A Lasting Legacy
Published on 14 June 2016
For 46 years, Evelyn Becker-Meyer has been inspiring her biology students to do their best in the classroom with a unique combination of humor, encouragement, and hands-on learning.
Evelyn Becker-Meyer ’88/’93, Pharm.D., professor of biology, started her teaching career while she was a graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis teaching biology to medical students. Now the longest-serving faculty member, Becker joined St. Louis College of Pharmacy as a biology lab instructor in 1970 after completing her master’s degree in biology.
She later became the first female, full-time professor at the College and also enrolled as a student while maintaining a full-time teaching schedule. Completing her bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in 1988 and her Pharm.D. degree in 1993, Becker’s experience as a student and professor at the College has given her a unique perspective and enabled her to form a deeper connection with her students.
Drawing on her multidisciplinary education, Becker has an amazing ability to add context and depth to her teaching, successfully integrating basic sciences and pharmacy practice through practical applications. "One of the biggest influences for me as a teacher was going through the curriculum myself, mostly because I know what is expected and how the students will need to apply the material," Becker explained. "I’ve had my teaching assistants work with me to create collaborative assessments, which are pharmacy applications of a basic biology principle."
A three-time recipient of the Alumni Association’s Joe E. Haberle Outstanding Educator Award, Becker’s warm and supportive teaching style has made her a favorite among current and former students. Her great passion for teaching and deep connection to her students is evident in every story and insight she recalls about her time at the College. "I’ve learned so much from my students over the years. I can’t even describe it," Becker noted. "For me, the big thing is being a part of their lives. I’ve kept in contact with a lot of students that I’ve had in class and that’s really special, sharing in their lives."
Becker credits her successful career as an educator to providing a supportive, hands-on learning environment where students are encouraged to strive for their best. "My philosophy is that a good teacher is essentially a coach," Becker said. "It’s important to set high expectations and provide the resources and support system to help them reach their goals. So, teaching assistants have always been a critical part of my teaching philosophy." Becker has long been an advocate for tutoring and teaching assistant programs, and has helped train many of the students who assist in these roles.
Another essential element to Becker’s teaching style is humor. "I think a little humor lightens things up, so students are less tense," Becker said. "It’s one way to develop trust and show the nurturing part of your personality." The other important ingredient in Becker’s recipe for success is food. "I give them treats when they have a hard exam. It makes a huge difference," she said. "It’s hard to feel intimidated when your mouth is full of brownies."
As a longtime advisor for the College’s chapter of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA), Becker worked to promote diversity among faculty, staff, and students. She also helped establish Knit ’n Nosh, a service group where students and faculty knit hats and blankets to donate to the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. The group has become a meaningful connection point for students in different classes.
After a remarkable career building a lasting legacy at the College, Becker will be retiring at the end of the 2015-16 academic year. She is looking forward to traveling with her husband and spending more time with her daughters and grandchildren. Becker also plans to get more involved in volunteer initiatives she is passionate about, such as the Immigrant & Refugee Women’s Program, an organization that provides in-home English tutoring to female refugees in St. Louis. Becker is sure her retirement will be bittersweet in many ways, "I will definitely miss my colleagues, but I will miss interacting with the students every day most of all," she said. "If you asked me what I am, I would say I am a teacher. So, the fact that teaching will no longer be a daily part of my life will absolutely be what I miss the most."
This story was originally published in the fall 2016 issue of Script, the College’s alumni magazine. Read the current and past issues online at stlcop.edu/script.