It’s a pretty safe bet that Gail Myers, a man of prodigious talents and highly specialized career experiences, never expected to occupy the unusual role that came to him in 1989—that of “first gentleman” of Denison University. Spouse of the College’s 18th president, Michele Tolela Myers, Gail nonetheless made his own memorable impact on Denison during the Myers administration in the 1990s, forging distinctive contributions with intelligence, humor, and good will.
Gail Eldridge Myers died on August 11, 2019, in Bend, Oregon, surrounded by his family. He was 96 years old.
“I recall Gail’s ubiquitous presence in the life of Denison—at convocations, seminars, colloquiums, faculty lunches, and Slayter Student Union,” said Dr. Sam Thios, emeritus vice president for student affairs. “He was an energetic participant in the life of the College, which he was well suited for, since he himself had been a professor, dean, and college president.”
Indeed, Gail Myers led an impressive career in academia. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from the University of Iowa, and a Ph.D. in communication from the University of Denver. At the time that he and Michele moved to Granville, he was director of the master’s degree program in applied communication at Temple University, and he had previously served several colleges and universities as a faculty member and in senior-level administrative positions, including dean at Trinity University in San Antonio and president at Monticello College in Illinois.
Gail and Michele had met during the 1960s in the speech communication department at the University of Denver, and they subsequently pursued their professional careers in tandem at Monticello College, where they were married, and later at Trinity University. They collaborated on a number of publications in the field of human communication, including several major college textbooks. Their most important collaboration, of course, was their family—daughter Erika and son David.
A native of South Dakota, the teenage Gail had helped support his widowed mother by playing saxophone in a regional dance band. He served during WWII as an Army Air Corps statistician and as a photographer for YANK magazine. He later honed his photographic skills accompanying a Time magazine journalist through Mexico on a lengthy assignment, a trip that inspired Gail’s charming 1975 novel, A Miracle Every March.
At Denison, Gail enthusiastically embraced the roles of advocate, ambassador, and co-host with Michele at College functions both on and off campus. Doubling the presidential welcoming capacity in any given room, Gail brought a presence and a personal warmth to Denison occasions that are still remembered today. Deploying his journalistic experience, he researched and wrote features for Denison Magazine, and he reached out with intentionality beyond campus to involve himself in local life and civic activities. A regular at Granville Rotary, Gail was also a volunteer in organizations such as Newark’s “A Call to College,” and he was a leading participant in the successful 1996 “Moving Together” project to fund and build a new athletic facility for the Granville Schools. Throughout all his spheres during nine years in Granville, he was immensely popular for his thoughtfulness, energy, and unforgettable sense of humor.
Gail and Michele’s paths eventually parted during the post-Denison years, although they remained closely linked through their children and their families. Looking back on Gail’s roles at Denison, Michele remembered his support of her and Denison with abiding gratitude. “He gave of his time so freely,” she said. “He was always there for me.” Gail’s contributions to Denison were recognized at the College’s 1998 Commencement, at which he was awarded Denison’s Distinguished Service Award.
Preceded in death by his brother Larry, Gail is survived by Michele Myers; their two children, Erika and David; Erika’s son, Lucas; and David’s daughters, Aneah and Renley. He is also survived by two adult children by a former marriage, Meg Myers and Christopher Myers.