A Wave of Enthusiasm

Suffolk University Retired Friends—better known as SURF—keeps connections strong between the University and retired faculty and staff

Story by Debbie Kane
Photography by Michael J. Clarke

During her 29 years at Suffolk, Dean of Students Emerita Nancy Stoll had been involved in such key developments as the creation of student residence halls and the growth of student support programs.

When she retired in 2016, Dean of Students Emerita Nancy Stoll felt like she had “fallen off a cliff.”


During her 29 years at Suffolk, she had been involved in such key developments as the creation of student residence halls and the growth of student support programs.


“Before I retired, I had a title, office, staff,” she says. “Then I didn’t have any of that. It was a sense of dropping off.”


Recognizing that Suffolk retirees could be valuable resources to the University, Stoll approached President Marisa Kelly. “There were no structures for retirees to contribute their talents or energy to the University,” she says. With Kelly’s support, Stoll hosted a brainstorming lunch for former staff and faculty. The result: Suffolk University Retired Friends (SURF), a group of former employees who stay connected to the University and each other through programs and events.


The group, whose on-campus partner is Human Resources, now numbers 200. “It’s clear there were many retired employees who were eager to stay engaged, especially faculty who’d given their entire professional lives to the University,” Stoll says. “Suffolk is a caring community. The institution is small enough that it’s easy to form relationships, collaborate, and share. Faculty and staff are very rewarded by that work.”


Director of Athletics Emeritus “Coach” Jim Nelson says the group provides the opportunity to remain connected to the University.


Being able to share “our institutional knowledge and support the success of those now in roles we once cherished is very rewarding, and it is also appreciated by today’s University leadership,” he says. Nelson continues to be actively involved with Suffolk Athletics, and the newly established giving club, the Coach Nelson Club, honors his 50-plus-year legacy at Suffolk by encouraging financial support for current and future Suffolk Rams.


Relationships and collaboration are fundamental to SURF, which was established in 2018. A volunteer committee organizes programs and service opportunities based on feedback from members. Events range from annual “state of the University” updates from President Kelly to participation in the Suffolk University Oral History Project.


A valuable resource


Professor of Government Emeritus John Berg, who retired in 2016 after 42 years at the University, has been a member of SURF since its inception, serving on its organizing committee. He also has supported the University financially, creating a scholarship to assist student interns.


“I have seen so many times how internships transform students’ lives, but spending a semester away from campus also represents an extra expense for them,” he says. “I am happy that I have been able to establish a fund to help support them.”


Face-to-face interaction, coming after a year of pandemic-induced social distancing, may be SURF’s most important contribution this year. Richard Torrisi, associate professor emeritus of finance and international business, retired in 2020 after 27 years at the University, a tenure that included serving as dean of graduate programs and associate dean of the Sawyer Business School. Torrisi says he joined SURF to connect with colleagues and contribute to the University.


“I admire Suffolk’s focus on students, its commitment to connect to the city of Boston, and its efforts to compete with other local universities and grow,” he says. He is helping Stoll organize SURF programs this fall, including a panel discussion with faculty and students to share their teaching and learning experiences during the pandemic.


“It’s important for SURF to grow and for our members to find ways to give back to the school, students, and other colleagues,” Torrisi says.


Comments like these convince Stoll that SURF is vital to the University and staff and faculty.


“I’m gratified to see how responsive people have been to connect with the University,” she says. “We’re looking forward to doing more in the future.”

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