Meyer—Jeffrey Meyer, 82, on December 17, 2020, at home with wife Cathy and son Joel by his side, in Davidson, N.C. Jeff was born on September 5, 1938, to Elsa and Walter Meyer in Cincinnati, Ohio. He earned a bachelor’s in philosophy at the Franciscan Monastery at Duns Scotus College in Southfield, Mich., and a master’s in English literature from the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. For seven years, Jeff lived at a monastery preparing to be a Franciscan. He left the monastery to study the history of religions at the University of Chicago, where he received both master’s and doctorate degrees. While there, Jeff developed a passion for Chinese religion, culture, and languages, leading to his 35-year teaching career focused on Asian religions.
In 1973 Jeff came to the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte, where he met Cathy Mowry. They were married on December 11, 1982. Jeff served as chair of the Religious Studies Department at UNC from 1992 to 1998 and was the International Faculty Person of the Year for 2005-2006. Jeff was awarded several Fulbright scholarships to conduct research abroad. He was an exchange professor at Kingston University in London, UK, and at Beijing Normal University in Beijing, China. He authored books including Myths in Stone: Religious Dimensions of Washington, D.C. and The Dragons of Tiananmen: Beijing as a Sacred City. Upon retirement from UNC, Jeff was given the title of professor emeritus.
Jeff was a kind, generous person who embodied Quaker values. His spiritual home was Charlotte (N.C.) Meeting, where he was a devoted member for four decades. He was central to meeting life, including serving as presiding clerk multiple times. He volunteered with Crisis Assistance Ministry, Friendship Trays, Habitat for Humanity, Urban Ministry, and Room In The Inn (RITI), which hosts those experiencing homelessness. In the late 1990s, Jeff played a major role in locating the site for the new meetinghouse. He completed documents to qualify the meeting’s grounds as a F.A.I.T.H. (Faith Actions Impacting the Habitat) habitat. Jeff served as the first memorial garden steward. When Friends view the meetinghouse, the memorial garden, and the adjacent wooded property, they see Jeff’s nurturing hand and stewardship throughout.
Jeff was a longstanding member of the meeting’s book group, Friendly Readers, where his scholarly background and gentle humor were appreciated. In 2017, he published a novel, A Call to China, which won the Independent Book Publishers Association (IPBA) Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for excellence. His second novel, Crooked Lines, was published in 2020.
Jeff found joy in life. He loved drawing, writing, reading, gardening, listening to music, learning about nature, and exploring foreign lands and people. He said, “I’ve spent . . . about three years of my life in Asia, mostly China and Taiwan, amazed and intrigued at times at how different these cultures are from my own, and at other times marveling at how much alike all of us are, from east or west, as human beings.”
Jeff is survived by his wife of 38 years, Catherine Mowry; children Joel Meyer (Caren Weinhouse), Jonathan Meyer (Julia Antonick), and Julia Meyer (Justin Gould); three grandchildren; and sister Linda Sedgwick.