By Savannah DrakeAfter 35 years of dedicated work to the university, Howard Eisner, associate dean for the School of Human Sciences and Humanities, will be retiring this summer. Eisner, who was a member of the founding 40 faculty members that began this university in 1974, has been associate dean of HSH for the past 10 years.
Eisner, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, began his career at UHCL unexpectedly. While at Duke University, he came across an announcement for job openings at a brand new school in Texas, that school being UHCL. He applied for the position not thinking much about it. Later, he received a call from the founding dean of the university. Eisner, having no plans to go to Texas, figured he would be honest and told the dean what he felt philosophically. The dean replied by saying that if Eisner had been able to read his mind, they could not have not been more on the same page.
Eisner has a lot of memories to share about the university and the changes he has seen. At the beginning, the entire faculty was blended together in the small space they had to share. The school did not have traditional degrees; each degree was designed for each individual student. He recalls the majority of the population of the university being adult females who had children and were really excited to return to school. He says that the approximate age of the students was two years older than the average age of the faculty, which was 29 at the time. We have a much wider age range of faculty now. We now also have a very diverse student population, with a much greater age range
One of his favorite memories was being a part of a great bunch of people working together to create new programs with a great passion. Now, he is proud of the fact that the university has done what it has set out to do. Eisner says the school now has all different types of departments and a wonderful faculty.
Eisner’s decision to retire was a family decision. His wife retired about three years ago, and he has grandchildren on both coasts. He loves traveling and wants to be able to travel before he gets too old to do so. He also has found that after 35 years of being at the university, it has been hard to continue to be passionate when a lot of paper work has been added to the curriculum. He adds that a lot of the people who began this journey with him have already retired and tell him they are enjoying retirement. He wants the chance to do the same.
Eisner said his plans after retirement include becoming “A combination of a bum, a traveler, a returning student and a volunteer.” By this he means taking time to read, traveling with his wife, maybe returning to school to take classes he is interested in and volunteering at the United Way.
Eisner says that he will miss the people here at UHCL the most. He enjoys the “neat” people he gets to work with on a daily basis.
“He’s a pretty remarkable fellow; I think in some ways HSH is what it is because of him,” said Bruce Palmer, dean of HSH, who is also a charter member of UHCL. “I can’t think of anybody else in the last 35 years that has had such an impact on the way that the school works; he’s always been an extraordinary partisan for the school.”
Division Chair of Humanities and Fine Arts Deborah Griffin also had stories to share about Eisner.
“Often, he is asked to make difficult and unpopular decisions,” Griffin said. “When doing so, he always thinks of the people who will be impacted by those decisions and does all he can to mitigate the challenges.”
Griffin is also impressed with his love for UHCL.
“He is proud of this institution, and he has dedicated his professional self to serving it, nurturing it, and helping it grow,” Griffin said. “He is quite the role model—for students, for faculty, and for administrators. We will miss him very, very much.”
Eisner will officially retire Aug. 31. Robert Bartsch, associate professor of psychology, will serve as interim associate dean while a formal search is conducted to fill the position.
“He has a huge amount of institutional memory, hopefully throughout our work this spring and summer I’ll be able to learn enough of it to have a relatively smooth transition,” Bartsch said. “In taking over as an interim associate dean, I feel honored to be selected and awed at the responsibility the job entails. I know I’ll have some huge shoes to fill and I’ll do the best job I can.”
Eisner sums up his experience here as “a wonderful one.”
“When you take someone who has just finished a Ph.D. and say to him, a 29 year old, ‘go start a university,’ that is something that is remarkable,” Eisner said.