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Meter is Old Settlers President
July 12, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis

Courtesy photo
Henry Meter has been known not only as a teacher and advisor, but as a friend of the students.

Henry Meter, who spent his entire teaching career with the Gering schools, has been named this year’s Old Settlers Honorary President during the annual Oregon Trail Days celebration.

Henry was born and raised into a family of 12 children on the family farm east of Minatare. “I always thought my Dad worked us really hard,” he said. “But as I look back on it, I think it was the best training I every got. I learned what a day’s work was.”
But one year in high school, a hailstorm wiped out their bean crop. And Henry started to wonder whether a different career choice might be in order.

“After graduation in 1948, I went to Scottsbluff Junior College and played football, when they still had a team,” he said. “Then I got a scholarship to go to Chadron State. I played football there as well and ended up with a teaching degree.” (At the time, the only degrees offered by Chadron State were in education.)

During his senior year, Henry got a call to join the military during the Korean conflict. “I was married at the time, so they deferred me until the end of the school year,” he said. “In the meantime, we had our first son, so I was reclassified.”

Also during his senior year at Chadron State, Henry found out that Russell Wilkie, his old school superintendent at Minatare, had accepted the position at Gering.
“He said he had an opening if I was interested,” Henry said. “I started teaching in Gering in the 1952 – 1953 school year and stayed with the district for the next 38 years.”

He taught seven years, coached both football and track, was the junior high principal for five years and was the high school principal for the last 26 years of his career.
During the summers in the late 1950s, Henry worked on his master’s degree in educational administration through Northern Colorado University.

“In the early ‘70s, I went to the University of Wyoming for my educational specialist degree,” he said. “It included everything but the doctoral dissertation. My primary focus in getting the degree was to just do a better job.”

Over 38 years with the Gering schools, Henry said he’s met lots of nice kids. “There are a lot of neat kids out there and sometimes we adults are guilty of forgetting that. It was a lot of those kids who kept me in the business for all that time.”

One time Henry said he remembers well is the mid-1960s with student dress codes. “We spent about 90 percent of our time trying to make sure everybody had the right length of hair and skirt lengths.”
Discipline is another key factor in running an efficient school. “My philosophy was that if you let the kids start running the school, you might as well close the doors. I tried to provide a classroom environment where the teachers could teach. And I found out that a majority of the kids wanted discipline, although they wouldn’t admit it.”

Henry retired from the Gering Schools in June 1990. He and his wife, Evelyn, travel a lot. With four children and seven grandkids scattered around the region, they like to visit. And while at home, Henry can often be found at the golf course. He also keeps in touch with his inner farmer with gardening.

“I was honored when I heard I’d be on last year’s ballot for Honorary Old Settlers President,” he said. “Although I won, it was an honor just to be considered. If you look through the list of past presidents and vice presidents, you’ll find a lot of people who made a big difference in this community.”
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