4 years ago

American Magazine April 2014

American University is located in Washington, D.C., at the top of Embassy Row. Chartered by Congress in 1893 to serve the public interest and build the nation, the university educates active citizens who apply knowledge to the most pressing concerns facing the nation and world. Students engage with leading faculty experts and world leaders, learning how to create change and address issues including the global economic crisis, health care, human rights and justice, diversity, the environment and sustainability, immigration, journalism’s transformation, corporate governance, and governmental reform.

Forty-five years ago,

Forty-five years ago, Don Myers accepted an entry-level position in AU’s Office of Finance and Treasurer with a single goal: to earn a graduate degree. What was intended to be a professional pit stop became a permanent home for the accountantturned-chief financial officer—the setting of an extraordinary career in service to AU’s financial health. The university lost its longtime financial architect on January 6, when Myers, Kogod/MBA ’78, passed away after fighting a courageous battle with cancer. He was 68 years old. The CFO, vice president and treasurer leaves behind an incredible legacy, including building and fortifying the university’s financial infrastructure and developing the human capital, facilities, and grounds to support AU’s academic programs and aspirations. Board of Trustees chair Jeff Sine calls Myers’s impact on the university profound and transformative. “His commitment to AU, our students, and our faculty was abiding and absolute.” GROWING UP IN HAGERSTOWN, MARYLAND, Myers was active in Boy Scouts and aspired to be a forest ranger. After discovering a knack for numbers, the Shepherd College (now Shepherd University) graduate pursued a career in business, working in the General Accounting Office before joining AU in 1968. MYERS STARTED HIS CAREER AT AU as an accountant and rose to CFO in 1982. Under his guidance, the university’s endowment soared from $7 million to $550 million; the operating budget grew tenfold to $600 million; and total assets increased fourteenfold to $1.4 billion. AMONG HIS PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS were the A+ (Standard & Poor’s) and A2 (Moody’s) bond ratings AU earned in the wake of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Thanks to Myers’s foresight and financial planning, AU continued to offer competitive compensation and benefit increases to faculty and staff when other universities were furloughing employees or freezing pay. Just weeks after Myers’s death, Moody's upgraded AU’s bond rating to A1. A FIRST-GENERATION COLLEGE STUDENT who worked on a farm, Myers was attuned to the issue of college affordability. He kept an eye on the relative price of tuition, advocating for AU’s position at the midpoint of peer institutions. He also supported a shift in financial aid from being primarily merit based to a balanced portfolio of merit- and need-based awards. As cochair of AU’s budget committee, he recommended the lowest tuition increase on record in 2012. In 2003 Myers established an endowed scholarship in the Kogod School of Business, his alma mater.

THE UNIVERSITY’S DEVELOPMENT has also been recognized for its beauty and sustainability. Myers’s team sought and received the designation of a campus arboretum in 2003. Sustainability and green power programs have made it possible for AU to become carbon neutral by 2020. USING AU’S FINANCIAL STABILITY AND RESERVES, Myers focused on developing facilities and grounds to support the university’s academic mission. Since 1982, AU’s facilities have doubled to 4 million square feet, with another 1 million square feet in progress. The School of Communication moved into renovated academic facilities in the McKinley Building this spring. A new home for the Washington College of Law at Tenley Campus is slated to open in fall 2015, and plans are well along for the new East Campus, including the Don Myers Technology and Innovation Center. Every member of the Board of Trustees and president’s cabinet contributed to the fund for the building that will bear Myers’s name. THE WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL honored Myers with its 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award. During his acceptance speech, Myers noted how gratifying it was to help the university he loved to achieve such significant growth. “I appreciate this award in a personal sense because it . . . acknowledges what a great institution AU has become, and I am honored to have been a part of that.” MYERS IS SURVIVED by his wife, Margie; two sons, Curtis and Charlie; a daughter, Tracey; granddaughters, Elyse and Allie; grandsons, M.J. and D.J.; and two brothers, Ronnie and Larry. PRESIDENT NEIL KERWIN, who joined the university in 1975, has said that he and Myers grew up together at AU. “Any complete and accurate history of American University must include Don among the institution’s most dedicated, influential, and effective leaders,” he says. “His commitment to the faculty, students, staff, alumni, and Board of Trustees of our university was unparalleled.” LET’S TALK #AMERICANMAG 33