Skip to main content

Former secretary of academic staff dies

February 14, 2013 By Käri Knutson

Stephen A. Myrah, who devoted more than four decades to UW–Madison, died Feb. 6 at the age of 74 from heart disease.

Myrah most recently served as secretary of the academic staff from 1992 until 1999, when Colleen McCabe took over as secretary until her retirement in 2009.

Photo: Stephen Myrah


“Steve was a good friend, mentor and colleague,” McCabe says. “He was involved in academic staff governance from its earliest years and remained a strong champion of academic staff rights.”

Myrah graduated from Milwaukee University School (now USM) in 1956 and then received his bachelor’s degree in history cum laude with honors, and later his master’s degree in history in 1961 from UW–Madison. He then left Madison to spend two years in the U.S. Army at New Cumberland Army Depot, Harrisburg, Pa.

He returned to Madison after his time in the military and began working part-time in the university’s financial aid office and enrolled in the Ph.D. program in higher education administration. The part-time job turned into a full-time position. Myrah worked his way up to assistant director of student financial services while completing his doctorate.

He took over the secretary of the academic staff position in 1992, only the second person to occupy the post, after Robert Miller.

“To me, it was a dream job,” Myrah said in a 1999 interview.

The position was created in 1987 after the academic staff members were granted a formal role in helping administer the university through shared governance.

“Before he even contemplated retirement, he told me being secretary of the academic staff was the ‘best job on campus,’” McCabe says. “We met for lunch on a regular basis, and when he did decide to retire, he encouraged me to apply for the position. We have remained close, and I will greatly miss his wit and wisdom.”

Myrah was politically active as a founding member of the Madison Academic Staff Association and served as the first president, and served on the Student Personnel Association Board and the Academic Staff Executive Committee (ASEC President 1989 and ASEC Chair, 1991-92). He retired in 2000 after more than 40 years at the UW. In retirement, he was active in the UW Retirement Association, served many years on the Porchlight Board, and was a member of the Downtown Kiwanis since 2001.

The family will hold a private burial. On March 15, friends are invited to attend a memorial gathering at the Blackhawk Country Club from 2 to 5 p.m. Contributions may be made in his name to the Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy, P.O. Box 628242, Middleton, WI 53562-8242 or to the scholarship fund at UW–Madison. Checks should be made out to: UW Foundation, US Bank lockbox #78807, Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807.