Christopher Adams Meyer
November 28, 1948 – October 23, 2020
No single text could sum up my father. But one of our last conversations was about the increasing difficulty of communication, and what he said was this: “Try. Let’s try.” So I will.
Chris Meyer tried. At everything. For the most part, he succeeded, but the point is not success or failure; it’s that he wanted to try. Anything he thought was worth doing was worth doing not only well, but to the highest possible level—or at least better than anyone else. The principle applied to everything from choosing a bathrobe to designing a high-stakes conference. Whether leisure or work, if he was going to do it, he was going to do it up right. To quote one of his most beloved songs, Stephen Sondheim’s “Children and Art,” “It’s not so much do what you like as it is that you like what you do.”
At work, this principle meant that the work should be substantive and good for something; that everyone involved should have a good time doing it; that they should learn from the process. The same went for life, and he lived his with integrity in the truest sense of the word. He was as committed to the work of his life as he was to his life at work. He looked for lessons and learning everywhere, and regarded everyone he met, from hairdressers to luminaries, as potential teammates. In his own words: “It’s been my luck to find that every kind of relationship has the potential for people to share an aspiration and enjoy working toward it together, whether founding a business, designing a conference, crafting a table of contents or putting a beautiful dinner on the table.”
For those of us lucky to count him as family, his commitment to living well could occasionally be frustrating. I keenly remember spending three hours on foot looking for a restaurant that would meet his standards when I was about fourteen; dinner reached the table at 11pm that night. But it was one of his great gifts to regard his own quirks as virtues and lean into them, hard. The same high standards and determination made him an unfailing supporter and teacher to me, and a devoted partner and companion to my mother Mary. As she often says, we benefited endlessly from his drive to go where he’d never been and to wring the best possible experience out of it when he got there.
His extended family similarly benefited from Chris’s exploratory zeal. His niece Rachel observes that “his deep well of curiosity was also a font of generosity”: when he found something great, his first instinct was to share it. That generous curiosity enriched and enlivened countless wine-soaked dinners with his brother John and trips with his sister Priscilla, brother-in-law Bill, and Rachel and her husband Nick. But places can be invented as well as visited, and Chris was an essential part of creating the familial space in which we could each—and all—be intensely ourselves. As Priscilla told him, “Talking to you sets all the fun free associative analogy-making energy in motion; making you laugh with some untoward pairing of your world and mine is one of my great pleasures. Much of that doesn’t come into play with anyone else, is invisible. I can forget that it’s there in blander environments, which is all of them.”
His commitment to whatever he was doing at the moment—and to whomever he was doing it with—also meant a kind of steadfastness that made him an ideal person to help work through quandaries. Steadfastness can suggest slowness or stillness, but his was of a different kind. He was quick, agile, sometimes restless; his athletic talents (MVP, he would want me to note, of Brandeis University’s baseball team) matched his mental acrobatics. “Steadfastness” in his case was the result of channeling his inventive, at times chaotic nature through a drive for rigor. (He did set the bathroom he shared with Priscilla mildly on fire at twelve years old, but only in an effort to streamline his small business selling firecrackers to his classmates.) It meant that you could count on him, without question, to keep you moving—whether you thought you needed it or not.
In recent weeks, Mom and I have received dozens of remembrances from Dad’s friends and colleagues testifying to these qualities in him. Just as his principles extended equally to professional and personal life, his relationships wove the two together. He drew colleagues and mentees close as friends, and invited friends to become colleagues. He was an ingenious convener of thinkers for the same reason he was a consummate party host: he wanted everyone to leave smarter and better than they arrived. Many of the same people turned up to both kinds of gatherings.
There are far too many testimonials from this wide pool of people who loved him to include here, but the remembrance of a life built around connection would be incomplete without the voices of others. In the spirit of “let’s try,” here is a brief attempt at synthesis.
Chris drove people to try harder and think sharper, but always collaboratively; he had, as one put it, “the ability to think alongside you.” More than this, he could think alongside several people—even groups—at once. He was, as a result, a brilliant assembler of teams and networks: “It is a tribute to Chris that 25-30+ years after people left the team, they still seek to get together regularly. I’ve never seen anything like this elsewhere.” Such loyalties resulted from his equally intense drive to make the work meaningful and enjoyable. “I found him always a welcome intellectual dance/sparring partner, keenly aware of the drama of everyday life and ready to laugh on a moment’s notice.” Many credit him with helping them find their paths. “He is the person who set me up to be successful in this world with an incredible mix of intellectual curiosity, warm hearted caring, appreciation of beauty and excellence in the world and in people, and in me.”
