Lafayette professor Edith Grossman Mayers succumbs from rare disease

EDITH GROSSMAN MAYERS, Ph.D.,  a retired University of Southeast Louisiana professor and  a Jewish community icon in Lafayette, passed away peacefully at her home on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, after being diagnosed with a rare fatal neurological disease just one month ago. She was 74. 

One of her greatest contributions was to the Jewish community in Lafayette. Her life’s passion was to keep Judaism alive in Acadiana. For over four decades, Mayers was a steadfast lay leader of both Temple Shalom and the former Yeshurun Synagogue. She served multiple tenures as president, various Board Member roles and was Head of the Religious School this past year.

With no permanent rabbi or other clergy,  Mayers often assumed the duties of religious leaders, leading services, organizing Passover seders and other religious events and dedicated herself to maintaining the sanctuary and building. For many people in the area, she was the go-to spokesperson for the community, often representing the Jewish community in ecumenical events, lecturing to interdenominational groups, elementary schools, Theresian groups, and was a highly visible member of the local community.

Born in the fall of 1944 in New Orleans, she and her family moved to Utica, N.Y., her father’s birthplace. Eventually, she moved back to New Orleans to be close to members of her extended family. She attended Allen Elementary School, McMain Junior High School and was a graduate of Fortier High School in 1962.

Active in B’nai Brith Girls (BBG), she was responsible for the care of her younger siblings during a period of extended illness for her grandmother. Eventually, she transferred to LSU in Baton Rouge, where she obtained a bachelor of science degree in Elementary Education in 1966.

While at LSU for her undergraduate studies, she met Kenneth Mayers. They were married during the “summer of love” in 1967 and moved to his hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana two years later, where they raised their family.  Mayers went on to receive her She received her Master of Education degree  with a major in Elementary Education from USL (now ULL) with a 4.0 GPA in 1976. She went on to obtain a Ph.D in Curriculum and Instruction from LSU in 1995.

Mayers first taught at McDonough 14 Elementary in New Orleans and Dufrocq Elementary and University Terrace in Baton Rouge. From 1985-1990, she was an instructor of Developmental Reading in the Junior Division at USL. She joined the USL faculty of Curriculum & Instruction in 1990 as an instructor, became an assistant professor in 1996, and an associate professor in 2007.

She was advisor to Kappa Delta Pi, the Education Honor Society, and to the Jewish Students Association on campus. She retired from ULL in 2018.

Mayers was a committed volunteer. She was president of the Lafayette Parish Bar Auxiliary, both the Lafayette and Louisiana Jaycee Jaynes, and Faith House chairman of the board. She was a long-standing Junior League of Lafayette member, board member, sustainer and advisor, and was active in both Ascension Day School and Episcopal School of Acadiana parent clubs throughout the time her children were in shcool.

She was co-chairman of the first Acadian Fair and Trade Show which developed into the Festivals Acadians. In 1984, she reigned as Empress Josephine in the Krewe of Bonaparte while her husband served as Emperor Napoleon. 

Mayers was recognized for her endless volunteer contributions with numerous honors, awards and recognitions including Faith House Woman of the Year Award, Junior League Sustainer of the Year Award and ULL Outstanding College of Education Alumni Award. She was recognized with numerous honors from the local, state and national level of the Jaycee Jaynes including the 1980 Outstanding Jaycee Family of the Year, Outstanding Young Women of Louisiana and in 1985 earned the highest honor as United States Jaycee Women’s Congress and Life Member. In 1987, Mayers was presented with the Lafayette Parish Bar Auxillary with the Acadiana Volunteer Activist award.

In addition to teaching on faculty at ULL and serving the university on countless committees and projects, she also started her own business that prepared well over   1,000 high school students for success on the ACT/SAT college entrance exams for almost 30 years.

Mayers is survived by her husband, Kenneth Mayers; daughter Elise (David) Bouchner; daughter Marcy (Jason) Laviage of Houston, TX; son Scott (Elizabeth) Mayers; sister and brother-in-law Cynthia and Hank Greenwald of Metairie; sister and brother-in-law Sherry and Alan Berlin of San Diego, CA; brother and sister-in-law Lester and Beth Grossman of Aurora, IL; sister-in-law Marjorie Mayers of Houston, TX; and five grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, May 29 at 2:00pm at Temple Shalom followed by a short graveside service at Hebrew Rest Cemetery, officiated by longtime family friend, Rabbi Judith Siegal of Temple Judea in Coral Gables, FL.

Upon her diagnosis, and at her request, Dr. Mayers’ children and grandchildren began charitable projects #edyesproject and #givingforgrammy inspired by her commitment to sustaining Jewish life continue in Acadiana. For this reason, in lieu of flowers, please consider contributing to Temple Shalom, P.O. Box 53711, Lafayette, LA 70507, specify Rabbi Fund. The online guestbook is available at Martin & Castille Funeral Home, 330 St. Landry St. in  Lafayette.  For more information, call 337-234-2311.

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