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A new era for the Retirees Association of Queen's

The Retirees Association of Queen’s brings together retired employees of the university to engage them in social and educational activities with their former colleagues while also taking on an advocacy role for their interests.

Now, in its 18th year, RAQ is entering a new era with a membership that is bigger than ever, a new home, and enhanced support from the university.

Earlier this year, Queen’s Human Resources announced that it would provide financial support to replace the annual fees to be a member.

The result is that all Queen’s retirees can become a member for life. All they need to confirm their interest is to provide their email address.

“Since RAQ was created in 2002, in order to support our operations we had to charge a small membership fee for retirees and associates, spouses and such. It was a minimal amount but it had to be renewed annually. And people can forget about renewals, it happens all the time with newspaper and magazine subscriptions,” says Diane Kelly, former University Legal Counsel and the current President of RAQ. “Thanks to the advocacy by a number of senior members of RAQ, and an appreciation I think at the university administrative level that this organization was worth supporting, the university has now given us a small stipend and has opened membership to every retiree.”

Since late May, membership has increased from 400 to just under 1,000.

Around the same time the university also confirmed that RAQ would have a new home, sharing space in a house on King Street with the Queen’s Women’s Association. This move provides office space as well as a meeting room where, once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, RAQ can host its board meetings and related events.

The RAQ events, such as the popular Speakers Series, have moved online  due to the pandemic, which has allowed organizers to increase the number of participants. This could be part of future events but the preference will be to host in-person events, providing the important community connection for members.

Retirees Association of Queen’s was launched in April 2002, with more than 175 retirees attending the inaugural meeting. RAQ’s mission in the words of founding RAQ President John Meisel was “to undertake interesting and pleasant activities catering to a variety of tastes, to keep a watchful eye on the developments affecting our physical and mental well-being, and to facilitate the social ties we forged while we were working together.”

Fostering a positive, lasting relationship benefits the university as well as the retirees, Kelly explains.

“Queen’s invests so much in its employees across the university and there’s no point in letting that valuable relationship go after retirement. Queen’s is about community, and it continues for staff and faculty through RAQ,” she says. “There are benefits that go both ways. The connection is hugely important to the university and to retirees themselves.”

For example, when the university recently switched its benefits provider to Manulife, retirees were given the opportunity to buy into expanded coverage, including dental and out-of-country medical expenses. RAQ has worked hard to communicate this new opportunity so that Queen’s retirees and their survivors can buy into the much-needed coverage.

With the new support, RAQ has a more solid foundation and is able to reach out further, continue to expand membership, and introduce new programming.

With many opportunities ahead, RAQ has created a strategic planning group, and is surveying members to find out their interests and what direction they would like to see the group take in the future.

“The strategic planning exercise is important because we have a sense that, of course our membership has grown, but it’s also more diverse than it had been. We have had a stable group of older retirees,” says Donna Lounsbury, Membership Chair. “But now we are getting significant numbers of people who have just retired and retirees who are geographically dispersed, so we need to think about what do we need to do differently to appeal to these different groups and represent them properly.”

Other new developments include RAQ Travel, delayed due to COVID-19, which provides curated small group trips to various locations around the world, as well as a bursary for Queen’s students returning to studies after a period of absence.

This new reality is due in large part to the advocacy of RAQ’s leadership as well as the openness of Queen’s administration to make change.

“We are really appreciative of the support. Our thanks must go to Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) Donna Janiec, Associate Vice-Principal (Human Resources) Steve Millan, and Associate Vice-Principal (Finance) Steve Tanner,” says Kelly. “They were all so supportive and listened to us throughout the process. We also would like to thank Principal Patrick Deane for his support.”

Learn more about the Retirees Association of Queen’s.