Retirees' News: March 2002

The University of Manitoba Retirees' News
Volume Six, Issue One
March 2002

How Has Your Winter Been?

Some of us stayed in Manitoba this past winter. Others of us have traveled to distant places in Canada, the United States or elsewhere to escape the cold. And there are those retirees who now live elsewhere in Canada or abroad and did not experience a Manitoba winter. We all have our stories about how we have spent the winter months.

You are invited to share your winter experiences by attending the President’s Reception for Retirees. It is being held on Saturday, April 20th. The place is The University Club, (formerly the Faculty Club) in Pembina Hall, Fort Garry Campus. The reception begins at 2:00 p.m. and will run until around 4:00 p.m.

The best place to park is Parking Lot F, right beside the Powerhouse. For those who don’t mind a short walk, use the parking lot beside the old Engineering Building

We will begin our program with our guest speaker, Dr. Anita Brûlé-Babel, who is a professor in the Department of Plant Science at the University. Her topic is, "Genetically Modified Organisms: Development, Issues and Regulation".

Most of us know one genetically modified product, canola. This is because we use canola oil for cooking and baking. And it is the main ingredient in various brands of margarine. The development of this highly successful oilseed was largely through the efforts of plant breeders in our Faculty of Agriculture.

At the time canola was brought into production, there was little controversy about genetically modified organisms. Now there is a considerable amount of discussion in the media about them. Some of it is informative, some less so. The outcome of this discussion has been uncertainty and controversy about whether such developments are beneficial to society. Anita’s presentation we help us to become better informed about what is taking place and where we can learn more.

Following Anita’s presentation, President Emőke Szathmáry will bring us up to date about the many exciting things that have happened at the University since our last reception. Norm Long will tell us about the United Way Campaign. John Mundie will highlight the results of the survey of retirees regarding benefits.

Refreshments and conversation with fellow retirees will close out the afternoon. So mark your calendar and plan to attend our 11th President’s Reception. Please give Kathy Vitt a call at 474-8359 or send her an e-mail at by April 12th and let her know you are coming. Also remember spouses and retiree survivors are most welcome.

It’s a Year to Celebrate

On February 28th the University held its 125th Birthday Party and launched a year of celebration to highlight this occasion. For those living in and close to Winnipeg, there will be several events on the campuses and in locations throughout the city to which you are invited. For example: at the Museum of Man and Nature there will be a collection of photographs covering the past 125 years showing how the University has impacted our community. This exhibit runs from March 9th to August 25th. It will then go the Conservatory at Assiniboine Park from September 7th to 21st.

At the Winnipeg Art Gallery, several artists from the University will have their works on display in an exhibit put on by the Manitoba Society for Artists. This will take place from May 1st to July 28th.

On November 23rd there will be a gala wrap-up evening, featuring the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. This gala event is being planned in partnership with the WSO. It will be a wonderful way to end a year of celebration.

You can become part of the celebration by sending your reason(s) to celebrate this 125th Anniversary to uminfo If your reason is used, your name will be entered in a draw to win a PalmPilot M100 Organizer supplied by the BookStore.

One memento you can easily acquire, wherever you live, is the new commemorative stamp put out by Canada Post. It is great picture of our Administration Building. Another is Jack Bumsted’s latest book, “The University of Manitoba – An Illustrated History”. This 228-page book will bring back many memories through hundreds of illustrations and comments by Jack.

You are encouraged to learn more about the Celebration by looking up the web site found on the University’s Home Page at

Getting to know your benefits

It was evident from some of the written responses to the survey that several retirees were unfamiliar with what was contained within some of the benefits. Given this circumstance, it has been decided to highlight a particular benefit in the next few editions of the Retirees’ News.

The first group is medical supplies. The following items are covered when they are medically necessary: rental of a wheelchair, hospital bed or iron lung; prosthesis and surgical support garments as identified in the group policy; splints, braces, crutches and casts; for insulin dependent diabetes, diabetic equipment limited to blood glucose monitoring machines and blood letting devises; insulin, insulin syringes and Clinitest or similar home chemical testing supplies for diabetics; post-mastectomy external breast prostheses and post-mastectomy support brassieres, prescription lenses or contact lenses after cataract surgery and wigs for cancer patients. There are some restrictions regarding the amount of supplies covered in terms of number of units or dollar costs. You should contact the Staff Benefits Office at (204) 474-7428 if you wish to avail yourself of these supplies.

What you told us about the benefits available to retirees.

We received 587 responses out of a possible 1,500 to our questionnaire, a fabulous response. In comparing the characteristics of those who responded with the population, it was determined the sample was representative of the total group.

