild birds in their habitats.
“My wife is a writer and I pretend to be a writer sometimes,” he said. “We’re working on a book about our birding adventures, like how we nearly died in the woods birding.”

Birders keep close track of how many different species they have observed over the years.
“We’re closing in on 600 birds in North America, that’s out of more than 900. We might try and see all of the birds you can see in North America.”

The loss of another long-time employee is tough for the college. Hiett has been an important resource when it comes to institutional memory. His sense of humor will also be sorely missed.
“This is a good place to work,” he said. “I always say that this is a good clean job and someone has to do it.”

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