Stuart Winn, from Health Sciences, drafted his thoughts on the establishment of a "McMaster University Retirees Service Association". He outlined his ideas on membership, organizational structure and resource requirements and discussed them with Neil Evenden, who was the Director of Personnel Services at that time. The idea took a little time to germinate but on October 11th, 1984, a letter signed by Stuart Winn and Neil Evenden was sent to all retirees. Numerous areas of possible interest to retirees were listed and a questionnaire was enclosed encouraging advice and suggestions for "this exciting new venture".
There was an excellent response to this letter and on December 18th, 1984, Neil Evenden wrote to retirees telling them that a Steering Committee had met in November and decided that developing a constitution was a priority. The draft was ready promptly on January 1st, 1985, and the name of the group was changed to the McMaster University Retirees Association (MURA). (The word "Service" had been dropped from the title.) We were unable to find a copy of the first constitution, but the goals as listed in the first draft of the constitution were as follows:
On August 14th, 1985, Stuart Winn wrote a letter to all retirees inviting them to an inaugural meeting and social event to be held on Tuesday, August 27th, at 7 pm, in the Students Lounge of the Divinity College. There seemed to be a great deal of enthusiasm for this new venture and records show that a variety of activities were planned: corn roast, golf, keep fit classes, a visit to the Geritol Follies, a travelogue and a lecture on flags.
The first annual meeting was held on Wednesday May 7th, 1986, at McMaster Divinity College, with the former University President, Dr. Thode, and his wife in attendance. Bill MacPherson was elected as President of the Association and Stuart Winn was named as Honorary President. It is interesting to note that the annual "fee" was established at $10 and that it stayed at that amount until January 1st, 2002 when it was raised to $15. The financial report mentioned that $3,750 (exactly the amount requested) had been received in a New Horizons grant from the federal government and would be used to pay for office equipment, supplies and postage. The Personnel Department was warmly thanked for its part in supporting the new Association.
Over the years MURA has made some interesting gifts - reconditioned wheel chairs for the Conference Office, the Student Health Service and the Medical Centre as well as one for Wentworth Lodge in Dundas. The gift of time has also been important in helping the University in a variety of ways - most notably in volunteer work in connection with the Learned Societies Conference hosted by the University and organized through Sid Emberley in 1987. Beginning in 1992, the Association has supported the Gerontology Department by the provision of an annual scholarship for one full-time student and an annual prize for one part-time student. In addition, the Association donated money to the Student Opportunity Fund in three consecutive years (1997 to 1999).
The MURA office was originally in Gilmour Hall Room 317 but, when the room was needed by the Computer Department, the office was relocated to more spacious quarters in Gilmour Hall Room B107 and Room 108 (a meeting room which we subsequently lost). Gradually the office became more in tune with the modern age with the installation of a computer very kindly donated by the Faculty Association. We were able to invest in a state of the art computer and printer as well as some new office furniture, thanks to a generous grant from the McMaster University Futures Fund (MUFF). Another project was the development of the first MURA web site.
Many people have worked very hard to make MURA a successful organization responsive to the needs of retirees. The social events are very popular and have included theatre trips, Christmas lunches, small cruises, picnics and Canterbury Hills dinners (with sherry before and speaker afterwards). In recent years advocacy on behalf of retirees regarding pension and benefit matters has become an increasingly significant part of MURA's mandate. Many thanks are due to Charlie Cook (President from 1989 to 1992) who managed to arrange with the University Administration for MURA's representation on the Benefits Committee. Dr. Gerry King faithfully represented us for a long time on the Pension Trust Committee, first as an observer and later as a voting member. Jack Evans spent many years representing the Association in the long struggle to reach agreement on the equitable distribution of the excess pension surplus. At the AGM in May of 2002, the President at that time, Frank Drieman, presented Jack Evans with a Certificate of Honorary Membership as a signal honour for his unusual and outstanding contributions to the Association and Jack responded with most gracious words of thanks.
At the present time the McMaster University Retirees Association has approximately 2,600 members. It is a strange organization in the sense that each new retiree automatically becomes a life member on the first day of retirement. No money is required for this privilege, although in the recent past an annual donation of $15 was sought after a short period of grace. Now, thanks to new funding arrangements, an annual donation is not being sought and the old distinction between "Active" (fee paying) members and others has become history. All members are entitled to the same rights and privileges, including the right to vote and to hold office. At the AGM on May 23rd 2006, changes to the Constitution were approved to reflect this new reality.
This short history will be updated from time to time as the work, excitements, changes and memorable events in our Association become history.
Averil Thompson, Secretary, 1996-2006
April 9, 2003
Revised November 8, 2005, June 2006, March 2017, September 2022