Risner donates his salary for scholarships

Dec 20, 2011

THETA ETA (North Alabama) — University of North Alabama Professor Greg Risner, North Alabama ’78, loves what he does. He has taught in the school’s education department for more than 31 years. This year, he’ll take a pay cut to the tune of about $78,000.

And he couldn’t be happier.

Risner said he first became interested in the Raymond Isbell retirement program when he found out his insurance rates would skyrocket in the next five years if he didn’t retire by Nov. 30.

“I love what I do and I wasn’t ready to go,” said Risner, who teaches in the elementary education program. “I was in a quandary because of the insurance increasing. It was disheartening because I’m the happiest professor (at UNA).

Teaching is my life, and UNA is a great place where I have terrific colleagues who are also close friends.”

Risner said he spoke with Donna Jacobs, dean of the College of Education, who told him about the year-long Raymond Isbell program.

The program began when Isbell, a former UNA professor, made the decision to retire in the early 1990s. Isbell then volunteered to continue teaching his course load for a year under the stipulation that his salary would go toward scholarships.

Risner said he felt strongly that Isbell’s decision was right for him, too.

“I graduated from Vanderbilt. I have four degrees, and now I’m making less than the students I teach,” Risner joked. “But I want to do this. I want to give back, because somebody did this for me. I could not have (gone to Vanderbilt) unless they had endowed scholarships for me. So now, it’s time for me to give back.”

UNA Director of Planned Giving Barry Morris, who also participates in the Isbell program, explained that Risner wouldn’t necessarily be working for free.

Anyone who retires from an institution that participates in the Retirement Systems of Alabama can work part time in the state and still collect state retirement, Morris said.

There is a maximum earning amount set by the state. In 2011, that maximum amount is $22,000, which is what Risner will be paid.

Professors with a doctorate degree can typically earn more than $100,000 a year, Morris said. So when Risner’s earnings drop to $22,000, the approximately $78,000 remaining will be put into an endowed scholarship, called the Gregory Paul Risner New Teacher Scholarship.

Risner said he’ll be classified as part time during his year of participation in the program, even though he’s teaching the same course load and advising students. He will no longer be participating in activities such as sitting on committees or conducting research.

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