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Shoreland resident masters Isaac and Mary Ann Abella bid dorms farewell

This June, physics professor Isaac Abella and Mary Ann Romels Abella, a ceramics sculptor and former art professor at Chicago State University, are stepping down after 16 years as resident masters in the Shoreland, the grand-hotel-turned-dormitory overlooking Lake Michigan. The Abellas, who raised two children in Shoreland, reflect on the experience:

Why did you become resident masters?
Isaac Abella: It was our kids who convinced us. I'd served on the Faculty Senate and been involved in the College, and we were invited several times, so finally we came over to take a look. Then it was "Dad, Dad, let's do this! It'd be fun!" So we thought we'd give it a try.

Mary Ann Abella: We agreed to stay three years, and the years have flown by.

What was your biggest contribution to dorm life?
IA: We've had over 60 faculty members give after-dinner talks at Shoreland. About 50 students attend each event. This year Wendy Doniger [author of The Bedtrick], Bertram J. Cohler [who spoke on "Is Freud dead?"], and Norman Golb [the Dead Sea scroll scholar] came to talk about their work. We also hosted dinners for Kovler visiting fellows. Kurt Vonnegut Jr., AM'71, came to dinner, and the physicist Sidney Drell, and the late Albert Shenker, from the American Federation of Teachers.

MAA: We've probably held 300 dinners in this apartment. I cooked, with help from students who like to be in a kitchen. Students really like a home-cooked meal. They like to sit in the living room and talk. They like to be in a home.

Describe a typical day in your lives as resident masters.
MAA: There is no typical day. This week, for instance, we've interviewed candidates to fill the four resident head positions that are open for next year, we've done staff evaluations for those who are returning, we've held three study-breaks, including a pizza break last night for 60 students-we do five each quarter, two houses at a time-and tonight we're taking a busload of students to see King Lear at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Have U of C undergrads changed over the past 16 years?
MAA: Nah. We say they're more socially adjusted but they're mainly the same. The housing system is good for them. It's a community. It helps them come out of their shells.

How will you spend your retirement?
IA and MAA: We'll have a personal life! [laughter]

IA: We'll travel. I'll take some time away to do research. I'm not retiring. I'll still be teaching and doing research.

MAA: We're getting older, and we're tired. We want to pass it along to someone else. We'll move back into the condo on South Shore that we owned before we moved here and have been renting out all this time. Did you know the resident masters from Max Mason moved there too? I guess it will be the retirement home for old resident masters.-S.A.S.


 JUNE 2001

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