Edwin and Mary Meader
Lives of Adventure and Generosity

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Mary Meader at Luxor, 1938. (Click for larger image.) 1

Rachel Mary Upjohn was born on April 15, 1916, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She was the granddaughter of Dr. W. E. Upjohn, founder of the Upjohn Company, a maker of pharmaceuticals. A French and Spanish major at Smith College, she left school in 1935 to marry Richard Light, a neurosurgeon and former military pilot known among aviation enthusiasts for an around-the-world flight in 1934. In 1937 Mary and Richard Light embarked on a series of flights throughout South America and Africa. A selection of the aerial photographs Mary took on these trips is now on display in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. She received the Outstanding Achievement Award of the Society of Women Geographers in 2005. And in 2006 she was invited to sign the Fliers’ and Explorers’ Globe of the American Geographical Society. With Richard Light she had four sons: Christopher, Timothy, John, and Rudolph Light.

“I had something of a wanderlust. It just seemed like a great adventure... something that I wanted to do, something that hadn’t been done before.”
–Mary Meader on her extraordinary South America/Africa flights in 1937-38 (Source: Encore Magazine)

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Ed Meader with his brother George Meader in Cairo, 1945. (Click for larger image.) 2

Edwin E. Meader was born on September 21, 1909, in Benton Harbor, Michigan. He attended Albion College, Western Michigan University (where he met his first wife, Margaret Smith), and the University of Michigan (BA 1933), taking numerous courses on geography. His affinity for this subject continued, and he developed a new interest in archaeology when his military service in Africa during World War II allowed him to visit Karanis, an archaeological site excavated by the University of Michigan. After his return to the States he continued his work in military intelligence. He also found time to pursue a master’s degree in geography from Wayne State University, where he began teaching the geography of the Middle East and North Africa, a subject he also taught at Western Michigan University.

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“I was introduced to the subject in Egypt by archeologists in ’43-’45...I did just about everything over there, including working with British intelligence.”
–Ed Meader, on his interest in archaeology and his military service during World War II (Source: Encore Magazine; and personal correspondence with Kelsey curators.)

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Ed and Mary Meader on the cover of Encore magazine. (Click for larger image.) 3

In Kalamazoo, Mary’s and Ed’s adventurous paths ultimately converged after the death of Ed’s wife in 1954 and Mary’s divorce. In 1965 they married and began a 42-year journey together filled with travel, music, art, conversation, friends, and family. Both Ed and Mary Meader were known for their kindness, boundless generosity, keen senses of humor, and their sharply inquiring minds, which went, in the words of Mary’s son Timothy Light, “beyond our times and shores.” These qualities as well as their shared spirit of adventure live on not only through their families but also through the many programs and institutions of education, music, arts, and medicine they so generously supported.

 

 

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Ed and Mary on their wedding day.2


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Ed and Mary Meader later in life. 2


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Ed Meader on his 90th birthday, describing his attempt to run away to sea at age fifteen. 2
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Ed and Mary at the groundbreaking ceremony. (Click for larger image.) 4

On a rainy day in May 2006, Ed and Mary Meader traveled from Kalamazoo to Ann Arbor to celebrate the upcoming construction of the addition to the Kelsey Museum they had made possible, the William E. Upjohn Exhibit Wing. At the ceremony, they rose together from their chairs, and together they lifted shovels in a symbolic sandbox, breaking ground on a building dedicated to the conservation, study, display, and teaching of the material culture of ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern societies. This special exhibition gallery, which will allow Kelsey curators to explore a broad diversity of topics complementing the scope of the permanent galleries, is named after Ed and Mary Meader, in honor of their own ceaseless interest in knowledge and the joy of exploration.



»See all photos of Ed and Mary Meader.

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