After 34 years of early mornings, late nights and occasional weekends in the office, Associate Dean Rita Deutsch’s biggest fear about her upcoming retirement is that she will have nothing to do but clean the house.
“I have a sneaking suspicion that she will show up on May 2nd and have forgotten she’s retired,” said her friend Marian Dahman, manager of Senior Advising in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Deutsch started her UM career in 1969. In 1980 she taught freshman composition and business writing and after five years was moved to head up freshman advising on the second floor of the Ashe Building, where her office still is. Over the years she has been committed to helping thousands of students from her school and others at UM.
“It’s hard to put words to these 34 years,” Deutsch said. “It’s been wonderful, and I’ve seen the school shift. The students are intellectual and are interested in things outside of the university. We have truly changed from the Suntan U [reputation].”
Deutsch isn’t just a nine-to-five type of person. She is known around campus as someone who tries to help any student in almost any situation.
“She has seen a lot of things in her years here; it will be difficult losing her,” said Arts and Sciences Dean Leonidas Bachas. “I’m sure I will still be calling her for advice.”
The hours Deutsch spends on campus aren’t all in her office though. She can also be found in the Wellness Center taking Zumba or Guts and Butts classes, and she never misses a Saturday morning aerobics class. She has the monthly group exercise schedule posted behind her desk and tries to make as many classes as she can.
She is also a seasoned performer at the Ring Theatre. For the past seven years, during the last performance of the season, she has been offered a walk-on role in each show.
Deutsch has also had a large impact on the equality of women on campus. She has been a part of the Women’s Commission for much of her time at UM and has seen many changes in the attitude toward women here. She and the Women’s Commission once linked arms around the tennis courts while the women’s tennis team practiced to take a stand for equal practice time for tennis and basketball.
“She was here right at the beginning of the women’s rights movement. She was on the forefront of the movements on campus,” Bachas said.
Although retirement will offer more time to be spent with her husband, who is also retired, and more time for aerobics classes, Deutsch is trying not to think about the future too much.
“I am just going to take it slow and see what there is to do,” she said. “I want to do something with my years. I’ll volunteer and help others as long as I feel good.”
Deutsch has been around long enough to see the university change and the student body along with it. She sometimes refers to herself as “the oldest living relic on campus.”
It is obvious that she will miss this place, but also that this campus will miss her.
“There will be a crack somewhere in the university now that she is leaving,” Dahman said.
To honor her retirement, Student Government (SG) passed a resolution Wednesday evening commemorating Deutsch for her outstanding service to UM. The legislation authored by former SG President Nawara Alawa, cites her accomplishments, contributions and the positive attitude that has been infectious around UM.