For more than 60 years, the Rev. Charles Mayer ’56 had a deep connection with Elmhurst College—first as a student, then as a volunteer, board member and strong supporter of the College’s Niebuhr Center for Faith and Action.
Those who knew Rev. Mayer describe him as a warm, kind person who dedicated himself to the College and to St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Chicago, where he served as senior minister for 33 years.
“He was deeply committed to faith, social justice and academic rigor, and was integral to helping the College become bigger and stronger,” said Elmhurst College Chaplain Rev. H. Scott Matheney.
Rev. Mayer died in his Chicago home on Sunday, October 26. He was 80.
After graduating from Elmhurst College in 1956, Rev. Mayer earned a master of divinity degree at Garrett Evangelical Seminary in Evanston and become ordained in 1960. He served as a minister at various UCC churches before becoming senior minister at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Chicago, where he retired in 2008.
Rev. Mayer also earned a master of arts degree in sociology from Northwestern University in 1965 and taught sociology at Loyola University Chicago and Triton Community College in River Grove, Illinois.
St. Peter’s, which serves a predominantly Hispanic community, was home base this year for the College’s Partners for Peace service project. On October 11, College community members came together at the church to offer free health screenings, distribute donated school supplies and clothing, and organize a nearby food pantry.
While Rev. Mayer had strong ties to the United Church of Christ, he also had “an interfaith agenda that went well beyond a Christian focus,” Matheney said. He was passionate about helping others from diverse racial, economic, gender and sexuality backgrounds, and considered helping others a central tenet of his faith.
“He had such an open heart,” said Kim Whisler-Vasko, coordinator of UCC relations at Elmhurst, who met Rev. Mayer when she first came to the College in 2006. “He was always very excited and supportive of my ideas,” she said.
Maureen Heakin ’71 first met Rev. Mayer when she was in high school in the 1960s and he served as the youth minister of her church. She and her family developed a strong bond with him throughout the years, and he officiated many important events in their lives, including weddings and the memorial services of Heakin’s mother and father. Rev. Mayer also led Heakin to Elmhurst College for her undergraduate studies, which she says was “a profoundly wonderful experience.”
“I am so grateful to have had him in my life for 50 years,” Heakin said. “He has touched the hearts of many over the years, and it is fitting that his heart is now in our thoughts and prayers.”
At the College, Rev. Mayer was a dedicated member of the Board of Trustees from 1993 to 2007, where he served as the National Church Association’s liaison for the Board. He also was involved in spiritual life and supported cultural events such as the annual Jazz Festival.
Rev. Mayer is survived by his wife, Nancy, and two children, Brad and Stephanie. His memorial service will be at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 8, at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, 5450 W. Diversey Avenue in Chicago.