In the early 1950s, Steve and Helen Meyer took a big chance, moving with their young family from New York City — where they had grown up and met one another — to Alma, Michigan.
It was a small town in a state where they had few connections, but Steve had a good job lined up as a faculty member in the business department at Alma College, and together, the couple saw a bright future.
Now, the Meyer family has an opportunity to look back on how Steve and Helen’s vision paid off. Steve would go on to serve as Alma’s vice president of finance, where he helped lay the groundwork for much of what we consider to be the modern-day college. He passed away in 1982 while preparing for retirement.
Helen supported Alma College through various community and philanthropic endeavors, including membership in the First Presbyterian Church, Alma Women’s Club and P.E.O. Sisterhood — all while working part-time as a registered nurse, at a time in which few mothers worked outside the home. Helen, who married her second husband, Wilmer Schweinsberg, in 1989 following Steve Meyer’s death, passed away in December 2020. She was 95.
“I like to think my parents stretched beyond their comfort zone, leaving the life they had on the East Coast to carve out their own path,” said Steve Meyer ’80, the couple’s only son. “They had open minds, which led to big ideas, and the work ethic necessary to see those ideas through. They worked extremely hard for me, my family and the community, and I think that helps sum up their legacy.”
The younger Steve Meyer, who is married to Susan H. Meyer ’83, remained active at Alma College long after his own Alma graduation, serving as chair of the Board of Trustees from 2012-15 and providing counsel in the development of the Executive-In- Residence (EIR) program. Steve and Helen Meyer also had three daughters who attended Alma, Doris Meyer Balgoyen ’72, Maria Meyer Tomlinson ’72 (Charlie Tomlinson ’69), and E. Stephanie Meyer Proli ’76.
Steve Meyer said he’s proud of his parents’ time at the college, which was marked by a period of growth, including construction of Dow Science Center, Eddy Music Center, Hamilton Commons, the Kehrl Building, Swanson Academic Center, the “new dorms” — Bonbright, Brazell, Brazell West and Carey halls — as well as redevelopment of the original gymnasium into Clack Art Center, the Hogan Center and other buildings.
After Steve Meyer’s death in 1982, the Helen and Stephen Meyer Endowed Scholarship Award was established to provide financial assistance for students in need. Many students have benefited from this scholarship, enabling them to successfully complete their degrees and go on to pursue careers in business and beyond.
“I think there are many people who deserve credit, but my mom and dad were a part of this shift in focus at the college around that time, which saw Alma go from being a good, small college in a nice community, to something that is a little more staged at the regional or national level — and, I can’t emphasize enough the importance my parents placed on higher education as a primary source of development for all.
“I tell people all the time, you don’t need a fancy, Ivy League pedigree to achieve great results. That’s because of places like Alma College, which gives students the skills they need while providing an embracing community.”
Alma College President Jeff Abernathy said much of the college’s success through the decades would not have been possible if not for the groundwork laid by the Meyer family.
“Helen Meyer Schweinsberg was a great friend to Alma College and to me through the years,” Abernathy said. “She and Steve Meyer were visionaries and pioneers for Alma College — Scots who had the foresight to envision what Alma College could be, the courage to take on the responsibility for making it so, and the dedication to remain affiliated with the college for decades. The Meyer family has had an impact on Alma College that will last generations.”