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WMU mourns death of benefactor Edwin Meader

Feb. 13, 2007

Edwin E. Meader, a Kalamazoo philanthropist and major Western Michigan University benefactor, died Feb. 1. He was 97.

His legacy at WMU includes the W. E. Upjohn Center for the Study of Geographical Change and Waldo Library's Edwin and Mary Meader Rare Books Room.

Meader, a former adjunct professor of geography at WMU, is survived by his wife, Mary, who also is a longtime supporter of the University, projects in Kalamazoo and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

In 2005, the couple gave $4 million and 1,800 aerial photographs of Africa and South America taken by Mary Meader in the 1930s to WMU for a one-of-a-kind center housed in Welborn Hall to document and evaluate geographic changes over time. The center, which is named for Mary Meader's grandfather and founder of the former Upjohn Co. in Kalamazoo, uses the work of past explorers and scientists to create digital versions of maps and aerial photography.

The W. H. Upjohn Rotunda, the entrance to WMU's main library, was also named for Mary Meader's father, an early Upjohn Co. executive, in recognition of the Meaders' leadership gift for the expansion and complete renovation of that facility in the early 1990s. The library's Meader Rare Books Room was named in honor of the Meaders' continued support of the University libraries.

Born Sept. 21, 1909 in Benton Harbor, Edwin Meader came to the Kalamazoo area in 1925. He attended WMU and the University of Michigan, from which he graduated in 1933.

During military service in World War II, he visited a University of Michigan excavation area in Egypt. That experience fueled a lifelong interest in geography and archaeology.

Following the death of his first wife, Margaret, Meader married Mary Upjohn in 1965.

Besides the couple's contributions to WMU, the Meaders in 2004 gifted $18 million to the University of Michigan for the construction of a building to accommodate a center for the study of depression and for the university's Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.

The Meaders' philanthropical footprints also are all over the Kalamazoo area. The two were major players in the founding of the Fontana Music Society and the Chamber Music Society. Both were active in many other community endeavors.

Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, deanne.molinari@wmich.edu

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