Behind every news story about violence are people developing innovative ways to combat the issue. Rick Meyers ’93 is one of them.
Meyers’ interest in community service dates back to his high school days and continued on College Hill when he helped run the Hamilton Association for Volunteering, Outreach, and Charity (HAVOC). After earning his MBA and pursuing a couple of early-career jobs, Meyers’ passion for working with people and solving problems led him to Chicago to work for Bernstein, a private wealth management firm, where he started as a financial advisor and now serves as the head of private wealth advisory and client service.
Bernstein’s “unimpeachable ethical timber” and commitment to its communities paired well with Meyers’ desire to find ways to facilitate change. In the wake of surging gun violence in Chicago in 2016, Meyers, who had served Chicago communities for years through organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, the Posse Foundation, and others, saw an opportunity to take the lead at a critical moment.
“The conversations we were having in the office and the conversations we were having with clients at the time would inevitably drift into questions. ‘Why is this happening?’ ‘Is there anything that we can do?’ There are no easy answers, but standing on the sidelines wasn’t an acceptable option. So, we decided we needed to join the conversation around gun violence.”
Meyers enlisted a cohort of interested colleagues to launch what became known as “Creating a Safer Chicago: The Ripple Effect.” The effort was designed to connect Bernstein clients who cared about the issue with those on the front lines.
“So many people try to make a difference but end up siloing their efforts, and the degree of coordination and cooperation and cross visibility is more limited than it should be,” he explained.
Meyers and others set up meetings, roundtables, annual conferences, workshops, and other events to connect the organizations and people. Some groups began working together while clients pitched in and even joined the organizations’ boards. While COVID-19 inhibited some of the program’s efforts, it has not derailed Meyers.
“[Gun violence] isn’t going away. It’s a big issue,” he said. “If I look where I’ve chosen to continue to be involved, it’s with organizations [Boys and Girls Club and Posse] trying to help. It’s about training the next generation of leaders with diverse backgrounds who could develop consensus solutions to solve complex social problems. And that’s what we have. So, it’s a step removed from the gun violence dialogue, but I think it's very much consonant with the idea that we need to move forward on social change.”
Read about other alumni who are making an impact in their professions and communities around the world.
Meyers believes his liberal arts education from Hamilton equipped him to run toward complex issues and find ways to tackle them.
“For [Hamilton graduates] who lean in and try to make a difference, there’s this sense that we can figure out a way to get our arms around issues that aren’t necessarily easy,” he said. “We can reach across to others and build teams to try to address it, and we can work to leave whatever organization we find or whatever issue we find a little bit better than the way we found it. I think it’s very much a byproduct of the strength of a Hamilton education.”