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Michael Anthony "Mick" Piper-Smyer

October 21, 1950 — May 3, 2024

Lewisburg, PA

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Michael Anthony “Mick” Piper-Smyer, 73, a Lewisburg resident and former provost of Bucknell University, died Friday, May 3, 2024, sixteen months after being diagnosed with tongue cancer. He died peacefully at his family’s summer home in Eagles Mere, PA, surrounded by family and friends.

 

Mick was born and raised in New Orleans, LA, and never lost his identity as a son of the Crescent City. He graduated from Jesuit High School and Yale University, followed by a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Duke University.

 

A gerontologist by training, he began his career in academics at Penn State in 1977, serving as both a professor and administrator in the College of Human Development. In 1994, he accepted a post at Boston College as Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and director of its Center for Aging and Work.

 

He joined Bucknell in 2008 where he served as Provost until 2015. In 2020, he retired from his academic career there as a professor of psychology.

 

Mick was multi-talented. Early in his Penn State tenure, he joined a local bluegrass group called the Rustical Quality String Band, where he performed on the washboard. The band has played together for more than 45 years, and in 2022 recorded its third album. During the pandemic, Mick began taking lessons in New Orleans-style piano, coached via Zoom by a professional pianist and former high school friend.

 

Throughout his life, Mick pursued a tireless dedication to interests and causes he held dear. “Mick’s scholarship, curiosity, intellectual suppleness, and instinctive collegiality took him everywhere,” noted a former college roommate, Mark Singer, one of his three college roommates who have remained the closest of friends.

 

“He held fellowships and visiting appointments at many institutions here and abroad, including two Fulbrights (Japan, India), and he published prolifically, with a concentration on issues of aging and mental health,” Singer continues. “But what made Mick exceptional were qualities not captured by the specifics of his curriculum vitae. Before ‘networking’ acquired any negative connotation, Mick’s openness, social ease, and innate empathy enabled him to make lasting, rewarding connections wherever he found himself. He was incapable of condescension.”


 

Singer also noted Mick’s deep affinity for Quakerism, and his accompanying commitments to finding humanistic solutions to vexing catastrophies such as the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Later, the births of his four grandsons helped stimulate a commitment to climate-change activism that shaped his post-retirement career. He founded Growing Greener, an organization that provides training workshops and materials that help people, schools and organizations progress from anxiety to action regarding climate change. It currently has reached thousands of people in at least thirty states and six foreign countries.

 

Long-time colleague Margret Gatz of the University of Southern California praised Mick for his profound impact on different fields and communities, from gerontologists to climate activists, reflecting his dedication to effecting positive change. “He was a master at using relatable images and examples to communicate what would otherwise have sounded like ivory tower babble,” she said.

 

Mick was an exemplary husband, father, grandfather, uncle, and friend, always thoughtful and calm in the face of chaos and quick to lend a hand—or a pen, or a tissue, or a cough drop, all of which he always carried.  He was an exceptional correspondent who enjoyed sending postcards to his many friends throughout the world, as well as weekly letters to his children and grandchildren. He served on many boards, both locally and nationally, where his insightful input was offered but rarely pushed. His very quick wit was never at the expense of others. He aspired to be the oldest swimmer in the mile-long Eagles Mere lake swim, held twice each summer. His photographs will be missed by all who saw them on Facebook, or were lucky enough to get one of his yearly calendars. His skill as a maker of letter-shaped pancakes has been admired by everyone who spent the night at the Eagles Mere house.

 

Mick had served on the board of the Eagles Mere Conservancy, and was serving on the boards of the Eagles Mere Association and Eagles Mere Foundation at the time of his death.


Mick is survived by his wife of nearly 49 years, Pat Piper-Smyer of Lewisburg and Eagles Mere; son Brendan Piper-Smyer, daughter-in-law Brittany Piper and grandson Teddy Piper, of Raleigh, NC; daughter Kyle Piper-Smyer, daughter-in-law Kate Piper, and grandsons Bailey, Gus, and Rowan Piper of Portland, OR; three nephews, four nieces, four grand-nephews and a grand-niece; numerous surrogate children from around the country; and countless friends, all of whom have benefited from the steady presence, wisdom, patience, and love he shared throughout his 73 years.

 

A memorial service will be held in Eagles Mere on August 17, 2024. 

 

In lieu of flowers, contributions in Mick's memory might be made to one of the following:  The American Friends Service Committee, online at afsc.org, or 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102; or The Roots of Music, which provides musical instruments to needy New Orleans youth, at therootsofmusic.org, or 1020 North Prieur Street, New Orleans LA 70116; or The Eagles Mere Conservancy, eaglemereconservancy.org, or P.O. Box 64, Eagles Mere, PA 17731; or an environmental charity of one's choice.



Funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Homer Funeral Home, 206 Water St., Dushore, PA. To send condolences please visit www.homerfuneralhome.com  

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