At 103, Laramie’s Gerry Meyer Just Keeps Running
Gerry Meyer has become a local celebrity for running in the Senior Olympics at 103 years old.
The Senior Olympics were held in Cheyenne last weekend, with Meyer running the 50-meter on Aug. 6. Meyer, emeritus professor of chemistry and former Dean of Arts & Sciences at the University of Wyoming, doesn’t see running as a centenarian as an achievement.
“It’s a feat to be on top of the earth now,” he said, laughing.
E.G. “Gerry” Meyer was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1919. He attended Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon) in Pittsburg because he didn’t want to be in the sheep and wool business like his father and grandfather.
“The wool business involves miles and miles of territory. It’s a tough life,” he said.
Meyer comes from tough stock, then, as his mother ventured to college by herself–before New Mexico was granted statehood in 1912.
“My mother decided to go to college. How I’ll never know. New Mexico was still a territory. And my mom grew up and wanted to go to college. Went to Wellesley. Got on a train in Albuquerque by herself, never been outside of the city. Went to Chicago, to Boston. By herself at 17, 18 years old.”
It’s no surprise then, that Meyer didn’t start running until his 50s, after accomplishing his own academic feats at the University of Wyoming. “I had so much to do when I got here. I literally had to build a science center.”
The Space Race was in full swing since Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin went to space in 1961, and Meyer landed in Laramie in 1963.
Meyer borrowed his mother’s determination and father’s toughness to get the job done. “I said, ‘If you wanna make this place look like something, we have to have space.’ I stole Ross Hall and Hoyt Hall. It was paid for, so I stole them. You go to the board and say ‘I’ve got to have this building.’ There were three people in a little room in A&S and people in the basement.”
It took grant writing, site visits, hosting visiting grant approval teams in faculty homes and feeding these teams to build the program he wanted. “It was a six-day-a-week job. The university was not equipped to do the things it was required to do.”
“So after all that was over, I started running.”
Meyer said it wasn’t stress that led to running, either. “I’m a guy who doesn’t buy much into that stress business. It’s not that I don’t worry and think about things, it’s a matter of dwelling on them.”
“I just started running because I needed to change my daily existence to keep going. There was nothing else to do other than work. I ran every morning. I froze to death, jogging through the snow in the winter. But I did it. Every morning.”
“You try to keep in reasonable shape. If you run for a good stretch, and really do it, it puts you in a certain physical state that you don’t decay as rapidly,” he said laughing.
He’s been involved with the Senior Olympics since the 1970s and is still active in the world of science academia. Meyer has three boys who are not runners. “They’ve all done well. What they’re really good at is arguing,” he laughed.
In the end, Meyer said, “Just do it. My theory for longevity is a three-part deal. ⅓ is genetics, of course. ⅓ is how you live. Behave yourself. Take care of yourself. Don’t smoke, and don’t drink too much. The third ⅓ is luck. I kid you not.”