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Arthur Meyer, a founder of LI's Friends World College, dies at 96

Arthur Meyer, a founder of Friends World College,

Arthur Meyer, a founder of Friends World College, died April 21. Credit: Meyer family

He trained to be a submariner in World War II, going to sub school in Groton, Connecticut, and ended up as a plankowner on the newly commissioned USS Diodon.

But it was peace, not war, that most interested Arthur M. Meyer and he spent much of his life involved in the fight for civil rights and social justice. He was one of the founders of an experimental 1960s higher education program called Friends World College — a school that survives to this day as part of Long Island University known as LIU Global.

Born in Buffalo on Dec. 30, 1924, Arthur Merrill Meyer died April 21 at his home at the Maris Grove-Erickson Senior Living Community in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. He was 96.

"His life focused around education and working with kids at different levels," his son, Alden Meyer, of Takoma Park, Maryland, said. "I think he just found that he really liked teaching, molding young minds … He saw the value of a global education, being exposed to other cultures and seeing the world from other people’s points of view."

Arthur Meyer’s father, Merrill Burleson Meyer, was the son of a successful owner of Studebaker car dealership in Buffalo; his mother, Margaret O’Dea Meyer, was an immigrant from County Cork, Ireland. A sister, Peggy, was a Broadway actress in the 1950s, Alden Meyer said.

Meyer was raised Episcopal and, losing his mother at age 17, went off to Princeton University before leaving after two years for officer training school at Yale University. Meyer eventually became an ensign aboard the Diodon, though the war ended before he could see combat. By 1946, he was back at Princeton, where he earned degrees in mathematics and politics, eventually returning to Buffalo to teach at a progressive institution called the Park School. While at Park, Meyer went from assistant headmaster to headmaster of the Upper School. He also earned a masters from the Putney Graduate School for Teacher Education in Vermont and met Morris R. Mitchell, a lifelong Quaker.

He left the Espicopal Church and become a Quaker. Meyer became an early opponent of the war in Vietnam and in 1963 took part in Quaker vigils on the Peace Bridge — the bridge between Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ontario.

Then in 1965, Meyer and Mitchell, along with a handful of friends and associates, founded the experimental Friends World College through an initiative of the New York Yearly Meeting of the Quaker-based Religious Society of Friends. The school first hosted students at its so-called North American campus at an abandoned portion of old Mitchel Field, using old barracks and hangars at the facility. Its first class, in September 1965, had 36 students.

According to Newsday stories, the school had no curriculum. Instead, students were advised to go out and see the world, live in a foreign land, immerse themselves in a cultural lifestyle unlike their own, keep a journal of their activities and what they’d learned — then report for finals, where they’d explain it all.

Students ended up in places like London, Nairobi, Guatemala City and Kyoto, Japan.

At one point, Alden Meyer said his father loaded the family, including his stepmother and his three brothers, into a Volkswagen minibus, and led Friends World students on a trek through the South during the Civil Rights era, meeting Stokely Carmichael and other leaders of the movement.

By 1969, Meyer had moved the family to New Brunswick, Canada, as part of the back-to-the-land movement, whose followers sought self-sufficiency and autonomy in an effort to find a "Third Way" between capitalism and socialism.

Meanwhile, Friends World had gone from the dilapidated buildings at Mitchel Field to a donated estate in Lloyd Harbor and by 1972, fresh off a separation from his second wife, Meyer returned to Long Island to serve as director of admissions at Friends, Alden Meyer said.

It was then Meyer met his third wife, Mickey Kreutzer, and he remained as director of admissions until 1991, when Friends World merged with Long Island University.

He retired to Lake Monticello in Fluvanna County, Virginia.

Alden Meyer said his father was a private pilot who survived a crash when the small plane he was piloting was struck by another plane while landing in Buffalo in 1963. He said his father later also flew remote-controlled airplanes and drones. Additionally, Arthur Meyer loved sports cars, owning a variety of Triumphs and Jaguars, and spent vacation and free time scuba diving, as well as sailing a 27-foot sloop he owned on Long Island.

Meyer is survived by his wife, Mickey; five children from his two previous marriages (to the late Susan Meyer Markle and Jane Evans Meyer), Alden, Turi, Alexander, Carey, and Megan; Mickey’s two sons, Peter and Scott; 14 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren; and his step-sister, Joy Herrick.

Friends World became Global College in 2007 and in 2012 became known as LIU Global. No longer affiliated with Quaker institutions, LIU says the spirit of the school lives on with students spending eight semesters at eight international campus locations. According to the web page: "Collaborative seminars, fieldwork, group activities and learning communities, and writing intensive courses lay the groundwork for global learning, independent research, service learning and internships that allow LIU Global students to carve their own paths along the road less traveled."

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