President’s Message

Kevin Whitaker, TUARA President
Kevin Whitaker, TUARA President

Greetings!  I hope all of you are enjoying the hot days of summer wherever you may be.  This past year was a busy one for TUARA–many of the activities you can read about in this newsletter.  I am particularly proud of the student scholarships we awarded, along with the recognition awards we announced at our spring luncheon.

I am excited about the upcoming year and know that the 2023-24 TUARA officers and executive board will be working on your behalf.  Please visit

our website and consider joining our Facebook group; both are great ways to stay connected with everything related to TUARA!

I am honored to serve as your president.  If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please contact TUARA at

Kevin Whitaker
TUARA President, 2023-2025



Four Witt Scholarships Awarded

Witt scholarship awardee Diamond Townsend
Diamond Townsend
Witt scholarship awardee Taylor White
Taylor White
Witt scholarship awardee Ahmed Alshariki
Ahmed Alshariki
Witt scholarship awardee Asya Wright
Asya Wright











TUARA awarded four Robert E. Witt First Generation Scholarships during the 2022-2023 academic year. The scholarships, funded by TUARA members’ donations and dues, provided $500 for each student.

Each recipient must be a sophomore enrolled full-time at UA, a resident of Alabama, have a minimum GPA of 3.0, be the first member of their family to attend college and have demonstrated financial need.

Fall semester recipients are Diamond Townsend of Athens, Alabama, and Taylor White, of Selma, Alabama.  Townsend plans to complete a bachelor’s degree in accounting and join an accounting firm.  White plans to complete a bachelor’s degree in news media and become a broadcast journalist.

Spring semester scholarship winners are Ahmed Alshariki and Asya Wright. Alshariki, from Homewood, Alabama, is majoring in criminology and criminal justice.  He plans to become an intelligence officer with the US Air Force. Wright, from Phenix City, Alabama, plans to obtain credentials to become a pediatric psychologist.

Many UA students have significant unmet financial need – the difference between the cost of attendance and the amount a student receives in financial aid. Supporting the Robert E. Witt First Generation Scholarship is one way to make a difference for students in need. Please help by making a contribution. Make your check payable to The University of Alabama with “Robert E. Witt Scholarship” in the memo line. Mail your donation to TUARA, Box 861493, Tuscaloosa, AL 35486-0013. You will receive a tax-deductible statement from the University.

TUARA Events Offer Something for Everyone

TUARA events during 2022-2023 were practical, informative, and entertaining.

TUARA members socialize at the Campus Drive deck event.
TUARA members socialize at the Campus Drive deck event.

Meet Us at the Deck!
TUARA’s popular “Meet Us at the Deck!” event was held this year on Oct. 10, 2022, at the Campus Drive Parking Deck.  With Fall Study Break folded into the Thanksgiving holiday break, it was no longer possible to take advantage of a holiday to hold the event.  UA’s Parking Services kindly allowed us to use the Campus Drive Parking Deck for our event on a regular day, providing special access to the deck for members. Members used the event to renew parking permits and pick up new hangtags, replace outdated Action Cards, pay TUARA dues, donate to Beat Auburn Beat Hunger, and visit with each other over coffee and doughnuts.  About 35-40 members participated, and 118 pounds of food were collected for Beat Auburn Beat Hunger.

TUARA members Caryl Cooper, Betty Wedgeworth, and Pamela Pruitt enjoy a few moments of socializing at the fall membership meeting.
TUARA members Caryl Cooper, Betty Wedgeworth, and Pamela Pruitt enjoy a few moments of socializing at the fall membership meeting.

Fall Membership Meeting
TUARA members and guests attended a wine and cheese social and membership meeting on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, from 2-4 p.m. at the Leroy McAbee Activity Center Community Room, 3801 Loop Road in Tuscaloosa. In addition to catching up with friends and colleagues, the event included updates on TUARA activities and a brief presentation by Nicole Harshman, executive director of FOCUS 50+, and a presentation about Reading Allies and the Tuscaloosa Educatiton Foundation from Dr. Terry Boman. Tours of the FOCUS facility were available as well.

TUARA members Marie Robbins, Debbie Lane, Cathy Andreen, and Susan McGuire prepare to watch The University of Alabama Men’s Wheelchair Basketball team in action.
TUARA members Marie Robbins, Debbie Lane, Cathy Andreen, and Susan McGuire prepare to watch The University of Alabama Men’s Wheelchair Basketball team in action.

