A tribute by Dick Sommers
Minor Myers, Jr., was born in Copley, Ohio, August 13, 1942. A Government and International Relations major by declaration and a de facto historian by inclination, he particularly learned from Mr. Reginald Lang and Miss Catherine Boyd, both inside and outside the classroom.
He founded the Carleton Conservative Club in 1962. Also our junior year, he co-wrote with seniors Fred Schlipf and Gary Kampen, “The Road to Dunsinane,” a parody on “Macbeth,” starring among others our classmates Bruce David and Richard Figge.
During the mourning period for President Kennedy in 1963, Minor was one of the students who joined faculty in playing the chapel organ. At our 40th reunion, Carleton posthumously recognized him as an “Alumnus of Distinguished Achievement.”
After a year of graduate work at Duke, he earned his doctorate in political philosophy at Princeton in 1972. He served as Professor and Political Science Department Chairman at Connecticut College, 1968-84; as Provost and Dean of Faculty at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, 1984-89; and as President of Illinois Wesleyan University, 1989-2003.
Beyond this spare C.V. shines Dr. Myers the educator-scholar. With his breadth of interests, he published eight books and numerous articles both in his own discipline and also in such far-ranging subjects as the Society of the Cincinnati (an influential Revolutionary War veterans organization), colonial furniture and interior decoration, higher education and educators, and 18th Century music.
Indeed, he not only wrote about music from the 1700s but also collected musical scores and instruments from that period and played those instruments. At the time of his passing, he was writing a book on polymaths: people who excel in more than one discipline. He had in mind Aristotle, Leonardo, and Galileo; in such company, he should have included himself!
All the while, he remained committed to his students and made sure he always taught classes, not just while Professor but also while Provost and President. He elevated Illinois Wesleyan to national stature in quality of students and curriculum and earned the university a Phi Beta Kappa chapter – to which he was elected!
He also oversaw major fund-raising and building programs, including construction of a five-story library. Understandably, he built it right across the street from the President’s house. Next to that residence now stands the “Minor Myers, Jr., Welcome Center,” which fittingly houses the Admissions Office and Career Center to bring good students in and send them forth.
Yet even beyond President-Professor Myers radiates Minor the man. He was dignified and distinguished without being aloof; correct and proper without being rigid; friendly and cordial without being effusive; insightful and inspirational; wise and witty; engaging and encouraging; understanding and supportive – in sum, a true gentleman.
His warm and ready laugh came not just from his mouth but from his inner being. He was so good that he brought out good in others. All these qualities made him a wonderful roommate and a dear friend.
Minor Myers passed away, July 22, 2003. He is survived by his wife of thirty-three years, Ellen, and by their two sons, Minor III and Joffre.
Submitted by Larry Phelps
I have two strong memories of Minor, together reflecting the strong breadth of his knowledge and interests.
One was a tongue in cheek organization we set up, the “Adam Sedgewick Society”. Aside from one or two mimeographed newsletters, our main activity was a trip around northeast Iowa one spring break visiting fossil beds.
In our attic I still have some of the fossils we collected, although I believe he took the best along somewhere. I think we were the only two members.
The second memory is of his talking me into going up to the Cities to experience the Metropolitan Opera on their spring tour. We saw Tosca, which, as they say, blew me away.
It happened that Tosca was sung by Leontyne Price: I had never realized the human voice could be so beautiful. It led to a lifetime of enjoyment of opera, for which I greatly thank Minor.