Minor Myers’ death inspires
outpouring of fond recollections

Myers (above) inspired others to pursue their passions. One of his own passions was music, and he often played a harpsichord he kept in his home. (Photo by Marc Featherly)

One bright spot in the otherwise bleak tragedy of Minor Myers’ untimely death was the outpouring of memories that flowed from the people he encountered during his time at Illinois Wesleyan.

Providing an outlet for expression of those fond memories, the University offered an electronic bulletin board on its Web site that quickly filled with remembrances from people whose lives were touched by Myers’ presence, both on Illinois Wesleyan’s campus and across the globe.

Among those global entries was one from Dr. Kenji Tanaka, chair of the Tanaka Memorial Foundation, who had collaborated with Myers on several academic projects and who remembered his “scholar’s appreciation of Japanese culture, as well as Western art and music. He was truly a Renaissance man.” Closer to home were recollections posted by colleagues from other colleges and universities, including Ellen Hurwitz, president of New England College and former provost and dean of faculty at IWU, who wrote: “He was a true evangelist of the liberal arts who graced IWU and all of higher education with his authentic leadership.”

Illinois Wesleyan professors’ contributions included poems by both Nancy Sultan, associate professor of Greek & Roman Studies, and Robert Bray, the R. Forrest Colwell Professor of English. A composition by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Rebecca Gearhart shared a recipe for “African egg drop soup,” a cross-cultural concoction that she remembers fascinated Myers when it was served to him at last year’s International House celebration of the Chinese New Year.

Especially poignant were tributes paid by the University’s alumni and current students, who remembered Myers with whimsy, admiration, and deep fondness. A few of those tributes appear below — all can be seen (or added to) by visiting the bulletin board at www.iwu.edu/~iwunews/Myers.

* * *

What I remember the most about Minor Myers is the night that I was invited to his house for dinner. Several of my friends and classmates, including Tom Hladish, Jeff Stumpo, Anita Kesavan, and Katie Brokaw (all from the class of 2002) attended. We toured his home and looked at his prized collection of rare books that was offset by a harpsichord. Conversation went the general direction of what it was like to have multiple majors and minors; he always tried to encourage students’ interests in many disciplines, no matter how unrelated they appeared on the surface. The kindness he showed me, and the interest that he showed in what I was doing, made an impression on me. It is partially he who inspired me to continue on into graduate school — hopefully to culminate in two Ph.D.s. — Erika Kamholz Briesacher ’02

* * *

I join with all the people whose lives Minor touched and influenced in both the sadness of his loss, and gratitude for his life. He was a rare human being with wide passions and the genius to inspire larger visions …. May we pay tribute by trying harder in our own lives to follow his lead. — Gerri Wenger Friedberg ’60

* * *

I warmly remember the fall night of 2002 when a group of five or six of us accidentally assembled on the porch of Blackstock Hall with a guitar. After a few songs, Charles began playing blues chords, inviting everyone else to invent lyrics. The best song of the night was the ode to President Myers — each person on the porch contributing a verse.

The interest and wonder of Myers captured that night reignited in our Practical Criticism course with Dr. [Pamela] Muirhead when we discovered that every one of us was a major Minor “groupie.” When Dr. Muirhead suggested he come to our class, we were ecstatic; when she told us we were going to visit him at his home, we were in utter shock. Together, we had (deservedly) elevated President Minor Myers to rock-god status.

You have never seen a group of college students more giddy than the 15 of us standing on his doorstep that day, waiting for him to answer the door. I think a few of the girls may have even fainted. President Myers was bashful and curious about our interest, but he happily gave us the grand tour, sharing his home and passions with a grateful group of 20-year-olds.

Everyone laughed (including Myers) when Dr. Muirhead passed out the hand-made name tags that said, “I hung out with President Minor Myers, jr.” with the date underneath. We all saved those name tags, though, and I know that I will treasure mine forever.” — Megan Thoma ’05

* * *

Books are gifts you can open again and again. Libraries preserve books and knowledge in a variety of formats for the ages. Minor Myers’ leadership in providing Illinois Wesleyan University with a library we can all be proud of is a legacy that will be appreciated and enjoyed by future generations of students. This library, its collections, and its dedicated staff are wonderful gifts from a special person who will be missed.” — Barbara J. Ford ’68, past president of the American Library Association

* * *

“Although I graduated in 1948, I felt closer to IWU since I met President Myers, jr. It has been a privilege to know him and listen to what he has had to say. He gave so much to all of us.” — Anne Guckenberger Delo