A few speak directly to his legacy, and it is with the question of legacy that I want to close. Legacy too often means big, tangible things: monuments, names on buildings, or a fortune. But “Children and Art” places legacy in the quiet, personal transmission of a life’s work, and the word comes down (as Dad would doubtless note himself) from a Latin one meaning “an appointed representative.” Chris’s legacy is in the people he influenced and in the ideas he leaves behind that will continue to do so. As his delegates, then, we are left with the task of continuing the relay: to try, as best we can, to be steadfastly committed in that agile, joyful, productive motion. It’s therefore profoundly comforting to see that this is already understood:
“The incredibly broad legacy he will leave—his big and crisp ideas in print, and all these people he has shown how to welcome the fun work of thinking, and to enjoy living—has to be some consolation. He has created so many memorable moments with all of us, he’ll live on as a teacher. How to learn, how to think, how to sample, how to laugh. “
“I try to manage with the same openness, fairness, and concern for our people's growth that you showed me. It is astonishing what loyalty and great work your approach to management has created. There are dozens of people here—including a few babies—whose lives depend on your approach to leadership.”
“I think about how to help people in the world, and make it a better place, with greater insight and urgency because of Chris, and I know others do as well. He brings out the best in people, and that is an incredible accomplishment. It is a life well lived.”
“You are the rare good man, ethical, hard-working, and caring. You are a good mentor to many and a friend to hundreds more. Your gifts to us will ripple through time and space.”
Communication may have become difficult by the end, but what these statements show is that Chris had already shared what he wanted to say. In reflecting on his life, he repeatedly stressed that he considered people he had never met to be his collaborators—readers of his books, adopters of his ideas, and the thinkers and artists who influenced him in turn were all his partners, met or unmet. However you knew or knew of him, his message to you, in his own words, was: “I didn’t want to leave without saying thank you, and goodbye.”
He loved to make a graceful exit, and to him that meant a departure that was equally gracious to everyone present. There are hundreds present, if not more; no obituary could live up to his standard for grace, but that standard can be honored. He would want you to have a good time at any event he hosted, and this is one. Enjoy the memory of him, and put the work he leaves behind to good use. All he would ask in return is your best.
The family requests that memorial contributions be directed in either of the following ways:
1. Two years ago Chris created the Priscilla Meyer Fund at Wesleyan University to support undergraduate education abroad in Russia, in honor of his sister’s long career as a Russian educator. In recognition of his devotion to family, his creativity in enabling the growth of others, and the wide, spreading ripple of his influence, contributions may be made online, by check, or through a donor advised fund, noting “in memory of Christopher Meyer for the Priscilla Meyer Fund” and sent care of Jennifer Opalacz, Office of Advancement, 291 Main Street, Middletown, CT 06457.
2. In honor of the characteristic clarity and intention with which he approached his death as well as his life, and the important role this organization played in realizing that intent: memorial contributions may be made to Care Dimensions Hospice, 75 Sylvan St, Suite B-102, Danvers, MA 01923, CareDimensions.org.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Christopher Adams Meyer
November 25, 2020
I first met Chris at his Cambridge in 2009, thanks to the Bankinter Foundation. His energy and giant smile were instantly warming, and his quick wit and intellect was hugely impressive and bit intimidating.
Chris’s office was a fantastic collection of books and photos of family and travels. His passion for the work of the Bankinter Foundation was the first topic we discussed. During the many years since that first meeting; Chris continued to impress me and anyone he touched. His humble-confidence, ability to stimulate discussion, push people to think bigger, and challenge the way we all view the world was powerful. Over those same years, it has been a joy to get to know Mary and Miranda. Chris and Mary were such an amazing team, and you could see that their love and passion for life and learning, had clearly rubbed off on Miranda.
It would take a large book to describe Chris Meyer and all the lives he touched. I was privileged to know him and consider him a friend. Chris was truly one of the greatest humans I have ever met. He was salt-of-the-earth; the best and noblest elements of life and someone that pushed us all to be better as people and members of society.
November 12, 2020
I trained/coached Chris with his exercise and health routine over the past year. As his coach I thought I would be teaching him but looking back on our time together I am pretty sure I learned more! His intriguing questions and genuine curiosity always kept me thinking! He was a bright hour in my day, always eager to work hard and learn during our sessions. He talked often about his wife and daughter and the passion he had for his career. I am thankful I was able to meet Chris. He was a beautiful soul and will truly be missed.
November 7, 2020
Chris and I were good friends at Hotchkiss where, even back then, I was impressed by his intelligence and delighted by his humor. We managed to see each other a few times over these past few years, and I was pleased to find his amazing energy and general appetite for life, his joie de vivre, undiminished. He and Mary were due to visit us in Paris in June but, alas, COVID prevented that.
Our sincere condolences to Mary and Miranda,
Ty & Claire Tuttle
November 4, 2020
I would have loved to talk to Chris about our current election situation.
