"When I came to Drury so many years ago, it was in the days of the Great Depression," recalls Betty Meyer '40, and while she was interested in many things, her parents were interested in making sure she could find a job. "My father felt my interest in religion and the arts was not going to make me a living. He said I should be able to teach English." So she majored in education, and worked as an assistant to Drury art professor Elizabeth Richardson. "I felt like I was given an opportunity at Drury to have a sample of all the arts, and education involved me in trying to help people grow."
In the end, Betty did make a living combining her love of art and the spiritual life. She met and married a minister, and together they founded a Congregational church in Webster Groves, MO. When the congregation needed a new building, she discovered that church architecture fascinated her - the interplay of regional architecture and spiritual outlook made designing a good church a considerable challenge. That fascination continued as the Meyers moved to what Betty calls "the cradle of Congregationalism," Boston. They settled there for good in the late 1970s.
By then, Meyer's interest in architecture had been nourished to the point where she was a full-blown authority, and she was invited to become editor of Faith & Form, the journal of the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture. With articles by artists, clergy, architects, educators, craftspeople and others, the journal is the nation's preeminent publication dedicated to helping improve how houses of worship are designed. In 1995 the Interfaith Forum came under the umbrella of the American Institute of Architects, and Betty was named an honorary AIA member. As the magazine evolved, Betty tried to maintain a diversity of viewpoints: "I've tried to keep it interfaith and intercultural, not tied to Christianity."
In January, Meyer retired after 20 years as editor at Faith & Form; her legacy was that issue's cover story. Not that she's resting; Betty's now working on a history of the Society for the Arts, Religion and Contemporary Culture, which explores the impact of arts and religion on society, freedom and human fulfillment. "We need more than words," she says of art's place in society.
Art exerts a unique pull on Meyer. "I can go to a museum feeling blue and depressed, and come out feeling great," she marvels. "It feels like a church service. The spiritualism of art speaks to me like nothing else." The way she negotiated a line at Drury between her father's wishes and her interests was early evidence of a passion that has never eased. As she says, "I couldn't live without the arts."