American Express CompanyImage via WikipediaBy Bob Andelman
July 2007

Felice Schumacher is a recently retired New College alumni (’81).

She retired last November at the ripe old age of 46.
The 20 preceding years were spent as a human resources professional at a series of top corporations, including Macy’s, American Express, and Coach. When making the case for her early retirement, Schumacher implies a correlation between corporate years and dog years, which are generally credited at a 7:1 ratio.

“In Coach years, I’m an old-timer,” she says, chuckling. “I don’t think I had more than one uninterrupted vacation in the seven years I was at Coach. I needed to stop working.”

Fortunately for her, Coach went through an initial public offering (IPO) shortly after she joined. “The company stock went crazy,” she says, “and I got to be a part of that.”

That good fortune enabled her early retirement financially. But an equally important factor was the sudden , a few years earlier, of a boss at 58. “I thought, ‘Maybe there’s more to life than working.’ I had a picture of him in my office from the time he died until the time I retired.”

Even “retirement” is a loose term for Schumacher, who spends one week per month back at Coach. She also figures that if she decided to return to the rat race in a few years, she still has plenty of time to try something new. And besides learning yoga and taking long walks on the beach, Schumacher is giving back to the college she believes gave so much to her, working with New College now on its mentor program and other initiatives.

“I wanted to retire the minute I graduated from New College,” she says. “Not because I was exhausted but because I loved Sarasota so much. I always wanted to get back here.”

She and her husband, Dennis Rees, bought a Sarasota School of Architecture house in Siesta Key in 2003 and restored it, fulfilling her long-held dream of retiring here.

“I absolutely attribute a lot of what I used in my professional career to New College,” Schumacher says. “I went to a Ph.D program at Vanderbilt from New College. Six months into it, I realized that my New College academic experience and the rest of the world’s academic experience was very different. At New College you have to be very self-motivated. It’s not a place a lot of people stand over you with rules. If you’re not self-motivated, you’re going to fail.”

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