When Roslyn Meyer ’71 GRD ’77 and Jerome Meyer MED ’72 met in Cross Campus Library 30 years ago, they could hardly have imagined that they would marry the following summer and lead lives of philanthropy and community outreach in New Haven.
But last night, at a reception in the New Haven Lawn Club — located just blocks away from CCL — the couple received the 2001 Alexis de Tocqueville Society Award for their financial and personal support of United Way and other organizations.
“The Meyers are a shining example of that Tocquevillian spirit, not only as donors but as true philanthropists who help and support in time of need,” said Hart Caparulo, the president of United Way of Greater New Haven. “They are citizens of this community in the fullest sense of the word.”
The Alexis de Tocqueville Society Award, named for the 19th century French writer who wrote about his travels in the United States, is given to community members who donate $10,000 or more per year to United Way.
“The Meyers have been blessed with great financial resources, but along with that they bring great passion and enthusiasm, and are involved very personally with us,” said Heather Calabrese, United Way’s director of marketing and communications.
The awards reception also honored the homeless shelter Life Haven, the foster program Catholic Family Services and Community Mediation as winners of the 2001 Touch A Life Award for the aid these organizations provided to New Haven residents.
Roslyn Meyer — then Milstein — was a first-year graduate student in clinical psychology when she and Jerome Meyer, then a fourth-year medical student, met in CCL. They soon discovered a mutual interest in volunteer work.
The Meyers were recognized for their work in the Leadership Education Athletics and Partnering program, better known as LEAP. The couple helped found the program in 1991, and it originally met every week in the basement of the Meyers’ home.
Today LEAP is a nationally recognized outreach organization with a budget of $5 million that involves 1,400 inner-city youths in five Connecticut cities, including New Haven, New London and Hartford. The year-round mentoring program pairs children between the ages of 8 and 14 with both a high school and a college student as mentors.
“Among the programs that Ros and I have worked on, we’re proudest of LEAP,” Jerome Meyer said. “Unlike just another college Dwight Hall program, LEAP built bridges with people from all aspects of the community: people from my generation, housing authorities, the politicians, the Board of Education, the high school students, and the parents. It was so broad-based, it was bound to succeed — it was like a wild dream come true.”
The awards reception had an affectionate atmosphere, as many of those present exchanged hugs with the Meyers and one another. The Meyers received a standing ovation when they received the award.
“It’s a real honor and privilege to be a part of the giving community,” Roslyn Meyer said in her speech. “There are a lot of people in this room who could be recognized and will be recognized over the years. If we really work together, we can really make a difference in the world, particularly after the events of Sept. 11.”
Jerome Meyer also said there were reasons for optimism.
“Any human being given a chance has a drive to help one another,” he said in his speech.
The Meyers are also involved in several other community and arts organizations. Jerome Meyer is president of the Long Wharf Theatre and is on the board of the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven and Elm Shakespeare. Roslyn Meyer is an active member of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, the Amistad Academy, and Read-to-Grow, which provides books to new mothers.
“It’s nice to know that the love I’ve had from them growing up can be shared with so many people,” said Jamie Meyer, the couple’s son and a current high school senior.