Wheelchair basketball game
TUARA friends and colleagues cheered on The University of Alabama Men’s Wheelchair Basketball team on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, at the Stran-Hardin Arena, located at 410 Peter Bryce Boulevard next to the UA Rec Center. The group met before the game for snacks and fellowship in the VIP area in the mezzanine.

 Meet Your Legislators
TUARA cosponsored the League of Women Voters’ Meet Your Legislators event on Thursday, February 23, 2023, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm, with Kim Bailey moderating.  It is archived on the League of Women Voters of Greater Tuscaloosa Facebook page.

A TUARA Talks webinar was held on Thursday, March 23, 2023, at 10 a.m. Our speaker was Dr. Sharlene Newman, executive director of the Alabama Life Research Institute at The University of Alabama (ALRI). ALRI is a university-wide institute that serves as a focal point for interdisciplinary biopsychosocial research that seeks to investigate the human condition at all levels, from the molecular to the environmental, with the goal of improving the lives of the people of Alabama and beyond. Research areas range from rural health and health disparities to neuroscience, biomedical sciences and environmental sciences and health. Dr. Newman’s presentation described ALRI’s mission and goals, including research themes and current activities.

Dr. Newman obtained her B.E. in electrical engineering and mathematics from Vanderbilt University and her M.S. and Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She trained as a cognitive neuroscientist who uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to understand human neurocognition at Carnegie Mellon University before joining the faculty in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University, where she was promoted to full professor and became the Class of 1948 Herman B. Wells Endowed Professor. She moved to UA in 2019 and is a professor in the department of psychology and adjunct professor in electrical and computer engineering. She was elected as a neuroscience fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2022.

In addition, Erica Thomas, assistant director of PEEHIP, brought us up to speed on United Healthcare’s wellness benefits, including Renew Active and Renew Rewards.

President’s Luncheon and Annual Meeting

President Stuart Bell updated TUARA members on The University of Alabama’s growth and accomplishments during the President’s Luncheon and Annual Meeting.
President Stuart Bell updated TUARA members on The University of Alabama’s growth and accomplishments during the President’s Luncheon and Annual Meeting.
Members enjoyed catching up with friends and colleagues at the annual luncheon.
Members enjoyed catching up with friends and colleagues at the annual luncheon.

One hundred TUARA members and guests attended the President’s Luncheon and annual meeting on April 24, 2023.

University of Alabama President Dr. Stuart Bell hosted the luncheon at the Hotel Capstone and provided an extensive update on the University’s accomplishments over the last year. TUARA’s annual business meeting, awards presentations (see below), and election of officers and executive board members (see also below) followed the luncheon.








Annual TUARA Awards Presented

TUARA presented three awards to recognize outstanding contributions to TUARA and the community at the annual meeting.

Dr. Kevin Whitaker presented the Judy Bonner Award to recipient Cathy Andreen.
Dr. Kevin Whitaker presented the Judy Bonner Award to recipient Cathy Andreen.

 The Judy Bonner Award is presented annually to a TUARA member who exemplifies the leadership and service characteristics set forth during Dr. Judy Bonner’s tenure at The University of Alabama. The Judy Bonner Award for 2023 was presented to Cathy Andreen, who brought her many years of leadership experience and expertise in media relations at UA to TUARA, significantly increasing both timely programming and active communications with the membership.  She always maintains a professional/friendly demeanor; she volunteers for jobs no one is willing to do; and she’s good at talking people into doing things they should have volunteered for to begin with!

OLLI staff display the TUARA Community Service Award.
OLLI staff display the TUARA Community Service Award.

The TUARA Community Service Award recognizes outstanding service to the West Alabama community. The award may be presented to a retired individual who has a record of outstanding community service in West Alabama or an organization that provides outstanding community service that benefits retirees in West Alabama. The 2023 Community Service Award was presented to the UA Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). Throughout its 15-year history, OLLI has offered a wide variety of intellectually stimulating learning opportunities designed for people “50 and better.”  OLLI has filled a gap in learning opportunities for older adults in our community, giving purpose and meaning at a time of transition in our lives when work and family roles are changing.  OLLI makes our community a much more vibrant place to live and is most deserving of the TUARA Community Service Award.

Amy Haines and Chris D’Esposito accept the Partnership Award from Cathy Andreen on behalf of the Department of Parking Services.
Amy Haines and Chris D’Esposito accept the Partnership Award from Cathy Andreen on behalf of the Department of Parking Services.

