UNews bids farewell to a cornerstone of SLU journalism

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UNews bids farewell to a cornerstone of SLU journalism

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It would be a feat of unimaginable lengths to sum up this Editorial Board’s gratitude and reflections – not to mention the thoughts of 42 years worth of UNewsers – into this 900-word piece, but we will try to keep this as tight as possible, in the spirit of the man that this piece is dedicated to: Dr. Avis Meyer.  No words can adequately describe what he has done for us as individuals, for the paper and for the University.

Dr. Meyer can be described in many ways: SLU Communication professor, English scholar, UNews advisor, former resident of the Samuel Cupples House, mentor, friend, father figure… the list goes on. But first and foremost, and as he himself would want to be described, Dr. Meyer is a lifelong journalist and storyteller.

This Editorial Board, as I’m sure others in the past would attest, has yet to come across anyone at SLU who has taken a class or interacted with Dr. Meyer and didn’t have the utmost respect for him. When the goofy-tie-wearing professor’s name is brought up, what follows is generally, “I love Dr. Meyer! Did he ever tell you about that one time…” or “Does that old newspaper advisor still teach classes? He’s a SLU legend.” For most people, the name “Avis Meyer” and “SLU Journalism” are synonymous.

Those who have had Dr. Meyer in class are familiar with his characteristic green felt-tip pen that marks up every writing assignment and the big, circled B+ – or, if you’re lucky, an A- – tacked onto the last page. Dr. Meyer is one of the toughest – but also one of the fairest – graders at SLU. An A- in one of Dr. Meyer’s classes is something we all strive for and cherish if we receive. His expectations are tailored to the individual, but also to what will ultimately lead to success in the ominous “real world” that he so aptly prepares his students for. This is likely why his students turn out to be so successful; from front-page editors of huge publications like The Wall Street Journal, to entrepreneurs and business owners, to PR executives at international firms, Dr. Meyer’s former students have prestigious careers all across the country.

While a tough grader, Dr. Meyer is also the first person to give praise when deserved. For many students, he is the first person they turn to both for letters of recommendation and to share exciting life happenings, like getting a job or obtaining a promotion.

His style of teaching is unique, integrating real-life examples and personal stories. After listening to a story for just a few minutes, it is clear how intelligent he is; as a man who knows everything from classical music and world news, to the latest in sports, he’s the last person you’d want to face in Trivial Pursuit.

One of the things that we most admire about Dr. Meyer is his constant thirst for knowledge and his curiosity for what is out there. This is demonstrated by the fact that he has traveled the world, seeing five of the seven continents and dozens of countries along the way. He shares this passion and open-mindedness with his students by relating worldly life lessons to his travels.

The UNews has been fortunate to have Dr. Meyer at the helm for 42 years. UNewsers past and present can attest to the family atmosphere fostered in the newsroom, which stems from the top down. Even during a scuffle with the administration almost a decade ago, Dr. Meyer has always aided the paper in any way that he could. From bringing snacks to the newsroom each week — on his own dime —  and always calling the newsroom phone at 10 p.m. — on the dot — to check in and suggest headlines for the front page, he’s always done what he could to make the late nights in the newsroom a little less brutal.

Dr. Meyer, though older than retirement age by several years, has candidly said before that he would never retire or leave the University until he felt that the paper was in a good place and safe from the administration. This speaks volumes to his relationship with Dr. Pestello, but more importantly shows how passionate he is about providing a free student newspaper to the SLU community.

Dr. Meyer cares for his students in a way that is unparalleled. Often, he gives students clips of articles and factoids out of issues of The New Yorker and other various publications, with a note telling them that he thought they would find the piece of interest. Similarly, as demonstrated on page two, he can name every single former editor of the UNews and where they currently are in the world, along with hundreds of other staffers. His 1939 Buick Roadmaster has been in countless weddings – free of charge, of course.

To close simply, Dr. Meyer, thank you. Thank you for the endless stories, for the tough-but-fair grades, for the life lessons. Thank you for going above and beyond the traditional role of a professor and advisor, and for caring about our individual lives and successes, even long after we have left SLU. Thank you for sharing your life, your family, your Roadmaster and your wife’s cooking with us. Thank you for refusing to back down from injustice and for always thinking like a journalist. Thank you for shaping the journalism program at SLU and for making this paper what it is today. None of this would be possible without you. We wouldn’t be the journalists we are without you. We have cherished every moment that we have had with you. Even with your departure, your name will forever be spoken in conjunction with the UNews, and your SLU legacy will live on for decades to come.