‘A life-long mentor’: WKU management professor passes away

Alexandria Anderson, Content editor

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated Meggers died in car accident. The Herald regrets this error.

Kay Meggers, Hays Watkins executive-in-residence in the Gordon Ford College of Business Department of Management, passed away on Dec. 30 in an accident in Germany, his home country.

Meggers joined the Gordon Ford College of Business in 2017, teaching marketing courses and the capstone course for the department of management. His courses and students were influenced by previous experiences as a business and strategy executive.

Before coming to WKU, Meggers worked as the executive vice president and group president of Global Rolled Products at Alcoa/Arconic, aluminum and lightweight metal manufacturing companies. He also worked as senior vice president at the Siemens U.S. Building Technologies Division and as business unit head of Building Automation.

Meggers also served in the German Army on active duty from 1983 to 1985. After this, he served in the German Army reserve until his death, advancing to the rank of full Colonel and Deputy Brigade Commander in the reserve.

In the department of management, GFCB and WKU, Meggers formed a legacy of mentorship, a focus on student success and the application of knowledge in new ways.

Greg Siegelman, an executive-in-residence for marketing in GFCB, described his friendship with Meggers after both starting at WKU in 2017. Both shared a background in corporate careers before beginning to teach.

“Kay [Meggers] and I spoke often–we had a monthly lunch together, went to a number of Hot Rod games and went out to dinner a couple of times–about “connecting the dots” for the students between college life and what they would have to face in the business world,” Siegelman said. “He was passionate about helping them succeed and preparing them to do so.”

Siegelman stated the real-world experience in business Meggers had added an important perspective to his classroom, as well as how he continually sought classroom improvement. He reflected on the supportive friendship he shared with Meggers and his lasting impact on faculty and students.

“I will miss dropping by his office to chat or having him pop his head into my office,” Siegelman said. “He was my friend–we laughed together, argued with each other and solved the world’s business problems. When my wife passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in April of 2021, he was there for me. I will not soon forget him. I am sure other faculty and especially his students won’t as well.”

Jim Lindsey, an instructor of analytics and information systems in GFCB, explained the qualities he will remember about Meggers. According to Lindsey, Meggers was “exceptionally humble”, accomplishing much in business yet still living modestly.

“We were lucky to have him as a colleague and our students were lucky to take his courses,” Lindsey said. “He was a good leader; he led by example. I’m sure his students saw that and I suspect that is one reason they liked his classes so much.”

Alongside teaching, Meggers served as a German Army reserve colonel, spending his summers with his mechanized infantry unit, Lindsey said. This reflected in his career at WKU, following a “strict regimen” working and keeping up with current events via reading, according to Lindsey.

Meggers “lived by his convictions”, Lindsey said, describing his care for the environment–he rode a bike a majority of the time and would regularly stop to pick up and recycle aluminum cans.

“He didn’t watch his TV so he donated it to St. Vincent’s,” Lindsey said. “He loved being outdoors and would go hiking for his vacations. He worked on his family’s farm with his brother when he was home. We often talked about agriculture.”

Lindsey then explained Meggers’ generosity.

“My wife and I had the opportunity to live in Bavaria, Germany for a few years in the late 1990’s,” Lindsey said. “Kay [Meggers] would often bring us German chocolate that he knew we liked when he would return to Bowling Green in the fall. I will miss him.”

Whitney Peake, Department of Management chair, stated the influence Meggers had on students and the lasting impact he had on student lives and careers.

“Dr. Meggers was brilliant and poured his energy into forging connections with our students and preparing them for their careers,” Peake said. “He could have chosen to work as an executive at any company, and chose to be here with our students. As a result, he impacted hundreds of lives. I think that says something about his character.”

According to Peake, Meggers showed students opportunities in the field and aided in career preparation, utilizing his past career as a business executive.

“He taught our capstone course for the Management Department, paying his vast knowledge and experience forward every class meeting,” Peake said. “Dr. Meggers worked to ensure students were aware of the wide-ranging and exciting opportunities ahead of them, and every semester students commented on Dr. Meggers’s imperative role in fostering their career preparation and ability to apply knowledge in new and interesting ways. Students sensed his unwavering care about their success and they appreciated it. He will be dearly missed by the Department.”

WKU Faculty Regent and fellow management professor Shane Spiller shared Meggers’ introduction to WKU. When they first met, Meggers worked as a vice president of Alcoa, responsible for approximately 25,000 employees, over $5 billion in annual operations and meetings with top business leaders. After guest lecturing in some of Spiller’s classes, Meggers found a place in the GFCB.

“Dr. Meggers was fascinated by the idea of teaching, of helping students understand the role that strategy could play in business and life success,” Spiller said. “[…] Dr. Meggers could have been a professor at any University in the world, he was offered other jobs multiple times but he loved WKU, he loved Bowling Green and he loved the student-centered approach of the Gordon Ford College of Business.”

Spiller also described Meggers’ teaching style with a focus on achievement and ignoring things that distract from success.

“He taught the benefits of having a singular focus towards the achievement of your mission, and ignoring the silly stuff that distracts you from success,” Spiller said. “[…] Dr. Meggers was singularly focused on teaching students, both those in his classes, and those from his past classes. He dismissed so much of the “silly” bureaucracy of higher education as useless, unless it would help a student, then he would be 100% committed.”

According to Spiller, Meggers was “the smartest person I have ever known.” As an avid reader and follower of international news, Spiller described Meggers as someone able to easily predict the future.

“I, like many of his students, would feel a sense of pride when he would note that something I said was ‘spot on,’” Spiller said. “His students would go from being nervous because, as they told me, he knew what you were going to say before you said it, to realizing what a great person he was and how willing and capable he was to be a life-long mentor to them. Even though he and I teach the same course, I encouraged students to take him, when asked why, I would reply ‘google him’.”

The loss of Meggers as a professor, mentor, colleague and friend has deeply impacted the WKU community. According to Spiller, his influence across the university and business community is insurmountable.

“I continue to hear dismay from members of the worldwide business community, and students,  over the passing of Dr. Meggers,” Spiller said. “I personally am crushed. He was my friend and colleague, I learned something from him every time we talked. We all will miss him; the value he was providing to WKU students was immeasurable.”

Content editor Alexandria Anderson can be reached at [email protected]