Faculty Profile: Deri Meier

Professor Frederic, “Deri” Meier walks into classroom 003 in the basement of Kalkin Hall at exactly 2:00 pm on Wednesday afternoon. He carries an L.L. Bean tote bag that has been well loved over the years. His two-button grey pinstripe suit jacket flaps open as he strides while his matching pants break just over his brown leather shoes. A white shirt topped off with a red and brown paisley tie accompany the rest of his ensemble.

First-day customary chatter softens as her enters save one outburst of laughter from someone in the back row. He glances up and with a full smile announces, “This is a bad start, I haven’t even said anything and you’re already laughing at me.”

First impressions are often lasting ones. If one were to try and draw a conclusion about Meier as a easy going well dressed Baby Boomer, then one would be right on target. Left out of this picture, however, would be Meier’s undergraduate degree from Yale University, two Masters from Harvard University, his work with the Shah of Iran and former Vermont governor Howard Dean, and a love for unspoiled Vermont skiing.

Meier worked for Mobil Oil early on in his career dealing with the domestic marketing and finance. Beginning in 1967 and for six years after that, he was put in charge of Mobil Marketing’s Financial Analysis Unit where he was responsible for all marketing proposals which went to the Mobil’s board. It was there that he was involved with the first self-serve gasoline pump with a convenience store/gas station concept. This idea changed the way America not only traveled but also went about their daily lives.

A few years later he went over to Iran and became the Assistant Finance Manager for the Iranian Consortium from 1977 to 1979 in Ahwaz.

He was soon put on loan by Mobil to a firm in Abu dhabi where he worked very closely with the Shah. A year and a half later the Shah was overthrown by the Iranian people led by the Islamic fundamentalists called the Mullahs formed a revolt against the Shah’s rule. The Shah ruled like a dictator and had become rather unpopular for a variety of reasons mostly from economic origin. As a result of the Shah being overthrown, the Mullohs demanded that all foreigners leave the country of Iran. Under this condition Meier and his people evacuated all 1,500 foreigners (half of which were not Mobil employees: some school teachers, missionaries and contractors) from southern Iran in three and a half days via commercial jetliner.

Despite the lack of help from the United States, Mobil was prepared for such a thing and moved everyone without an Iranian passport to Athens, Greece into three luxury hotels which were closed in the off-season for a period of two weeks. “Those people who were not employees of (Mobil) we provided the flight, and then billed them for a standard commercial air flight. Of the 800 people, only one person didn’t pay. This was after they had been evacuated, were safe, and were back home. I think this is a good testament to human nature,” says Meier.

Meier left Mobil Oil in 1988 to return to the Kennedy School of Business and received a Masters in Public Administration in one year. He relocated to Watesfield while working on the Richard Snelling campaign for governor of Vermont. Snelling passed away eights months into his term and Howard Dean took over. Dean kept all of Snelling’s appointees including Meier who worked as the deputy secretary of administration. He served as the chief advisor to Dean and did a lot of legislative work focusing mainly on internal budget, manpower levels, information technology and reorganization; much like his duties with Mobil.

Meier quickly realized however, that the difference between working for Mobil and the State of Vermont was like night and day. “You can make a mistake in the private sector but a certain level of mistakes are normal and you can make the money back. In the public sector you can do nine things right, one thing wrong and that will get you on the cover of Burlington Free Press. ”

Not long after his work with Dean, Meier continued his trend of management and leadership and began to invest in the Mad River Glen Ski Area. The ski area itself was up for sale by the owner who wanted to sell it back to the skiers rather than to a single owner or a corporation that could ruin the soul of the skier-only mountain.

Early on, Meier had invested $100 in the buyout in an effort to get into the ownership plan. A friend and co-investor later informed him that in order to get the plan off the ground they would need some help. Meier was eager to assist and quickly made up a five-person board, including himself, that began to market the idea of cooperative ownership to season pass holders and other investors. Meier worked six days a week during the summer which allowed the group to raise two-thirds of the necessary $2.5 million to purchase the mountain.

As a result of Meier’s effort he was elected President of the Mad River Glen Co-op followed by two terms as treasurer and then re-elected as president. He served for five terms on the board all of which, and even after, he was very highly involved in the capital planning. “I’m past the term limit now so I’m off the board but I still know many of the board members personally,” says Meier of his Mad River relations. “I still go to the meetings though, sit in the back, ask questions and be a smart ass.”

After being a season pass holder since 1965 he still gets in 40-50 days of skiing a year.