Friday, August 17, 2012

Marv Mayer, R.I.P.

The Chancellor’s Office sent a message earlier today that our esteemed and distinguished colleague Marvin Mayer passed away of complications from melanoma.

What a shock! Chapman’s had too many of these in the past couple of years.

Marv at 64 was still in his prime as a scholar and teacher. There was no warning to us. He didn’t retire due to ill health. He wasn’t visibly failing. He was diagnosed with a relapse of melanoma about a month ago. The end came quickly as Chapman was still in summer vacation.

The world and professional societies will write about Marv as one of the world’s leading scholars on early Christian religions, gnostic studies and the gospels that did not make it into the Bible. Let them; they can speak better than I on his professional achievements.

I saw a scholar who combined linguistics, archeology, religion, history, and perhaps paleontology in his work. I assume his melanoma resulted from the times he spent under the hot sun in the Holy Lands as well his other professional studies. 

I remember the unveiling of The Gospel of Judas at Chapman. Elaine Pagels of Princeton and Marv electrified the audience in Chapman’s Memorial Auditorium. Then came the National Geographic Special.

Let me talk about Marv Mayer as a colleague at Chapman. We’ve lost many distinguished colleagues in the past year. Marv was a star among stars. His smile through the beard, the glint in his eyes, but above all his melliferous voice ensured a room would light up when Marv entered it.

Like E.F. Hutton, people listened when he spoke. Audiences were glued upon each word he uttered. A Ph. D. in religious studies, he had the voice and cadence of a great minister.

Often in scanning though the Discovery, History and National Geographic channels at night, I would hear this voice, Marv’s voice, and knew that’s the show to watch. It didn’t matter what it was on, such as the Gospel of Judas or Ancient Aliens; Marv was involved.

He served as President of the Faculty Senate a decade ago, the ultimate sign of respect by the Chapman faculty. Faculty Senate meetings are not always scintillating, but his presence and voice made the two hours seem like a nanosecond. They were a joy to sit through.

He’s received every major faculty award Chapman offers, the Wang-Fradkin and the Valerie Scudder and excellence awards, all of which are bestowed by the Faculty. He held an endowed chair, and was Director of Chapman’s Albert Schweitzer Institute.

He was respected because he earned everyone’s respect.

Marvin was an outstanding scholar, but an outstanding scholar who was also an outstanding classroom teacher, and a great friend to his colleagues at Chapman University.

Marv was not corrupted by his success, fame, and celebrity status. He continued to willingly and warmly give of himself for that is who he was.

He was always Marv, not Marvin, Dr. or Professor - just Marv because that is who he was.

Marv Mayer was one of the brightest stars in Chapman’s galaxy of stars.

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