The Partnership Award is presented to a person or organization that has offered notable service to TUARA.  The 2023 Partnership Award was presented to the UA Department of Parking Services.  Amy Haines, associate director of Parking Services, and her department have gone out of their way to accommodate TUARA in the last two years. In October 2021, they facilitated our first in-person event after COVID by allowing us to use the open lobby area of the deck for our first “Meet Us at the Deck” event.  Timed during UA’s fall break, the deck provided us with a COVID-safe environment and allowed members to renew their retiree parking permits, get new ACT cards, pay TUARA dues, and visit with friends and colleagues in person for the first time in a year and a half.  In October 2022, Parking Services accommodated us for a repeat event, going out of their way to open the parking deck to our members at no charge in the midst of the busy fall semester.  Amy and her team are deserving recipients of the TUARA Partnership Award for their exceptional service to TUARA.



TUARA Welcomes New Board Members

New TUARA Board members
New incoming board members and officers (l. to r.): Gregory Singleton, Debbie Lane, Bill McDonald, Marie Robbins, Dennis Sunal, Kevin Whitaker, Cynthia Sunal, Rick Funk

TUARA is pleased to introduce new executive board members, elected at the annual meeting on April 24:

Debbie Lane

Debbie retired from UA in March 2017 after serving as Associate Vice President of University Relations since September 2006. Before joining UA, she enjoyed a long career in corporate public relations, working with multiple Fortune 100 companies. She joined TUARA in March 2017 and served as chair of the legislative committee from 2017 through 2021. She has served as the director of AERA’s District 10 (higher education institutions throughout the state) for the past two years.

Marie Robbins

Marie retired from her position as senior associate athletics director/senior woman administrator in February 2020 after more than 23 years in the athletics department. She served six years as associate AD for compliance, followed by 17.5 years as associate and senior associate AD in sport administration. She is currently serving as TUARA treasurer and has been elected for a second term.


Rick Funk
Rick joined UA in 1996 as Associate Director of Student Life (later Associate Dean of Students) after 10 years at Penn State. He moved to Admissions in 2003, where he was part of the team that began the efforts that increased out-of-state enrollment from 20 percent to 60 percent. In addition to his professional work, he served as an advisor to Alpha Lambda Delta, Order of Omega, and the Men’s Lacrosse team. Rick retired in June 2021 and has been involved in the Reading Allies program with Tuscaloosa City Schools, United Way VAT chair and the Mystic Krewe of Druids while still serving as advisor to the Jason’s Honorary on Campus and is in his second year on the national council of Alpha Lambda Delta.

Janet Griffith
Janet is a UA graduate who worked in public relations and marketing throughout her 33-year career at UA. She retired in 2014 and is enjoying volunteering in the community, travel and being with her grandchildren at every opportunity.

Dan Meissner
Dan began teaching part-time in the College of Communication & Information Sciences in 1974.  After retiring from an industry position, he joined UA as a regular faculty member in 2007 and retired from UA at the end of 2020.  He has a combined 42 years of service to UA.  In the C&IS Department of Journalism and Creative Media, he taught a variety of courses, coordinated the Visual Journalism sequence and served as News Media Internship Coordinator. He has served on the Faculty Senate, as co-chair of the Senate’s Information Technology & Strategic Communications Committee, and member of the Senate Steering Committee. He has long been involved in civic and community affairs and served 12 years on the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education, eight years as Chair.

Gregory L. Singleton
Greg joined UA in May 1987 as the Founding Director of the Minority Engineering Program. He served in that role until September 2001. He then became the Director of Engineering Student Services/Registrar, a position he held until he retired in May 2022. Greg also served as President of UA’s Black Faculty & Staff Association (2004–2006), a member of the university’s Undergraduate Programs & Services Committee (2012-2022), a member of the Undergraduate Admissions Appeals Committee (2010–2022), and the MLK Realizing the Dream Committee (1990–2022). In addition to his professional work, he was a University Academy Fellow for 2009-2010 and a board member of Friends of WUAL (2005–2021), serving as the Board President 2017-2019.

Bill McDonald
Bill served as Director of Sports Medicine within UA Athletics from 1987 until 2010.  He then served part-time as the football travel coordinator for nearly 10 years, 2010-2019.

Cynthia Szymanski Sunal
Cynthia joined UA in 1989 as Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction. She was named Professor in 1991 and retired in September 2020. She established and served as Director of the Office of Research on Teaching in the Disciplines 2007-2020 in the College of Education.  Cynthia further served the university as Department Chair for Curriculum and Instruction from 2013 to 2020. While Department Chair, she oversaw the development of online graduate degrees at the Master and Educational Specialist levels, and the revision of existing degrees to address the challenges faced in education by teachers and teacher educators.

