Monday, April 19, 2021

Laura Myers truly hates being late. But in 2002, she was five minutes late for work her first day at IIHR.

“It was so not me!” she says. She more than corrected that first impression, though, and is now one of the people everyone depends on — and not only for a smile or a laugh. Myers’ institutional knowledge and experience are important to the institute and its mission.

Myers grew up near the Coralville Reservoir, the youngest of five sisters. “We were always thick as thieves,” she says. They still are. “I know that I have at least four best friends forever.”

Myers’ father dreamed of living in northern Minnesota, so he put his daughters to work helping to cut down the existing trees and replacing them with pine trees.

“This is what we did our whole childhood,” Myers says. “I became a very hard worker.”

When the band of girls had free time, they escaped into the woods to create their own adventures, completely unsupervised. “Our idea of playing was pretending it was ‘Red Dawn’ and building some sort of secret fort in the trees, or maybe searching an old, abandoned home and making it into an Indiana Jones archaeology dig.”

Myers and her sisters drove long before they turned 16, (mostly) on their parents’ property. “I can remember steering the ‘old green jeep’ while Kristine managed the pedals, because neither of us was tall enough to do both,” Myers says. “Crazy times!”

She adds, “We were not super average girls. I did have a few dolls, but we tended to put them up in the trees as snipers.”

When Myers started work at IIHR, V.C. Patel was the director, and Marlene Janssen supervised the office staff. When Janssen retired about a year later, Myers took on some of her duties providing support to Patel. Since then, she’s worked with two other IIHR directors, Larry Weber and Gabriele Villarini.

“My favorite thing about IIHR is meeting and becoming friends with so many wonderful, brilliant people from around the world,” Myers says.

It’s amazing that landlocked Iowa is home to an organization that’s so diverse, she says. “I’m so happy to be part of that.”

And although she jokes that she fell in with a bad crowd when she first came to IIHR (“Anyone who knows Mike Kundert will know what I mean”), Myers made many close friendships, including Paul Below, Sofia Castillo, Jen Nichols (now Mullens), and many more.

When asked what her perfect day would look like, Myers says it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re with the right people. “In the end, we choose our lives, and if we don’t choose to be with the people who make life fun, who make life happy, well, it seems like a waste to me.

“Life is short,” she says. “The more joy we can get, give, and share – that’s all that matters.”