Introducing ‘Emerita' Jean Simutis
The first lecturer in university history to be awarded the honored status
Cal State East Bay Lecturer Jean Simutis is ending her career much the way she started it — with a distinction of firsts.
“I was the first woman to get a Ph.D. in math from UC Davis,” Simutis said. “Many women graduated the year after me, so I’m not sure how I managed to be the first in line, but here I am again at the end of my career, being first again.”
Simutis is referring to a special recognition she was recently awarded by Cal State East Bay President Leroy M. Morishita, who approved her for emeritus status following her 27-year career with the Department of Mathematics.
She is the first lecturer in university history to be granted the recognition, which up until now has been reserved for tenured faculty. (Guidelines for awarding emeritus status vary within the CSU system, and each campus is allowed to handle the inclusion of lecturers in its own way.)
Simutis, who has served as liaison for her fellow math faculty at the Concord campus and primarily taught there, was nominated for the honor by Professor and Department Chair Julie Glass.
“Jean has been an integral and important part of the department, and her contributions to our students and to our curriculum have been substantial,” Glass said. “When I think about honoring someone whose primary responsibility has been instructional, which is the case for our lecturers, she is someone who clearly deserves this recognition. This honor is based on a career-long contribution to our university.”
Technically speaking, emeritus status does have a few perks tied to it, such as lifelong access to the university library, a parking pass without expiry date and a campus email address. But, there’s an intangible quality to the distinction as well.
“It’s a recognition that your contributions mattered and you will continue to be recognized — that you will continue to be thought of as influential among the faculty,” Simutis said. “It’s the university saying to me, ‘You did a good job while you were here and we want you to stay as part of the university.’”
In addition to teaching, Simutis has also been twice named the Concord campus’ Professor of the Year (1995-96 and 2001-02), collaborated with other faculty members on course materials for the university’s upcoming semester conversion, and she currently serves as chair of the Budget Committee and on the advisory board for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Perhaps most important, she has played a key role in developing and implementing curriculum for students who intend to become K-12 educators, a value Glass emphasized in her recommendation letter to the university:
“We have repeatedly relied on Jean to teach courses for future teachers, which require specialized knowledge in pedagogy and content,” the nomination read. “These courses have an impact beyond [Cal State East Bay]. The students in these classes go on to teach middle school and elementary school — carrying with them their notions of mathematics as a discipline and a way of thinking.”
Though she is officially retired, Simutis will continue teaching as a “retired annuitant” and plans to spend more time with her three grandchildren. She says the “fancy parking pass” she received makes her feel welcome on campus, and she’s already using the library to study up for a historical tour of England next year. But, being a lifelong lecturer is a choice she’s never regretted.
“I really put my efforts into teaching students and teaching teachers … if you train future elementary teachers and they become good mathematics teachers, they touch hundreds of lives. And I realized [years ago] that as a lecturer, I could spend more time with my family. It made more sense for me to go home and be a Girl Scout leader than do research or serve on committees. I was respected and appreciated as a math teacher, and for my contributions to the department, and I’ve been able to have work-life-family balance.”