Dennis Sunal
Dennis joined UA in 1989 after serving in tenured positions at the University of Maryland and West Virginia University. He was appointed to Full Professor in 1991 in science education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction (C&I). He served as coordinator of science education in C&I where he worked with numerous colleagues in departments inside and outside of C&I as PI and Co-PI on over $25 million in external grants for NSF, NASA, DOE and other agencies. Dennis retired in September 2020.

TUARA Members Support the Community with Service Projects

Books for the Black Belt
Tim Hebson, TUARA community service chair, with items donated to Books for the Black Belt.

Beat Auburn Beat Hunger collections at two events
TUARA members had two opportunities to contribute to the annual Beat Auburn Beat Hunger campaign in Fall 2022.  The student-run campaign raises food and funds to help fight hunger and poverty and support local food banks.  The campaign is designed as a friendly competition between students at The University of Alabama and Auburn University during the weeks leading up to the Iron Bowl.  TUARA members were invited to bring canned goods, staples, and other items to the “Meet Us at the Deck” event held in October.  Members were also invited to bring items to the social and membership meeting in November.  Well over 100 pounds of food for the West Alabama Food Bank was donated through these events.

Books for the Black Belt
The Books for the Black Belt campaign is administered by The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development each year to provide new or gently-used books to K-12 students in Alabama black belt counties.  The goal of the campaign is to give a book to each of the students in those counties.  TUARA members were invited to bring donations of books or funds to the President’s Luncheon and Annual Meeting.  We collected 115 books and $360 in monetary contributions to support this worthy cause.

Reading Allies
For the past two years, TUARA has been a community partner of Reading Allies, a University of Alabama System initiative focusing on elementary literacy.  TUARA members who have volunteered for the program have enthusiastically endorsed it as a great way to support our schools.  Volunteers serve as tutors for individual students to guide them through a special curriculum tailored to their needs.  Schools in both the Tuscaloosa City and Tuscaloosa County systems are included.  TUARA encourages all members to consider volunteering for this important program.  Learn more about Reading Allies at

Tuscaloosa Toyota Classic
TUARA members were among the volunteers who provided key support to the 2022 Tuscaloosa Toyota Classic, a professional women’s golf tournament.  The tournament and two pro-ams were held at the Ol’ Colony Golf Course on September 26 – October 2, 2022.  Approximately 120 golfers from around the world who play on the Epsom Tour participated in the event.  Volunteers worked on scoring, social events, and more.  The event was considered a great success and will likely be repeated in the future.

United Way
UA retirees contributed over $24,000 to the 2022 United Way campaign.  Contributions are distributed to service organizations throughout the community.

What I Know Now Project

 What I Know Now is a new initiative developed by TUARA members to support UA retirees caring for a family member diagnosed with dementia, Parkinson’s, or ALS. The new What I Know Now (WIKN) website facilitates one-on-one, private and confidential conversations between UA retirees who are navigating the challenges and uncertainty of new and difficult, ever-present and ever-changing challenges of these diseases and those who are willing to share what they learned during their own journeys.

Project leaders continue to work with the University to identify the best ways to implement WIKN for retirees as well as active employees who are caregivers. Leaders have had multiple conversations with Dr. Nicole Ruggiano, a professor in the College of Social Work about the Caregiver network she has established, and how the one-on-one conversations that WIKN facilitates can be incorporated into her work. Project leaders have also been working with UA’s Health and Wellness department on other opportunities that will provide information about caregiving and that will help link caregivers across UA as well the AERA District 10 universities. We continue to see significant interest in and support for the project.

If you have experiences to share or would like to ask questions about caregiving, What I Know Now is for you.  Go to and click on WIKN for additional information. Note: These interactions are NOT intended to replace medical advice, be a substitute for expert advice, or be directly relevant in every circumstance. Each situation, even those with the same diagnosis, is unique to each person. Conversations should reflect whatever information volunteers choose to share about their personal circumstances as well as the individual experiences of the person they are talking to. Conversations are designed to add to information provided by physicians, multiple online resources, foundations and support groups, and to bridge the gap between general information and individual experiences.

