Parkland Foundation chief to step down


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CHAMPAIGN — Come June 30, Carl Meyer plans to hang up his hat as executive director of the Parkland College Foundation.

Meyer, 72, has served in that post since 1997. During that time, the foundation has raised $25.5 million for scholarships, programs and equipment.

Parkland College President Tom Ramage said Meyer will be greatly missed, both at the foundation and within the college.

"He was at every critical Parkland event and knew everybody — and everybody knew him and his love for this college," Ramage said in a release.

A retirement celebration is planned May 10 at the I Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign, with proceeds to be used to establish a scholarship in Meyer's name.

In an interview Wednesday, Meyer said he and his wife, Wava, hope to travel and spend more time with family once he retires.

He said he has never visited three states — North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana — and hopes to rectify that.

Meyer first appeared on the Champaign-Urbana scene in 1971 when he came to the University of Illinois as an assistant football coach under Bob Blackman.

Meyer worked first with freshmen and later with the offensive line, staying with the football program until 1977, when he went to work for Dale Cozad, the agency manager for College Life Insurance.

In 1980, UI Athletic Director Neale Stoner recruited Meyer to oversee the athletic association's satellite office in Chicago. Within a couple years, Meyer became associate athletic director at the University of Arizona, then athletic director for the University of Cincinnati.

Meyer returned to Champaign-Urbana in 1992, working with his son, Eric, in the restaurant and tavern business before taking the Parkland position five years later.

Meyer said that, at the time, he had been encouraged to consider becoming a vice president at his alma mater, Findlay College (now the University of Findlay).

But he didn't really want to move, and he was impressed by the Parkland board chairman, Donald Dodds, and the college president, Zelema Harris.

During Meyer's tenure, the foundation raised $14 million for a major gifts campaign and helped on projects such as the Tony Noel Agricultural Technology Applications Center and the Parkland Automotive Technology Center.

The foundation also established more than 140 scholarships and created more than 70 partnerships with businesses and academic departments.

Meyer said his fundraising job at Parkland is largely sales.

"Prospecting is really critical," he said. "What you want to try to do is, find the people who benefit from your efforts."

In Parkland's case, that includes people and businesses involved in agriculture, automotive technology and health care, among other fields, he said.

That's a different approach from four-year universities, which usually concentrate their efforts on alumni, he said.

Meyer has a staff of four at the foundation, but also depends a lot of volunteer leadership.

Originally from northwest Ohio, he played four sports in high school — football, basketball, baseball and track — and played football at Findlay College.

One of his teammates there was Gary Harbaugh, uncle of the two Super Bowl coaches this Sunday — Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh and San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.

"Their father (Jack) and I started our coaching careers together in Perrysburg, Ohio," Meyer said.

Meyer and Jack Harbaugh were both assistant football coaches at the high school there.

Meyer said he still talks with Jack Harbaugh once or twice a year, but doesn't know the Harbaugh boys that well.

At Parkland, Meyer said he has worked with "some of the most professional and generous donors, community leaders, administrators and faculty" over the years.

"It's been an enjoyable 16 years working at a classy institution," he said.