University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The University of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Schoenfeld, Clay (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 49, Number 9 (June 1948)

Old professors never die,   pp. 8-9

Page 8

* There's no stopping some teachers once they get
rolling, the University of Wisconsin has discovered.
("HERBIE") PAGE, profes-
sor of law, is still teaching
at the age of 80 despite
a state law requiring re-
tirement at age 70. Pro-
fessor Page, an expert on
contracts, entered into a
special agreement when
he came here in 1917, giv-
ing him the right to quit
when he's good and
O~ld P4   1ejecoAs IRe~ae4 tbo
   HOW OLD SHOULD professors be when retired? Custom and
ruling dictate 70. Observation would suggest that some should quit
at 40. Experience shows that many grow consistently more skillful
and more active-up to and beyond 90.
  Typical of the dozens of UW professors who "retired" officially
long ago but are still going strong in serving both the University
and the commonwealth are Edward A. Birge, UW president emeritus
and at 97 the world's oldest living doctor of philosophy; Oliver P.
Watts, past 80 and still doing research that saves the American
people thousands of dollars a year; E. B. Gordon, annually teach-
ing 68,900 grade school children Dr. Birge has served on the faculty foi
by means of radio; and Herbert 73 years-an all-time record in the an-
Page who by special provision has nals of American education.
not yet retired, still teaches his   Every morning he rises at six o'clock
law classes regularly at the age
of 80.
  When Edward Birge came to
the University of Wisconsin as
an instructor he was 24 years old.
Ulysses S. Grant was president
of the United States. It was 1875
-the year when gold was dis-
covered in South Dakota and
the telephone was invented by Alex-
ander Graham Bell. In other words,
and goes to his lab in the Biology
Building. There he reads and writes
and experiments all morning, then (be-
cause the doctor limits him to a half-
day of work) goes home-taking his
work with him. Limnology is his sub-
ject, meaning the study of freshwater
biology, and he knows Wisconsin's
thousands of lakes like the back of his
hand. Many of his scientific pamphlets
were written in cooperation with Dr.
Chancey Juday, who died in March,
1944, a young man of some 70 years.
Dr. Birge was acting president of the
University from 1900 to 1903 and presi-
dent from 1918 to 1925, the year in
which he retired.
  Miss Anna Birge, his daughter and
housekeeper, reports:
  "The home routine is simple (and
please don't make your story sound
sappy). After lunch he takes a nap
for a half hour, works with his charts
and maps until dinner. Then he reads
until bedtime at 9. He's up at 6 every
morning and would be up at 5 if we
let him."
  She reveals that Dr. Birge gave up
smoking when he started teaching phys-
iology and "had to tell what he knew
about nicotine." He has never been a
drinker, she says. He's been a reader
of the New York Times for some 70
years and apparently a Democrat even
  "Anyway," Miss Birge says, "I know
he voted for Grover Cleveland because
Cleveland's opponent was, in his opin-
ion, an 'abysmal damn fool'."
  At 90 Dr. Birge learned to type and
now spends many of his waking hours
pounding away at the machine. At 91
he gave up his annual lake-inspection
trips to Northern Wisconsin. J u s t
recently he discontinued his long-time

Go up to Top of Page