FOR MEYER, HELPING STUDENTS IS A TRADITION
David and Kani Meyer have a perfectly good guest room. Dozens of students have felt at home there. David, a paleontologist and professor of geology in the University of Cincinnati McMicken College, is known for going the extra step to make students feel comfortable. That’s why, when he was recruiting a graduate student and she said she’d prefer camping, the neighbors were treated to the sight of a tent pitched on the Meyer’s lawn.
In recognition of his extra efforts toward hospitality and mentoring, David Meyer was named the 2004 recipient of the Barbour Award for promoting good student-faculty relations. The Barbour Award is one of five university-wide faculty awards presented each year at UC. It is named, fittingly, for a geology professor who later became dean of the McMicken College. (That camp-out student, by the way, enrolled at UC, earned her master’s degree under Meyer’s supervision, and is now a distinguished paleontologist in her own right.)
“I treat people this way, because of the examples provided to me when I was a student. I treat people the way people I admire have treated me,” Meyer said. “It’s part of fostering the student’s interest, going out of your way to make them feel special, foreign students especially. I had a wonderful experience in Japan, where I was treated with great hospitality in a situation where I could have been made to feel like an outsider. It made an impression on me that this is how guests should be treated.”
Meyer cites Brad Macurda who, as a faculty member at the University of Michigan, allowed Meyer to participate in research as an undergraduate student. After Meyer graduated from Michigan and earned his Ph.D. from Yale the two collaborated on several scientific papers. “There were quite a few ‘M&M’ papers,” Meyer said. “He really made his students feel like they were doing important work.”
He also reflects on the hospitality of UC colleagues including Kenneth Caster and Wayne Pryor (both now deceased) and Warren Huff, who himself earned the Barbour Award in the 1970s.
Talk to Meyer’s students, and it is clear they feel the same about him.
“Dave is one of the most generous, intelligent, caring, open-minded, and open-hearted professors I have had the good grace to know,” said Allison Cornett.
“Dave’s mentoring extended, in my case, to advice in choosing a Ph.D. program and writing letters of recommendation for my first job application, demonstrating his commitment to mentoring, even after the student graduates and his genuine concern about students’ current and long-range development,” said Danita Brandt, now at Michigan State University.
“I know that he is the reason I have been successful in my academic career thus far,” said Richard A. Krause Jr. of Virginia Polytechnic. “I am proud to consider Dave my teacher, mentor, colleague and friend.”
Meyer has distinguished himself not only as a mentor, but in teaching, research, and community service.
As a researcher, Meyer is best known for his work on crinoids, a relative of starfish with a fossil record dating back to Cincinnati’s 450-million year-old rocks. Crinoids live in today’s oceans, so Meyer learned SCUBA diving to study living specimens, leading to insight into coral reefs.
As a teacher, he has taught introductory geology and invertebrate paleontology, but has added classes on dinosaurs and coral reefs to his repertoire. He has advised 23 students earning master’s degrees and three earning doctorates.
“More than just about anyone I know, Dave is a proactive member of the community,” said Geology Department Head Arnold Miller. “He has worked for years as a close advisor of a prominent local amateur organization of paleontologists, the Dry Dredgers, has played a prominent role at regional geological expositions, has advised the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History on a myriad of programs and exhibits, and has even advised the City of Sharonville on the development of a public fossil park.”
Of course, as Meyer works in the community, his students are invited along.
“Importantly, Professor Meyer engages students in this public outreach,” said graduate student Austin Hendy. “By doing this he enhances their teaching abilities and skills in scientific communication – skills that we recognize to be essential throughout our careers.”
For Meyer, it just makes sense.
“Who is the University?” he asked. “Is it an office, or the paperwork you have to fill out? No. It’s the people and how we deal with each other. That’s what I remember from the schools where I studied – the people.”
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