resident masters Isaac and Mary Ann Abella bid dorms farewell
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:
did you become resident masters?
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.
Ann Abella: We agreed to stay three years, and
the years have flown by.
was your biggest contribution to dorm life?
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.
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.
a typical day in your lives as resident masters.
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
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.
will you spend your retirement?
We'll have a personal life! [laughter]
We'll travel. I'll take some time away to do research. I'm
not retiring. I'll still be teaching and doing research.
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.