Friends & family of Thomas Meixner pay final respects to slain UA professor
Meixner described as 'compassionate' & 'brilliant' during Friday funeral
Friends and family of Thomas Meixner, the University of Arizona hydrology professor who was shot and killed last week, paid their last respects at his funeral on Friday.
Meixner, who was killed last Wednesday, was remembered during a funeral mass at St. Cyril of Alexandria Catholic Church. More than 600 people filled the small Midtown Tucson church and another 200 attended in an overflow space.
Meixner, 52, was the head of the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences at the UA and known for his work on the water quality of desert rivers. In 2005, he had joined the faculty of his alma mater, where he earned his doctoral degree.
Father Paul Henson, a priest from St. Cyril, described the professor as “compassionate” and “caring,” saying “he would give great big hugs, and it was like hugging a teddy bear.” Meixner was also “brilliant” and “enjoyed talking about everything under the sun, and sometimes the sun too.”
Related: UA profs felt like 'sitting ducks' as they pleaded for help before Meixner killing
“So many have come here to express their love with their presence and their words,” Henson said. “This only happens because Thomas loved everyone. He loved with his entire being.”
Kathleen Cotter Meixner, Thomas’ wife of 25 years, also thanked guests for “your presence and helping us remember the precious moments.” She spoke alongside their two sons, Sean and Brendan.
“We’re so thankful that you all have been friends to us during this time of great loss,” she said at the funeral. “His legacy lives on in the friendships being made here today.”
The two had met at the St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center on the UA campus when they were both students. At that point, Meixner had recently survived cancer, she said.
She talked about the many roles that he had in people’s life, mentioning that he wasn’t just a “dad,” an “uncle” and as Mr. Meixner” but that friends had nicknamed the hydrology professor “Aquaman” like the comic book superhero.
Colleagues from the UA were in attendance, including fellow Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences professor Christopher Castro, who told the Sentinel that he was also threatened and targeted by the disgruntled former graduate student charged with Meixner’s murder.
Boy scouts were also in attendance as Meixner was a scoutmaster for Troop 115. He was remembered with items such as his bike helmet, backpack, a textbook and pictures placed by his coffin during the ceremony.
Meixner was buried wearing his wedding band, which had been held as evidence after the shooting, but was ordered released by a judge at the family's request earlier this week.
“I wish I had the words to express what he meant to me and to all of you,” Meixner’s oldest son Sean said. “My dad was full of love and compassion for everyone.”
Meixner was to be buried at Holy Hope Cemetery on Friday. A GoFundMe page was set up to support Meixner’s family and has since collected more than $200,000 after the family set a goal of $150,000. Castro told the Sentinel that because Meixner was a cancer survivor, he had not been able to get a life insurance policy.
St. Cyril Parish also encouraged people to show their support for Meixner by donating to the UA Thomas Meixner Fund, The Thomas Meixner Watershed Management Project, the Union of Concerned Scientist or the University of Maryland Thomas Meixner Memorial Fund, set up by the college where he earned his bachelor’s degree.
Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.