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C. Twiggs Myers Hon. ‘57
SHEFFIELD---Charles Twiggs Myers, 83, a legendary history teacher and coach at Berkshire School for over four decades, died at Berkshire Medical Center on June 14 as a result of injuries suffered in a fall at home. A true Renaissance man, Mr. Myers had interests beyond the classroom and playing fields that ranged from land preservation to railroad trains, from trees and flowers to all kinds of clocks, from baseball and football (i.e., Phillies and Eagles) to the back roads of the Berkshires and the Adirondacks, where he spent his summers.
Twiggs Myers was born on August 2, 1930, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, the youngest of three children of Charles Myers, a Philadelphia attorney, and the former Gertrude James Hearne. He was the namesake of his great-great grandfather, David Emmanuel Twiggs, a hero of the Mexican War and later commander of the Department of Texas for the United States Army. When the War Between the States broke out, Major Twiggs, a Georgian, promptly turned the department over to the Confederacy, which commissioned him a Major General. Born in 1790, he was the oldest Confederate general in the Civil War.
As a child in Wayne, Pennsylvania, Twiggs Myers went to elementary school in nearby Radnor and from fourth through twelfth grades attended the private Haverford School. During his childhood, he raised homing pigeons kept in a loft attached to the family garage. Every summer, a baggage master on the Pennsylvania Railroad would take pigeons belonging to the young Twiggs and other local members of the International Federation of American Homing Pigeon Fanciers to as far away as Columbus, Ohio, or even Indianapolis, one thousand miles distant, and then release them. (Years later, Mr. Myers would raise chickens at his home on Berkshire School Road in Sheffield, which he delighted in calling Laywell Farm.)
In 1948, he entered Princeton University, where his father had graduated in 1909, when Woodrow Wilson was its president. In his oral history of Berkshire School, Mr. Myers readily admitted that his academic progress was, in his words, “frequently hindered by the many social distractions of college life.” He said he got by because of his passion for history, particularly the Civil War. Among other members of Princeton’s Class of 1952 were Dick Kazmaier, a star tailback on Princeton’s football team and the last Ivy Leaguer to win the Heisman Trophy, and James A. Baker, Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan and Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush.
Twiggs Myers graduated from Princeton in 1952 with a degree in history and, he said, no idea of what he wanted to do. He drifted into Harvard Law School and soon discovered he did not want to be a lawyer. “I found the whole business of the law distasteful,” he said, “and I had a very miserable year in Cambridge.”
But he knew that he loved history. He wryly noted that he also had “an unrealistic view of the romance of teaching at a boarding school.” So, following his year at Harvard, Twiggs Myers headed west to the Berkshires, where he found his direction, his calling and his home.
At Berkshire School, Mr. Myers was among the last of a breed: the bachelor schoolmaster whose institution is his love and whose students are his children. He taught history there—his focus was American history in general and the Civil War in particular—from 1953 to 1995, when he was named the school’s Senior Master Emeritus. In 1974, he built his home on Berkshire School Road, where his immediate neighbor to the east was his Berkshire School mentor and friend, Arthur Chase. Mr. Myers taught track and field his entire career and, in 1966, founded the school’s cross country running program, whose teams racked up 200 victories while he was coach.
After retiring, Mr. Myers served as the school’s archivist and continued to take meals with the students and faculty. A popular figure at alumni celebrations, he remained especially close with members of his first graduating class, which, at its 25th reunion, named him an honorary member of the Class of 1957. In 1995 Mr. Myers was named Honorary Distinguished Alumnus, and in 2001 he joined Berkshire’s board of trustees. At the end of every academic year, awards in his name are given for teaching, excellence in history, and achievement in cross country running. In the spring of 2012, a sports car whisked Mr. Myers through a phalanx of cheering students, faculty, and friends en route to the dedication of the Myers Lobby in Berkshire Hall, the school’s main academic building.
An inveterate storyteller with a quick, often irreverent, wit—among the staples in his repertoire was Adlai Stevenson’s quip, “I find Norman Vincent Peale appalling and St. Paul appealing”—Mr. Myers was ever the optimist. In a 1995 commencement address, he urged Berkshire graduates to share that optimism.
“Is there anything to be won either for yourselves or for the rest of humanity by lamenting the malignancy of the times?” he asked them. “A spirit that rejoices in life may be quicker to heal its neighbor’s misery. This is not the first century in which the world has lived with calamity; over students in the Middle Ages, the skies hung dark indeed. Theirs was an uncertain fate, but still they made songs and sang them, songs whose gaiety has survived all their unhappiness, and one such song has survived to this day: Gaudeamus! Let us be joyful!”
In addition to his countless former students, Mr. Myers’s survivors include his sister, Eliza Miller; nieces Diane Hulburt, Katje McIntyre, Wendy Miller, and Susan Curtin; nephews Hunter Ten Broeck and Mark Miller; 12 grand-nephews and nieces; and 5 great-grandnephews and nieces.
A memorial service for Twiggs Myers will be held in July at a time and place to be announced. Gifts in his memory may be made to Berkshire School or to the Sheffield Land Trust in care of Birches Roy Funeral Home, 33 South Street, Great Barrington MA 01230.