Meehan has led the university since 1999. People who know him well say he's
done a good job of it.
With his stature and his profile, he's hard to miss. And so are his
His multiple contributions to the community, including charity work and
leading the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, make him this year's Anniston
Star Citizen of the Year.
The selection is made each year by The Star's editorial board and officers.
"We could have selected this citizen any year for the past several years, and
probably we should have," said The Star's publisher, H. Brandt Ayers. "He has
been so omnipresent in so many ways, with such understated leadership skills
that it's a case of overlooking the obvious."
The honor was announced at the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce's annual
"I'm very honored," Meehan said as he received the award. The community has
"been home to me since I came here in 1968," he said. "I appreciate it and every
one of you."
After the dinner, Meehan said he was "totally surprised," by being named
Citizen of the Year. "It's very flattering," he said.
Joe Serviss, vice president for institutional advancement at JSU, has known
Meehan since 1989. Meehan's service on local and regional boards has upped the
profile of JSU, he said.
"He's really put JSU out front and on the minds of many people," Serviss
Meehan rose through the ranks at the university.
Originally from Connecticut and Texas, he graduated high school in
According to the JSU Web site, he enrolled at JSU as a freshman in 1968,
completing his Bachelor of Science in biology in 1972.
After getting his master's in that subject in 1976, he returned to the school
as a biology instructor in 1977. He completed his doctorate of education at the
University of Alabama.
Meehan worked in multiple top positions at the school before becoming
Then there's his nonprofit work. He's served as a member on the board of
directors for The United Way of East Central Alabama, worked with the Boy Scouts
and the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.
Meehan and his wife, Elizabeth ("Beth"), have a daughter, Carol Grace, and
twin boys, Drew and Will.
As president, Meehan has looked to expand JSU's reach beyond its campus,
using distance education.
"He authorized an associate vice president of distance education," Serviss
said. "That was the first time we've had (one) … That's how important he feels
distance education is."
Meehan is also a familiar face among students, known as someone who's not
afraid to step out of his office and mingle.
Pete Conroy, the director of JSU's Environmental Policy and Information
Center, said Meehan has lived up to the university's motto of being "the
friendliest campus in the South."
"All the years I've known him, he's always friendly, always approachable, and
I think he's the kind of guy who I don't think has met a stranger," Conroy said.
Last May, a video popped up on YouTube.com showing a female graduate bumping
chests with a laughing Meehan and then giving him a big hug as he hands over her
diploma, much as athletes congratulate each other after a big play. As of
Wednesday, it had 718 views.
"I think that's just marvelous that a university president can have that much
fun and still maintain such a well-respected and serious role in running the
university," Conroy said.
Ayers said Meehan has made "cumulative contributions" to the economic,
cultural and social life of northeast Alabama.
Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce President Sherri Sumners said she's often
surprised Meehan can keep such a busy schedule. She compared him to the star
athlete whose performance elevates the rest of the team.
"He's everywhere," Sumners said. "There are a lot of activities he's involved
in he could very easily not be involved in or pass to someone else, but he takes
a very personal interest in so many things."
About Dan Whisenhunt
Dan Whisenhunt covers K-12 schools and higher
education for The Star.
See story at The Anniston Star's website: www.annistonstar.com