Retirees were asked to rate their satisfaction with the current benefits program. These included: basic life insurance, optional life insurance, prescription drugs, semi-private
hospital coverage, ambulance services, medical supplies, medical services, basic dental coverage, major dental coverage and orthodontic coverage. The number of persons rating each of these benefits varied from 93% of the respondents for basic dental coverage to 63% for optional life insurance. It is believed the differences in response rates reflect the respondents’ knowledge about and use of the particular benefits.

Except for the prescription drugs benefit, over 50% of the respondents were satisfied to very satisfied with the benefits listed above. Only 47% of the respondents rated the prescription drugs benefit as satisfactory to very satisfactory. About 23% of the respondents were neutral as to their level of satisfaction. Depending on the particular benefit, only 7% to 16% of the respondents were very dissatisfied with a benefit.

Regarding more flexibility as to benefit choices and decisions, a high proportion of the respondents (44%) indicated they did not know whether they wanted more flexibility. In contrast, 39% of the respondents were interested in more flexibility and 17% were not. The range of those wanting more flexibility varied by age groups, ranging from a low of 33% for those 76 and older to 47% in the 61 to 65 age group.

As for changes to the current benefits package, 62% of the respondents would like to see an increase in the benefit for prescription drugs and 54% wanted an increase in the limit for major dental coverage. With respect to the other benefits, the responses favoring no change ranged from 61% to 79%.

From the list of possible additional benefits, 90% of the respondents would like to see the supplementary health benefit extended beyond age 75; 72% of the respondents were interested in out-of- country travel insurance; 71% were interested in vision care, followed by 56% interested in elder care. There was very little interest in adding other benefits. There were some significant differences among the various age groups with respect to having additional benefits. Generally these differences reflect the circumstances facing retirees at this moment in their retirement.

Those additional benefits ranked highly in terms of interest also received the most affirmative responses regarding willingness to pay. For example, 59% of the respondents wanting supplementary health after age 75 were willing to make a contribution towards the cost of this benefit. Likewise, 42% of the respondents wanting the addition of a
vision care benefit were willing to pay something toward the cost.

For those wanting more information, a condensed version of the full report has been placed on the retiree web site. It can be accessed through the University’s Home Page.

The complete report has been forwarded to the Staff Benefits Committee of the University for its consideration.

Having trouble with your computer or a computer program?

Have you found that when you look up the Help menu that comes with your computer operating system or program you cannot find the topic relating to your problem? And the manual is silent. Have you contacted a person with the right expertise but somehow you find you can’t comprehend what that person is telling you? Or, you have contacted the vendor who sold you the computer and find he/she is willing to help you at a cost of $35 or more per hour. These are problems that many of us have had. To help overcome them, we are planning to set up a chat room whereby retirees can help each other. In order to get started, we need people with some computer expertise who are willing to share their knowledge with others. If you are such a person, please send your name to Ian Rollo at rollo@Ms.Umanitoba.CA. If we get a sufficient number of volunteers, we will establish the chat room as part of the retirees web site.

Retirees provide outstanding support for the University United Way Campaign

Retirees continue to provide outstanding support for those less fortunate than themselves through the University United Way Campaign. For the 2001 Campaign, 231 retirees pledged $56,825 toward the Campaign. This works out to be $246 per retiree. The total raised by members of the University, including retirees, was $329,619. The contribution by retirees was 17.2% of that total. Last year 256 retirees contributed to the United Way. Their average gift was $234. Thanks to Norm Long for heading up the retirees’ portion of the Campaign and to those who worked with him.

Building on Strengths Campaign

At the same time as the University celebrates its past, it is looking towards its future. In so doing, on November 22, 2001, it officially launched its major fundraising campaign, “Building on Strengths”. This broadly focussed campaign is designed to secure support from all sectors of society: government, private sector, academic and support staff, students, alumni, interested citizens and University retirees.

There is almost an endless number of things that you can support in this campaign: from providing support for the purchase of books for the library to ensuring those with a desire to learn have access to the University; from supporting the acquisition of technologically advanced equipment to making sure we attract the best teachers and researchers to our campuses.

In considering this opportunity, it is not so much a matter of the size of your contribution as your willingness to participate. By acknowledging your support as a retiree you will encourage others in the community to become involved.

Within the next short while, you will be receiving some information from the Building on Strengths Committee inviting you to join with other retirees in this exciting campaign. Please read it carefully and learn about how you can contribute to maintaining the University as one of our country’s outstanding institutions of higher learning.

We will meet again

Plans are already underway for our President’s Reception in the fall reception. It will be held on Saturday, October 19th. Look for more details in the September edition of the Retirees’ News.

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