Fifty years ago, on November 22, 1963, Montclair State junior Bud Meyers ’65 was sitting in an afternoon British Lit class when news that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas, swept the country. “The campus was stunned,” Meyers recalls. “Professor Young attempted to continue his lecture, but within about 20 minutes, we all quietly left the classroom.”
Because he was president of the Student Government Association, Meyers went to the SGA offices at Life Hall, where he began reaching out to his counterparts at other area colleges to see how they were addressing the tragedy. “President E. DeAlton Partridge called me and asked me to begin work on how we would respond. We kept in touch over the next few days until the campus memorial service.”
Meyers later met with President Partridge, who asked him to address those attending an hour-long campus convocation held in Memorial Hall on November 26.
President Partridge, a history professor Ernest Fincher, Meyers and a student who had travelled to Washington for the funeral all spoke to the packed hall. “I talked about Kennedy’s promise. He was a symbol for positive change in the country,” Meyers says. “Clearly, the responsibility would fall to the generation in college at the time to carry on and fulfill his promise.”
Meyers, who majored in social studies and minored in English, also earned his PhD in Education from the University of Connecticut. In 1971, he landed his first job as a professor of education at the University of Vermont. He has been a visiting scholar at Stanford University, the University of Oulu in Finland and at Oxford University. Now a professor emeritus, he advises doctoral students. “We began a doctoral program in 1984. Since then, 43 students have completed dissertations with my advisement,” he notes.
He credits Montclair State with influencing his choice of career in higher education. “In the 1960s there was a strong social conscience at the University. We were one of the first campuses to integrate some of the rich diversity from the African American and Hispanic communities of North Jersey. Professor Fincher was perhaps the most inspiring and socially committed person I have ever met,” Meyers says. “Keith Atkinson, director of College High, enabled me to get my first fellowship to UCONN.”
As Deputy Commissioner on Education for Vermont from 2000 to 2004, Meyers directed the development of the New England Common Assessment Program. Since 2009, he has served as founding director of UVM’s James M. Jeffords Center for Policy Research, which conducts diverse interdisciplinary research that informs quality public policy decisions in such areas as education, health care, the environment and government.
The Kennedy assassination forever changed this country. When Meyers, who has enjoyed a distinguished career spanning both education and public policy, spoke about his generation taking responsibility for JFK’s legacy, he meant what he said. “There is no question that having had the SGA presidency and becoming very aware of poverty and inequality while I was at Montclair encouraged me to contribute wherever and whenever I could,” he says.