With the aim of encouraging students and others to relish lifelong interests in both the outdoors and the arts, Joel and Patti Meier of Denver have made a $2 million gift commitment to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
Through planned gifts outlined in their will to the University of Nebraska Foundation, the Nebraska natives and Husker alumni established two permanently endowed funds of $1 million each. One fund will provide annual support for the university’s Campus Recreation Outdoor Adventures Program, and another fund will provide annual support for a curator of academic engagement at Sheldon Museum of Art.
The Meiers also committed an outright gift of $50,000 to provide permanent support for an outdoor adventures speaker series for students and the university community.
“We are extremely grateful for the generosity, trust and commitment to the UNL Division of Campus Recreation shown by Joel and Patti Meier,” said Stan Campbell, director of Campus Recreation. “Their generosity will allow us to further enrich the lives of our students by enhancing their experiential learning opportunities through the engagement of individuals and groups in outdoor adventure experiences. We are truly honored to receive their generous gifts.”
The gift is especially gratifying, Campbell said, because Joel Meier served as director of Campus Recreation when it was previously known as Intramural Sports. He also served as a graduate assistant there.
The Campus Recreation fund will be named the Joel Meier Assistant Director for Outdoor Adventures Fund. It will provide annual support for the position of assistant director of outdoor adventures, who will oversee program coordination and administration of the Outdoor Adventures Center and work to further experiential education and outdoor engagement of students and the university community.
The Meiers’ gift to Sheldon Museum of Art will establish the Patricia Meier Curator of Academic Programs Fund to provide annual support for a curator of academic engagement. This position will oversee the museum’s education and engagement efforts and serve as a liaison between the museum and the university community to develop programs that connect faculty and students to the museum and its resources.
“Patti and Joel Meier’s gift establishing the Patricia Meier Curator of Academic Programs Fund is central to the success of our mission to provide object-based teaching methodologies and engagement to faculty, staff and students,” said Wally Mason, director and chief curator of Sheldon Museum of Art. “Patti Meier’s knowledge of and contributions to art education make their support particularly meaningful.”
After years of making smaller annual gifts to their alma mater, the Meiers began considering the legacy they wanted to leave at Nebraska.
“These are things that are dear to our hearts and are how our relationship with the University of Nebraska came to fruition,” said Patti Meier about supporting outdoor recreation and art education.
Joel Meier said: “It’s a wonderful opportunity to us. We’re in a position to give back to entities that have meant a lot to us. When we think back about all the different ways our instructors, mentors and others helped us and had faith in us, giving back becomes a very rewarding experience.”
Joel Meier grew up in Minden and studied health and physical education at Nebraska. He worked as a student manager for the swimming and football teams before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1962. He began a master’s degree in education and took a leave to serve with the U.S. Peace Corps before returning to the university to serve as graduate assistant for Intramural Sports. He completed his master’s degree in 1965, the same year he married Patricia “Patti” Schmadeke Meier.
Patti Meier grew up in Lincoln and is a Lincoln Southeast High School graduate. Focused on becoming a dental hygienist, she attended Nebraska for two years before transferring to the University of Missouri–Kansas City. After her graduation in 1965, she returned to Lincoln to start her health care career.
Joel Meier served five years as director of Intramural Sports while Patti Meier practiced dental hygiene. Joel Meier then completed a doctorate at Indiana University Bloomington before taking a faculty position at the University of Montana, where he started an outdoor recreation program. He became a professor in the College of Forestry and Conservation and served as the college’s associate dean.
After 25 years at Montana, he returned to Indiana University to serve as chair of the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies. He served in that role for six years before stepping down and serving on the faculty, working 18 years there before retiring.
In all, Patti Meier practiced dental hygiene for 20 years. It was during their time in Montana that she became interested in education and health care for people in need. She worked with Indian Health Services, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services that provides medical and public health services to Native American tribes and Alaska Native people.
She served as a government consultant and helped begin Head Start programs on Native American reservations to provide early childhood education, health, nutrition and family services.
In Montana and Indiana, Patti Meier manifested her appreciation for art, leading to her service as docents at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture in Missoula and the Eskenazi Museum of Art in Bloomington.
From Indiana, the couple relocated to Colorado to enjoy their retirement.
In addition to their generosity to Nebraska, the Meiers have established endowed funds for outdoor recreation and arts education at Indiana University and the University of Montana.