AERA Update

 TUARA is an active unit of the Alabama Education Retirees Association (AERA). AERA is our voice in Montgomery, thanks to their strong legislative program geared to protecting retirees’ Teachers Retirement System funding and PEEHIP benefits. AERA was instrumental in the Alabama Legislature passing the Education Retiree Bonus Check bill during the 2022 Legislative Session.

Within AERA, TUARA is a member of District 10, which represents higher education institutions throughout the state. TUARA member Debbie Lane served as director of District 10 in 2022-2023.

The AERA District 10 annual meeting was held on November 17, 2022, via Zoom.  The agenda included updates on membership, the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions and community service activities from AERA’s president John Paul Jones and executive director Jill Jackson, as well as presentations from representatives of TRS and PEEHIP.  TUARA provided assistance by hosting the virtual webinar on Zoom.

The annual meeting of the AERA was held on May 2, 2023, in Montgomery, and several TUARA members attended.  Our TUARA representatives (Pam Pruitt, Angela Wright, Caryl Cooper, and Susan McGuire) were able to learn more about AERA, vote on pertinent issues, and meet District 10 delegates from other universities.

At the meeting, TUARA was recognized as a Unit of Excellence in recognition for its operations and programs for the 2022-2023 program year.  Congratulations, TUARA!

All TUARA members are encouraged to join AERA in addition to TUARA. They are separate organizations. For information on joining AERA, contact Cynthia Peebles at 205/792-0638 or or visit

Volunteer Hours

TUARA members reported 4,845 volunteer hours for 2022. That’s a big impact on our community and it’s just a fraction of our community service, as only a small number of us report our hours. Why is it important to report your volunteer hours? We share reported hours with AERA. AERA, in turn, uses retirees’ volunteer hours statewide to demonstrate the value that retirees bring to Alabama’s economy and quality of life. That tremendous impact assists efforts to build support for retiree issues and benefits in Montgomery.

Please report any previously unreported hours from Jan. 1, 2023 through the present by emailing your hours, broken down by the categories in the chart below, to

Service hours should include activities in Alabama for which you have not received financial reimbursement. Hours should also not include 1) Sunday school and church attendance, 2) Caring for family members, and 3) Participation in AERA activities on state committees or the Board of Directors. You may include hours spent on TUARA activities, except for attending board meetings.


Categories Examples # of Service Hours
Arts Children’s Hands-On Museum, theater, opera, arts
Church Church related service projects (not attendance for worship services)
Civic Organizational projects, civic and special interest
Health Bloodmobile, clinics, nursing home, nutrition, home care
Education Mentoring, literacy projects
Transportation Shopping, errands, escort services
RSVP/Volunteer Programs Shut-Ins, telephone, etc.
Youth Work Big Brothers Big Sisters, work related to youth programs
TUARA TUARA volunteer activities, administrative work, communications, etc.
Other (specify)
Total Hours    

New Members

TUARA is pleased to welcome new members:

John & Kathleen Barnard
Dorothy Beckham
Kathy Chang
Richard Diehl
Thomas & Denise Downs
Danny & Tina DuBose
Janet Foster
Rick Funk
Susie Long
Daniel Meissner
Warren & Adrienne Spruill
Cynthia & Dennis Sunal
Beverly Thorn
Thomas Carl Wilson

For information about joining TUARA or renewing your membership, visit today and click on Membership Application. Invite your retired and soon-to-be-retired friends and colleagues to join as well!

In Memoriam

TUARA honors the memory of members who have died and expresses our sympathy to their families. Please notify Betty Wedgeworth at if you know of deceased individuals who should be added to the list.

Colgan Hobson Bryan
James Edward Dudgeon
James Read Holland (2019)
Hillary Jeffcoat (2022)
John Mego
Joseph Neggers
Barbara Rickard
Gwin Smith (2021)
Roy Smith (2020)
Hugh Stegall
Cherry Thomas
Marly Thomas (2021)
Emma Donald Wadsworth

The University of Alabama Retirees Association
Executive Board 2023-2024


Kevin Whitaker, President
Debbie Lane, Vice President/President Elect
Cathy Andreen, Immediate Past President
Pam Pruitt, Vice President for Membership
Angela Wright, Recording Secretary
Betty Wedgeworth, Database Secretary
Marie Robbins, Treasurer



Kevin Almond
Karen Chapman
Caryl Cooper
Rick Funk
Janet Griffith
Tim Hebson
Beverly Kellen
Bill McDonald
Dan Meissner
Gregory L. Singleton
Michael Spearing
Cynthia Sunal
Dennis Sunal