We worked together, along with Mark Leiter and others, at the Center for Business Innovation in Kendall Square- the most beautiful offices I've ever worked in.
Designed, of course, by Chris.
May his memory be a blessing.
November 3, 2020
A giant has left us.
A giant like Friend.
A giant as an innovator, with an infinite Humanity.
15 years ago we started working together and always with plans to do it again. This February we spoke for another project and COVID delayed it.
Chris, I'm SURE you are now the biggest and brightest star in the sky. Impossible for the Sun to overshadow you.
Thank you for all the moments shared in Madrid, in Boston and from Mexico.
Just say: THANK YOU. You know I love you.
A big hug for Mary and Miranda. You have us for anything you need.
November 3, 2020
I had the luxury to work with Chris in Madrid at Monitor in the Bankinter Foundation. We become partners and good friends. He was smart, creative, always positive, forward thinking, challenging linear views. He has a unique ability to connect with people, encourage constructive debate and stimulate new ideas from such diverse groups. His human qualities : empathy, humility and willingness to help also set an example for me and all around him. He will be missed in Spain !
November 3, 2020
Chris Meyer was my mentor over a long time. We have worked together for more than 15 years that we became close friends. I'm missing our often conversations and your advices. A week before you left, we could thank each other and say goodbay, really sad moment. You were a gift for me and now I feel orphan. Stay in the sun my friend!!
November 2, 2020
I knew Chris at Dalton, when we were in 7th and 8th grade. I remember a huge smile, a twinkle and a bit of mischief in his eyes, an athletic fellow, strong, full of energy and laughter. It is a good memory. From your beautiful words how I wish I had continued to know him.
Very best regards,
November 2, 2020
Chris embodied something many secretly aspire to and few actually achieve - being a man of virtue, a good person, someone to look up to. An intellectual giant yet never arrogant or boastful. Rather a world class listener, always eager to learn, enjoying to "spar" in conversation. In Platonic style, he made us think and learn, for a teacher he was, a great innovator, the epitome of human curiosity. He convened people of all directions and turned them into friends. Beyond that, one could count on Chris' support in times of need and frustration. And last lot least, he loved the good life and shared it in abundance. I see our dinner party standing on Chris' and Mary's terrace over-looking the Boston Commons with a glass of champagne in our hands. May he rest in eternal peace.
November 1, 2020
I met Chris ~20 years ago when I joined what was then Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, and instantly realized I was standing in the presence of a truly unique person. Chris was simultaneously brilliant, funny, graceful and caring (what a combination!). He was a futurist and a historian. A captivating storyteller, he could dazzle you with a provocative insight about how birds fly, and then just as quickly make you laugh hysterically about it. He cared deeply about people, and spent much of his career bringing interesting people together for a host of adventures. I’m going to miss my long dinners with Chris, which always left me smiling and inspired. During our last dinner together in NYC he said the following with a big smile: “I’ve come up with an amazing new diet. Start to reward yourself with Music, instead of Food! Think about it!” He was a one-of-a-"kind genius," who was both kind and genius all rolled into one amazing person. I want to extend my condolences to his family and loved ones, and his community of friends. He will be remembered and missed by many around the world.
October 29, 2020
Yes, Chris was brilliant, and a creative business thinker. But he was a guy who radiated vitality. You could never feel depressed in his presence, but rather stimulated, encouraged, optimistic. He knew how to really live life to the fullest, and to enjoy all it has to offer. He hosted our HBS section parties for 45 years, with grace and elan. He will be sorely missed.
October 29, 2020
Very sorry to learn of the passing of Chris Meyer - a former client (really more like a colleague), fellow author, and most importantly, good friend. Chris was brilliant, funny, kind, and creative. His work helped numerous companies to anticipate and shape the future of their businesses. It was always such a pleasure to see him. He will be missed by many. My condolences to his family and loved ones, especially Mary and Miranda.
October 29, 2020
I just heard the very sad news of Chris’ passing. I remember Chris fondly first when he was at E&Y and I was a client of his when I worked at Procter and Gamble and then years later when we worked together at Monitor. He was one of the smartest people I ever met in business and influenced the thinking of so many of us. More importantly he was a fine person.
This site asks to share a pleasant memory. I have many, but what I remember most is that we were born within two weeks of each other in 1948 and therefore shared many common boyhood memories of growing up in that era—sports, entertainment, general cultural stuff. One day when we were just shooting the breeze, I happened to mention one of my favorite movies as a kid was an obscure silly comedy called The Court Jester starring Danny Kaye. Chris’ eyes lit up and proceeded to recite long bits of dialogue from the movie, including some tongue-twisting lyrics. As ever, he was truly the smartest guy in the room.
My deepest condolences to his family.