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People And Paperwork: Tim Hinkle Retires

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It’s the end of an era in Lehigh’s Human Resources Office as Tim Hinkle retires on January 9, 2015.

Tim arrived at Lehigh in the mid-1980s, a time when the HR office was a little blue house. “The stone house next to us still had a family living in it,” Tim recalled. “I could see their laundry drying on the line outside my office.”

Things were pretty different 28 years ago in a lot of ways. “Up until just before I arrived, there was only one computer for the whole office,” Tim said. “Of course there was no Internet, but there was also no word processing. All I could really do on my computer were spreadsheets, but I figured out how to use spreadsheets to do letters, too.”

Tim remembers the retirees he met with during those early years and the link they provided to Lehigh’s history. “One gentleman told me that when it snowed in the winter they had a sled and two horses they used to move things around campus from Central Supply,” he said. “The gatehouse that is now the Philosophy Department was really a gatehouse in his day.”

The People Beyond The Paperwork
The work of a benefits manager in an HR office is largely administrative. Tim saw his share of plan changes, automation innovations and the like. “A lot of what we do is helping people deal with problems and making sure our plans work as they are supposed to,” he said.

Tim is especially proud of the help he has provided people in the area of retirement planning. As a former teacher, he naturally started a series of retirement education programs.

“I’ve enjoyed helping people through some of the biggest changes in their lives – the birth of their children, retirement, and yes, even death,” he reflected.

One example he thinks of often took place not long after he joined Lehigh. A young research associate passed away suddenly. Tim had to meet the employee’s parents and help them deal with his life insurance and other matters.

“They were, obviously, just devastated,” he recalled. “I realized then that you can’t make that kind of thing better for someone, but you can help make sure that what they need from Lehigh goes smoothly. You can make that part right.”

Big Plans and No Plans
Observing retirees for three decades has given Tim some important insight. “Most people have been thinking about the money, but haven’t thought as much about how they’ll spend the time,” he said. “So, as I’ve been helping people, I’ve been really thinking about what I want to do.”

Tim sporting his Lehigh hat at the Great Wall of China
Tim Sporting A Lehigh Hat On The Great Wall

He has built a pretty ambitious retirement to-do list: Continuing to travel with his wife (they’ve been to Egypt, China, India and more in just the last few years). Reading for pleasure. Getting some of his play writing published. Joining a choir. Volunteering to help people with their taxes and Medicare enrollment. Seeing matinees. Taking classes to stay mentally active and exercising more to stay physically fit.

At the top of Tim’s list, though, is nothing.

“For a while I don’t plan to do much of anything,” he said. “I’ve read that when you retire, you should spend five or six months not doing anything and use it to figure out what you really want to do.”

One thing that isn’t on his list is working more. “I’ve noticed that retirees are always smiling,” Tim said. “And no one has ever come back and told me that they wished they’d worked longer.”

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