Meyers, former administrator, dies at 51

by Charles Rafkin | 11/4/12 11:00pm

Michelle Meyers '83, former assistant director of equal opportunity at the College, died of breast cancer on Oct. 29. She was 51 years old.

Meyers, who left the College in 2007 to form a consulting firm with women's studies professor Giavanna Munafo and became the director of the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs at Emory University in 2008, advocated for diversity and was responsible for College compliance with federal and state affirmative action regulations.

"Meyers didn't just serve as an administrator," history professor Annelise Orleck said. "She really cared about the people on this campus."

Cara Fuller '00, Meyers' former student intern, said that Meyers was helpful to minority students trying to find their place in the Dartmouth community,

"Meyers was just so open helping students like me and others figure out our place in a sort of nonjudgemental and understanding manner," Fuller said.

Meyers' colleagues said that in addition to remembering her caring nature, they would remember her sense of poise and composure in the workplace.

Orleck said that Meyers had an impressive ability to deal with antagonism during emotionally charged meetings. In particular, during one workshop in which emotions ran high, Meyers' "manner and her presence and her directness," in addition to her recognition of her own vulnerability, allowed her to defuse anger, Munafo said.

Ozzie Harris '81, Meyers' colleague at Dartmouth and Emory, also recalled a meeting during which his wristwatch flew off his arm and nearly struck Meyers in the face. Harris said that Meyers continued to discuss the facts at hand, recognizing that "the issue wasn't the watch, the issue wasn't me getting animated, the issue was the work we were engaged in."

Meyers also made an effort to connect the decisions made at work to more relatable topics, according to Munafo. During one session, Meyers associated her own love of cars with decision-making in the workplace. Meyers explained that while she likes to drive fast, she also gauges the risk. Similarly, in the workplace, decisions must be made using possible outcomes as a gauge, Munafo said.

Harris said that Meyers continued to have a sense of professionalism and determination even while suffering from the effects of breast cancer. Meyers' stamina, administrative skills and intelligence gave her the capacity to do an excellent job day in and day out, Harris said. Despite her cancer, "she worked while dragging an oxygen tank behind her" and left the Emory office "kicking and screaming," he said.

Even those who disagreed with Meyers "respected her graciousness and keen intelligence and understanding of the issues," Munafo said.

Meyers' friends and colleagues also noted that they will miss her personality and expressiveness in conversation.

"She would raise one eyebrow in a moment of skepticism," Orleck said. "She didn't have to speak. I would laugh and I would tell her everything she wanted to know."

College President Emeritus James Wright also recalled Meyers' personality. Although Meyers could be very serious, she also had a good sense of humor, Wright said.

An art history major at Dartmouth and a masters student in art history at Stanford University, Meyers appreciated art and modern aesthetics, emphasizing simplicity and straight lines, according to Munafo.

After visiting Meyers' home, Orleck remembers wondering why there were no appliances on the kitchen counter, even though Meyers was an excellent cook. Meyers responded that appliances "broke up the lines of the counter." Harris said that Meyers also had an artistic fascination with armchair design.

Josie Harper, Meyers' partner, declined to comment. Meyers' family was unavailable for comment by press time.

Sean Connolly contributed reporting to this article.