After 24 years Ralph Janis is leaving his position as director of Cornell University's Adult University program. By his own count Ralph has experienced something like 480 educational travel programs and worked with about 15,000 passengers over the years. I want to congratulate Ralph on a well-earned retirement. I even look forward to his book about "the Protestants of Brooklyn" (which I assume will be about angry fans left behind by the Dodgers' move to Los Angeles).
Over the years Ralph (who is a Cornell alumnus and who also has a Ph.D. from Michigan) has been involved not only in educational travel but also on-campus learning experiences and even online educational forays. His volunteer leadership has helped the Educational Travel Conference in many ways for many years. But the way that I know Ralph best is from his commitment to the Minary Conference on Alumni Education.
When I first attended Minary in 1989 I was part of a young and confused group of assistant directors who wanted to talk about the logistics and day-to-day tactics of alumni education programs. How do you find a venue? What about recruiting volunteers? Should we do dinners or receptions? Do faculty expect honoraria? How much should we charge alumni?
Ralph, as one of the more experienced and thoughtful members of the Minary group, helped lend to the sessions an insightful, philosophical and strategic tone. He always knew when to step back and remind the eager newcomers that it's not enough to just show up at work and follow orders, recruiting faculty speakers and arranging travel programs because our bosses told us to. He convinced many of us to come to our own conclusions about the justification, rationale, role and value of alumni educational programs. And he helped us draw those conclusions in dozens of discussions over (for me) parts of three decades.
What I have appreciated the most about Ralph, though, is his sense of humor. I have never completely recovered from the pulled muscle I experienced while laughing too hard as Ralph recounted the story of the bowling ball bag and the family silverware. For that one, you definitely "had to be there."
I hope I speak for the innumerable colleagues and friends Ralph has helped over the years when I say congratulations and good luck Ralph.
Now when is that book coming out?