Regis Philbin, 79, last week announced his retirement from the talk show he has hosted for 28 years, saying, “There is a time that everything must come to an end for certain people on camera—especially certain old people.” Sen. Joe Lieberman, 68, of Connecticut said last week he would not seek a fifth term, with the New York Times reporting that he decided to retire rather than risk defeat. Then there was the news that serial retirer, Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, 41, has filed retirement papers, maybe for keeps—which would give him time to pursue his passion for photography.* These three departures bring to mind the many prominent people who should be inspired to give themselves a gold watch and go away.
Successful people, who are used to running things, to being applauded, to just being there, often view retirement as a kind of obliteration. But the example of Tom Brokaw, who vacated his anchor chair at NBC at the age of 64, demonstrates that when you get out gracefully, you can make occasional appearances as an elder statesman and still be welcome. This is not a call for mandatory retirement. Many people, such as George Will, 69, Barbara Walters, 81, and Betty White, 89, are still performing undiminished. It’s a call for selective retirement. For some who should go, the problem is they’re producing work of such an inferior quality that they risk destroying their reputations. For others, the sad fact of the depredations of time means they can’t discharge their duties effectively. Then there are those who have declared—uncollegially—they plan to go when they are found slumped over their desks. Here is a slide show of worthy candidates, along with a plea. Please send your retiree suggestions to email@example.com or write them in the comments below. We’ll run a follow-up with your best ideas.
Correction, Jan. 25, 2011: Brett Favre’s name was originally misspelled.