Southeast Missouri State University alumnus and Saint Louis University (SLU) Professor Emeritus Dr. Avis Meyer will be inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame during the St. Louis Media History Foundation’s Gala Ceremony March 30 in St. Louis, Missouri.
Meyer, who has been a member of the St. Louis Media History Foundation since its founding in 1995, was surprised and honored to receive this recognition.
“It is both an unexpected honor and rather humbling because I know the level of expertise and respect these folks have earned when they are inducted,” he said.
St. Louis Media Hall of Fame inductees are selected for their significant contributions to print and broadcast journalism, digital media, advertising and public relations. Meyer is being honored for his 42 years as a professor of journalism, film, writing and editing at Saint Louis University (SLU) and copy editor and occasional feature writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 24 years.
Meyer earned a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1966 and Master of Arts in English in 1971, both from Southeast. His time at Southeast inspired him to pursue his doctorate and a career in teaching, Meyer said. His college career at Southeast instilled a strong work ethic and provided him supportive professors and lifelong mentors, including Dr. Henry Sessoms, professor emeritus of English, who recommended him for his first on-campus graduate assistant position; Dr. Leo Harris, who introduced him to the importance of enthusiasm in the classroom; and Dr. John Bierk, professor emeritus of English.
Bierk, who was not only his teacher but also a frequent patron of the ice cream shop Meyer and his wife owned and operated on Broadway in Cape Girardeau at the time, encouraged him to pursue his master’s and doctoral degrees and to consider a professional career in higher education.
“We were going over my graduate options, and I asked him if he thought I should pursue the professorial life, and he said ‘Yes, you are a natural,’” said Meyer. “I was 32 years old at the time, and I told him I was worried I would be 38 or so by the time I graduated, and he said, ‘How old will you be if you don’t do this?’”
While pursuing his doctorate in English, Meyer worked as a teaching fellow and assistant, and upon graduating in 1979 accepted a tenure track professor position in SLU’s Department of Communication. During his 42 years at SLU, he taught journalism courses, including news writing, feature writing, essay writing and editing; literary journalism; film history and film criticism; and honors courses. He was also the faculty advisor for the weekly student newspaper, the University News, for 42 years.
In 1982, he applied for a part-time copy editor position with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after three of his former students working for the paper recommended him for the job.
“I did it as a lark, and it lasted for 24 years,” said Meyer, who also contributed feature and travel news stories for the paper until his retirement from the paper in 2005.
Whether it was in the newsroom or the classroom, the most memorable moments and exciting aspect of his jobs were always interacting with his colleagues and students.
“I got to work with quick, witty, savvy, appreciative folks who are trying to make a difference in the world,” he said. “Students want to make a difference, and that’s why newspapers exist.”
Over the years, his students became more than mere alumni.
“They are longtime friends and very much like family, and we have all grown and broadened our interlaced worlds together,” said Meyer, who can name every University News editor he worked with chronologically and where they are today.
His contributions to his students’ success have been acknowledged throughout his career at SLU with many awards and accolades, including the Nancy McNeir Ring Award for Teaching Excellence, the SLU Campus Advisor of the Year, the Missouri Collegiate Newspaper Association Adviser of the Year, the SLU Student Government Association’s (SGA) Dean Mary Bruemmer Award, the SGA Excellence in Teaching Award and the Chauncey E. Finch Award for Excellence in Mentoring. Additionally, the SLU Office of Student Life established the Meyer Outstanding Advisor Award in his honor. Meyer continues to support students through the Avis Meyer University News Staff Scholarship and Avis Meyer University News Editor’s Scholarship.
His impact on professional journalism has also been recognized. Meyer is a recipient of the Missouri Professional Communicators’ Lifetime Achievement Award and the Gateway Media Literacy’s Charles Klotzer Media Literacy Award.
He encourages students to be open to new and interesting opportunities throughout their life and career.
“Don’t worry too much about the job you get right out of college, but keep your eyes and mind open for what makes you happy and pays something vaguely reasonable,” he said. “If you can manage to ferret out a job that you love, that matters, and still pays a living wage, then you will never really feel like you’re going to work. With a little luck and tenacity, you might just go beyond making a reasonable living to making a rich life. It’s not original advice, but I’ve lived it.”