Cheryl Meger of Owatonna became emotional during a portion of the interview with me this week, reflecting on her long career in education. She recently retired after 32 years.
For the past 16 years, Meger traveled to Lakeville North High School every day to be dean of students. I have first-hand knowledge of her work, and I can say it’s a job in which she excelled.
During her 40-minute commute each morning, Meger said she prayed to God to help her impact the life of at least one student that day.
Meger was amazed at what happened.
“Each day, God gave me a student to help,” she said with tears in her eyes. “Every day, I had a student show up in my life.”
My son, Caleb, was one of those students God put her in touch with. She had been his dean for several years, helping him navigate through the normal challenges of high school. But there also were some difficult challenges that no one is ever prepared to handle.
On Dec. 3, 2013, my son’s best friend, Alyssa Ettl, was killed on her way to Lakeville North. Caleb and Alyssa were sophomores. Meger was there to comfort grief-struck classmates, including my son.
It’s a time that many kids will never forget at Lakeville. To have a 16-year-old life end so tragically is tough at any age to handle, but perhaps even worse for teenagers.
Beyond the initial shock of the crash, Meger helped students develop scholarship events in memory of Alyssa. “She provided wisdom and a sense of unity,” Caleb said.
Even as Meger heads into retirement, her work over the years will not soon be forgotten, especially by my son.
“Cheryl has always been a consistent and positive force in my life,” Caleb said. “No matter the concern or issue, you could always count on her to provide an honest, thoughtful and realistic solution.”
Caleb shared with me how he would always leave Meger’s office feeling better about his life.
“Personally, I always felt she was fully present when speaking to me and had a deep, vested interest in my life,” Caleb said. “When you think about the leadership from Lakeville North, Cheryl always came to mind as the leader of the pack.”
Caleb went on to say, “Cheryl has impacted many lives so deeply e her approach to living with integrity, selflessness and authenticity will be a distinguishing mark always associated with her name. Authenticity. There’s not many that do it better.”
Reflecting on her career, Meger said, “I will miss the one-to-one conversations with kids. Nothing can replace that. Working with kids is wonderful.”
Meger will now turn her full attention to helping with her family’s funeral businesses, Brick-Meger Funeral Home in Owatonna and Medford Funeral Home. She’ll be in good company with her husband, Glen, and sons, Michael and Brett, who are all funeral directors. She wants to lighten the load for them, so they have more time to deal with grieving families.
“We have a nice opportunity for our family to help families at the most difficult time of their lives,” Meger said.
She is someone who always puts the needs of others at the forefront.
My son is forever thankful that he crossed paths with her early in his life.
She’ll no doubt be going in hot pursuit of continuing to help people, just in a little different setting now.