Monday, December 11, 2023

Opportunities keep knocking for Highland Village senior

Joe Seiler of Highland Village, showing off an award from the U.S. Department of Labor, has unsuccessfully tried to retire several times. (Photo by What’s That Guy’s Name?)

Joe Seiler is finally retired now. Well, maybe.

Sitting comfortably in his Highland Village home last month, Seiler, 86, preferred to call his current situation a hiatus more than an official retirement.

After all, he has formally retired three times — including once when he was 76 — only to leap right back into solving the world’s problems a short while later. Some of those issues were at the federal and state level while others were as local as his backyard of Denton County. But they all required his unique skillset.

If asked, he’d be doing something inspirational as soon as tomorrow, though the COVID-19 pandemic and nagging health problems have forced him to stay hunkered down at home and slow down a bit — at least for now.

“Life is boring when you’re stuck at home, and your kids have to get your groceries for you,” Seiler said with a laugh. “I’ve had a busy life, and I’ve been known as a workaholic. I’m still keeping tabs on my profession and giving advice when asked. If I end up having something to do, I won’t be retired for much longer.”

Just talking to Seiler for 30 minutes will make you feel like you haven’t done enough with your own life. He has spent his life promoting the welfare of others, and his resume is riddled with awards and distinguished achievements from the likes of Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and even Prince Charles. His unique skillset has made him the go-to problem-solver for everything from job legislation to installing poverty programs, educational programs to narrow the public school achievement gap, federal and state aptitude tests, and more.

He’s held jobs with the U.S. Department of Labor, the Ford Foundation, and worked on top-secret plans for the Pentagon. And on a volunteer basis, he’s designed programs for the Lewisville Senior Activity Center and worked hand-in-hand with a variety of local organizations such as the Salvation Army, the Lewisville Education Foundation, CCA, and Lewisville ISD.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Seiler’s notable experiences also include:

  • Helping to create the Scantron bubble test answer sheet
  • Working on the first aptitude test to select computer programmers for employment
  • Representing White House in foreign assignments in Israel, London, and Paris
  • Testifying at the Watergate Grand Jury and civil trial in Federal court
  • Lecturing at Harvard, Puerto Rico University, and San Francisco State University
  • Designing a video on “Securing Employment for Ex-offenders” that placed first for a community service award from the International Academy of Communication Arts and Sciences
  • Helping to create the first child daycare center in a federal building
  • Commendation from the Royal Jubilee Trust Foundation in London, England
  • Publishing more than 30 articles in journals and other media
  • Being Designated as the 2016 Volunteer of the Year by the Lewisville Senior Activity Center

With that type of resume, it’s easy to see why guys like Joe Seiler don’t ever really retire.

“I’ve had three careers and one volunteer career,” he said. “I never really gave much thought to how long I’d work.”

Seiler’s career began in 1957. He had just received his Master’s in Industrial Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and was hired by the U.S. Air Force in New York to be part of a group that was developing job promotion tests.

His job included test construction, aptitude tests, interests tests, ability tests, etc. He did such a great job that he got a post at the Labor Department a year later, where he stayed until 1984.

During those 26 years, Seiler had his hands in everything from contracts and grants administration to policy development, job placement services, federal bonding programs to help employers with the hiring process, and the development of improved aptitude test validation research procedures.

By the end of that run, he was 50 and decided to retire early. But that didn’t last long, as he quickly became the Vice President for Research at the Remediation and Training Institute to develop nontraditional remedial education curriculums. He worked there for six years, then retired again.

“I was then offered this job to be the national director of the Federal Bonding Program that started back in 1966,” Seiler said. “I started there in 1990 and worked there until 2010 when I was 76.”

By this point, Seiler was living in Texas with his late wife, Myrna. They had two children and two grandchildren, and it was the perfect time to officially slow down. For a few years, Seiler did some volunteer work here and there but was living the retired life for the most part. That is until he took an interest in one granddaughter’s art career.

“I had taken her to a special art course at an art league in Lewisville. She was the youngest member there; in fact, she was the only one under 30 years old,” Seiler said. “I stayed in the back of the room while she did her thing, and while I was there, I kept looking around for something to read. Laying on the table was the contract that the art league had with the City of Lewisville. I had all this experience in contracts and proposal writing. I read it, and when the course ended, I went to the director and said, ‘The next time you put in a proposal, I’m willing to help you make it better if you want.’”

Word began to spread, and more and more organizations began asking if he could do the same for them. He became an advisor and board member for Empowering America’s Future and did that for three more years. He later became the director of program development at the Lewisville Senior Activity Center and partnered with LISD to teach senior citizens at the center how to use iPads.

The award-winning intergenerational program, “Seniors Teaching Seniors,” was first conceived, financed, and implemented in 2014 and continues to exist. In this activity, Lewisville High School seniors teach senior citizens how to use handheld communications technology. The program first covered iPads, then expanded to iPhones and other smartphones, laptops, and other communication devices.

“My wife was in the ceramics program at the Senior Center, so I went with her but got tired of it pretty quickly,” Seiler said. “But people got to know me, and they knew my background. The Seniors Teaching Seniors program was a huge success and still is.”

Seiler isn’t sure what will be on his to-do list next. But one thing is for sure — there will be something.

“I’ll be active doing something,” he said. “I’m just on a hiatus.”

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