Ohio Wesleyan lost one of its most distinguished alumni, Phil Meek '59, who passed away in November. It was a great loss for the university, for the many organizations he supported, and for me personally.

"The nature of Phil's life was to create a ripple effect beyond his own personal impact" says Rock Jones, immediate past president of Ohio Wesleyan.

Phil Meek at Alumni Weekend in 2009, when he received OWU's Distinguished Achievement Citation. (Photo by Doug Martin)

I first met Phil in the spring of 1974 as an OWU freshman at the annual reunion dinner of Phi Gamma Delta, which I had just joined and for which Phil had been an active member since his days as an undergrad. What I most remember is not how welcoming and personable he was, but how he took a sincere interest in the pursuits of all the young men in the fraternity. For the next several decades, he never failed to keep track of my career and provide valuable insights and advice.

Always warm and personable, Phil began his lifelong commitment to service while at Ohio Wesleyan, where he graduated with honors in 1959. He served many campus organizations in leadership positions, a trait he would maintain throughout his life. Among these organizations were the student council, Intrafraternity Council, ODK, Phi Gamma Delta, Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Delta Epsilon, and more.

Most important to him, he met his future wife and lifelong partner, Nancy LaPorte '59, at OWU, and they were married in 1960.

After receiving his MBA from Harvard, he had a short stint in the corporate world before becoming publisher of the Oakland Press, a daily newspaper in Michigan. He then ran the Fort Worth Star Telegram prior to becoming senior vice president of Capital Cities/ABC, which had owned the Star Telegram, and president of its publishing group in New York City.

What most distinguished Phil, however, was not his outstanding business accomplishments, but his dedication to philanthropy and volunteer service. In Michigan, Texas, and New York, Phil chaired numerous civic organizations and campaigns, including serving as president of the local United Way in each location.

Fortunately for Ohio Wesleyan, his greatest passion was for our school. Phil was elected to the OWU Alumni Board of Directors in 1966, serving the last two years as vice president. He was named president of the Detroit Alumni Association in 1968, and he and Nancy were jointly presented with alumni awards there. He was elected to the OWU Board of Trustees in 1984 and served as chair from 2002 to 2006, ultimately being named a life trustee.

"I was fortunate to have spent a lot of time with Phil," says Doug Dittrick '55, a fraternity brother who served as chair of the OWU Board immediately prior to Phil. "He was always comfortable in his leadership role and relaxed as we worked through touchy issues. The solutions to problems were always so clear to him."

Phil's generosity to Ohio Wesleyan was almost limitless. He and Nancy donated many millions of dollars to the school, including the funding of significant scholarship and faculty endowments, and toward the aquatics center that bears his name.

Expressing Phil's deep, personal involvement with the university during his lifetime, current OWU Board Chair Nick Calio '75 recalls fondly, "Phil once told me it is better to give with warm hands than cold hands."

While the list of Phil's achievements could fill an encyclopedia, what can never fully be captured is his lasting impact. He left his mark on so many people, in so many places, in so many ways. Ohio Wesleyan is a better academic institution, and I am a better person, for having known Phil Meek.

The Meek Aquatics and Recreation Center opened in 2010 as OWU's first "green" building. (Photo by Paul Vernon)