“I would say leaving has been the hardest decision of my entire life. I really was drawn to work with the students and to make a difference in their lives,” said Stephanie Meyer, who is taking an early retirement after 32 years of service to Union. “I feel that was really my role here at Union, and it will be interesting to see how I do without that, because it’s been part of my life for so long.”
Meyer has enjoyed being a support to Union’s students through her position in the Advancement office, most recently as the director of scholarships and special events. Under her direction, Union’s scholarship program—her passion—grew from a handful of scholarship funds to over 215, and over 200 students were congratulated each year for receiving scholarships.
But now, Meyer has decided to say goodbye to her Union family after months of deliberation, though it isn’t for good. “I think the pandemic really just did a certain type of reset on a lot of people,” Meyer said. “Everyone was very surprised that I was leaving. But I never had an exact date of when I would retire. I just knew I would know when it was the right time.”
Meyer, during her time at Union, has been much loved. “She’s just a good person with a heart of gold,” said Nancy Petta, who has known Meyer since she took Petta’s health class in college. Meyer formed a family bond with Petta, something that comes naturally to her. Her ability to cultivate close friendships and her heart for people are the keys to her success as the director of scholarships and special events—and they’re the reason it breaks the hearts of her colleagues to see her go.
“She meets people easily and has a buoyancy about her that makes you feel good when you’re around her,” said Buell Fogg. “She’s got an uncanny ability to resonate and empathize with people.” Fogg has been friends with Stephanie since he arrived at Union a year after Stephanie began working in the Advancement Office in 1989. He and Meyer have shared many years of friendship catalyzed by their presence on the Scholarship Committee alongside Tim Simon and Lisa R. Forbes.
But Fogg has known Stephanie’s friendship much deeper than perhaps some others at Union. When his youngest daughter passed away from a chronic illness, Meyer showed up at Fogg’s house. “I just cried on her shoulder, and she stood there and took everything in,” Fogg remembered. “That’s something about Stephanie that will always be very special to me—here’s a friend that I know really does care. And you cannot put a price tag on that.”
Meyer, however, didn’t stop at cultivating friendships with her colleagues. One of her greatest labors of love was her dedication to her relationships with her student workers, who she renamed student assistants. Laura Cummings, who worked for Meyer years ago, enjoyed a close friendship with her. “She would take me out for coffee, and on the weekends we’d go to fun little places around town, like Grateful Bread. Sometimes, I would go to her house and just relax with her and her husband. She was more than a boss, she was like an older sister.”
Inspired by her mentor, Cummings decided to carry Meyer’s heart for relationships into her position as a registrar at Maplewood Academy. “One thing I’ve realized in my job is that you get so busy, and it’s really hard to dedicate that much time to truly get to know the students and be genuine like she did,” Cummings said. “She’s amazing.”
Now, however, as Meyer retires, she feels called in another direction—her family. More specifically, her husband. “Last year I wouldn’t have thought I would be going in this direction, and I do think the pandemic played a part in making me realize just how fragile life is and just how much I want to spend time with my husband,” Meyer said. Her husband, Jeff, will be retiring next March at the age of 65. “I really couldn’t imagine myself everyday leaving while he’s home, because we have so much fun together.”
In 1995, Meyer would ride her bike to Eagle and back after work, trying to travel 210 miles every week. She would stop at a bike shop in a small town called Walton where they served homemade bread and sandwiches. But on the way to Walton, there was an unknown structure that captivated her interest. “There was this structure just ten feet off the concrete on the bicycle path,” said Meyer, thinking back to how they met. “I rode past it every day, back and forth, back and forth. I didn’t know what that was.”
One day, Stephanie bought a new bike in Walton, and she met Jeff outside the bike shop. He found her bike intriguing, and he bugged her until they became friends. “He told me he wanted to show me a project he was working on. So we drove over, and that structure turned out to be a house he had designed. He’s not an architect, and he hired a couple of contractors, but he did a lot of the work himself.” Stephanie began working on the house with him, and gradually they fell in love and got married May 30, 1997.
Now, as the Meyers go into their retirement journey together, they look forward to continuing tandem bicycling together year-round and to have time for the things that matter to them. It’s important to them to rest and to enjoy the house they built so many years ago. In addition, their parents are aging, and they want to be able to care for them. “We both need the flexibility to spend time with them,” said Meyer.
As Stephanie leaves, her heart still beats for that focus on relationships, especially those she has cultivated in her journey at Union. Everyone—her colleagues, her student assistants, her family—has made a deep impact on her. “Having honest, genuine relationships has been so important to me. I feel blessed to have worked on a small campus where people are more connected.”
by Maria Kercher, senior communication major