November 30 2016
Dr. Thomas Keith Meier, Elmira College’s Twelfth President and Simeon Benjamin Professor of English Literature, has passed away.
Dr. Meier began his tenure as President at Elmira College in 1987. He was the second-longest serving president, joining the First President Dr. Augustus Woodruff Cowles (thirty-three years) and the Tenth, Dr. J. Ralph Murray (twenty-two years) as leaders with more than two decades of service. The College honored Dr. Meier with the Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters in 2012.
Among Dr. Meier’s most notable accomplishments during his tenure at Elmira College are leading the effort to increase enrollment by 66 percent, from 735 to 1221, by introducing innovative, personalized admissions strategies. Meier's leadership reinvigorated student recruitment, allowed the College to grow its enrollment, repair its finances, and increase its prestige, moving up from the third quartile to the first in the U.S.News & World Report annual “Best Colleges” rankings.
The Meier years were notable for three major construction projects, Speidel Gymnasium (1996), Meier Hall (2010), and the reconstruction of Cowles Hall (2012), as well as the College’s three largest capital campaigns, the Campaign for Elmira, the New Century Campaign, and the Legacy & Destiny Campaign.
Dr. Meier’s book on Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe, was published on the day he was inaugurated as Elmira College’s President, and he remained active as a scholar, publishing more than three dozen of his ninety articles and reviews during his tenure as the College’s President.
The Elmira College Alumni Association awarded him the Medal of Merit for his leadership, the Student Association named him Administrator of the Year, and the Board of Trustees named the College’s newest dormitory in his honor, while the United States Department of the Army awarded him its highest civilian honor, the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, for his support of Army ROTC.
In all, Dr. Meier served as a college president for thirty-three years, having been President of Castleton State College in Vermont for eight years before Elmira. Previously, he was an executive with Exxon for ten years and an officer in the U.S. Army for two.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a student-athlete, he earned an A.M. and the Ph.D. in English Literature from Columbia University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Dr. Thomas Meier was recognized often for his contributions to the wider Elmira community during his tenure and also following his retirement in 2012. He served as President of the Empire Eight Athletic Conference, Chairman of the Chemung County United Way Board of Directors, and President of the Elmira City Club, in addition to service as a board member of a variety of business, civic, and charitable organizations, including Southern Tier Economic Growth, Chemung Canal Trust Company, Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, Arnot Art Museum, and Five Rivers Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts recognized him with the Distinguished Citizen, Silver Beaver, and the prestigious national Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, with which only one in a thousand Eagle Scouts are so honored.
The Elmira College community extends its deepest sympathies to the Meier family.