“This is a blue shirt.” The words were printed boldly on the gray—yes, gray—shirt that approached the table. Worn proudly by Dr. Hans-Erik Wennberg, recent retiree of Elizabethtown College, I reminded myself to ask him later on what those words meant.
“A feature story about me,” he chuckled while stroking his chin. “Being retired, I find myself more busy now than I ever was.” It’s true—Wennberg is expressing his new found freedom in active and healthy ways. He explained that during the previous tax season, he worked 3 days a week in Hershey doing taxes for senior citizens, and plans to continue doing so for the next several years. He is also the clubhouse manager of the Susquehanna Yacht Club, the advisor of the TV facilities at Masonic Village, and an active member in both the Communications Business Group and the Association of Education and Communication Technology, or AECT. “I wasn’t going to just sit back and do nothing,” he said with a light expression.
In December of 2013, Wennberg retired after 30 dedicated years as an associate professor of communications at Elizabethtown College. He had previously taught at Rhode Island College in Providence, Rhode Island, where he was an instructor for 11 years. He obtained his Master’s degree in Educational Media at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, followed by his doctorate at the University of Connecticut, where he specialized in Higher End Administration with a concentration in Media.
Things have drastically changed at Elizabethtown since Wennberg began in 1984. “There are a lot more buildings,” he recollected. “The High Library didn’t exist.” Wennberg also noted that the quality of students has improved over time. In fact, the students themselves are one of the primary reasons he enjoyed teaching at Elizabethtown. He explained that in other areas where he worked, education wasn’t a priority for the students. Here at Elizabethtown, the students put much more emphasis on it. “I know some students who literally worked 24 hours a day,” Wennberg said with admiration.
When asked about his future plans in academia, he was quick on the draw. “My vent is creativity. I found out I liked it more than writing research papers.” Wennberg taught several photography courses, and it is one of his earnest passions. “I’ve had five photo shows since I’ve been here—gallery shows of various kinds. I’d like to continue that.” As the conversations about photography deepened, his demeanor completely changed. It was obvious that Wennberg was truly in his element. “My favorite subjects to photograph are sea coast water fronts. Especially in Maine.” He continued on to explain that one of his family members lived in Maine, and was able to show him places that even tourists don’t know about.
When asked about where he would like to retire to, he shrugged. “I’d like to have a place by the water, but we’ll see. We are still central here.” This summer, Wennberg plans to travel to Jacksonville to attend some AECT meetings. “I definitely do not want to retire there,” he added, “I am not a Florida person.”
Besides photography, Wennberg enjoys boating. He travels to the Finger Lakes every summer, more specifically, Keuka Lake, to spend time on the water. “I just bought a second boat,” he said with a smile. He now owns a sailboat and a motor boat. He has also been to 40 of the 50 states. “My parents are native Norwegians, that’s where the Hans-Erik comes from.” He explained. “I’ve been to Europe, Egypt, Norway several times, and Haiti.” At that moment, Wennberg paused. “That’s where I met my wife 37 years ago.”
He explained with joy that she was employed on a gallery committee in Haiti, and he was there for a photo show. “She qualified for sainthood a long time ago,” he mused. Together, they have two children, a boy and a girl. “They’re actually adopted,” he added, “natural siblings and we adopted them when they were seven and eight.”
Wennberg gulped down the last of his cold Coca-Cola, the perfect way to begin the discussion of baseball, one of his favorite past times. “I’m a Red Sox fan and proud of it!” he announced. He launched into a humorous story of skipping a conference in Chicago to go to a game at Wrigley Field. His advice: “You shouldn’t drink beer in the sunshine.”
Between boating, photography, traveling and professional associations, Wennberg has kept busy and happy as a recently retired professor. As the interview neared its close, I had to question the shirt he was wearing. He simply pointed to the URL below the statement, dscc.org, and revealed that the shirt gets a fair share of comments. I smiled at the elusive answer.