Regula A. Meier, Longtime German and French Professor at ODU, Dies at 91
April 16, 2021
Regula A. Meier, who taught at Old Dominion University for more than 50 years, left a lasting impact on her students.
"I was in Regula's evening German class at ODU in 1964-65," Gray Puryear wrote in a memorial post. "She was an excellent teacher, and I still recite poems in German that I learned 55 years ago."
Meier, who worked at ODU from the 1960s until 2016 and served as chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature for five years, died March 21. She was 91.
"She was a highly respected faculty member who embraced all students, but especially international students," ODU President John R. Broderick said. "Her enthusiasm for her teaching and her students was apparent every time you talked to her."
Former student Shari Harper wrote: "She believed in me and encouraged me to try something completely different. Because of her, I declared my major as German, receiving my degree in 1982. She was an irrepressible bundle of energy and always upbeat. I can still hear her giving her students verbal hints for learning German grammar. I encountered her in the ODU bookstore several years after graduation, where she was purchasing textbooks for herself as she was learning Japanese!"
Frederick Lubich, professor emeritus of world languages and cultures, met Meier when he came to ODU in 1997 to succeed her as chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature. He also noted her legacy with students.
"She was a very well-known and popular figure on campus, so if you walked with her, everyone would stop and talk to you," he said. "When you see notes (on her obituary) from students that had her 40 years ago, you see how special she was."
Meier and her late husband, Heinz, a former history professor and dean of the College of Arts and Letters, were remembered for their kind and giving nature.
"They were an inseparable tour de force and an example to all of us not only of how to teach, but also how to be family and community," wrote Elizabeth T. Harris, who returned to the United States in 1985 after a decade in Europe to complete her master's in history at ODU. "We learned so much more than just the subject matter - how to appreciate music, the arts, and literature - but what I remember most was good conversation that I rarely had elsewhere. ... Some teachers teach. Better ones explain. Others even demonstrate. But the exceptional ones inspire."
Puryear said: "When Regula learned that a fellow classmate and I planned to travel to Europe together in the summer of 1965, she invited us to stop in Zurich at her father's house and have lunch. After lunch, she gave us a tour of the city. She was a gracious and caring host. In 1969, my future wife and I attended a three-week summer institute in Assisi, Italy, as ODU students. Heinz Meier was one of the instructors, so Sharon and I joined Heinz and Regula at meals and tours of the city."
Lubich described Meier as entertaining, sophisticated, outgoing, funny and someone who cared deeply about student success while sticking to pedagogical principles he teased her were "old-school," such as memorization.
They bonded over their love of literature and cultural similarities, he said - Meier was Swiss and Lubich German - so the pair always spoke German.
"She really embodied the old tradition of academic learnedness in a much broader sense than I think we do today," he said.
Meier, who was born in Uetikon, Switzerland, in 1929, was one of only two young women accepted for study at the Teacher's College Unterstrasse in Zurich in 1947. There she met Heinz, and the couple came to Norfolk in 1960 when he was hired by what was then the Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary.
Regula was hired as a part-time German and French instructor in the early 1960s and became a full-time associate professor in 1968. She chaired the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature from 1991 to 1996. After retiring from full-time teaching in 1998, she worked as an adjunct until 2016.
Meier won many teaching honors, including the Virginia Distinguished Foreign Language Teacher Award in 1979, ODU's Robert E. Stern Teaching Award in 1982, and the Outstanding German Teacher Award from the American Association of Teachers of German in 1985.
She was active with community organizations in Norfolk, including the Norfolk Public Library, Norfolk Sister Cities, the Chrysler Museum of Art and NATO. She also received the Cross of Merit (First Class) from the German government in recognition of her efforts to foster German-American relations.
She is survived by her sister, Ursula Etheridge; her children (and spouses), Barbara Clements (Charlie), Christina Meier (John Hottendorf), Markus Meier and Peter Meier (Lisa); and her grandchildren, Christopher (Jaclyn Seward) Emily, and Nicholas Clements, Daniel and Nathan Meier, and Alyssa and Rachel Hottendorf; and great-granddaughters, Parker and Georgia Seward-Clements.
She requested that her passing be quietly observed by her immediate family.
To plant trees in her memory, visit legacy.com's Sympathy Store.
Amy Matzke-Fawcett contributed to this story.