A native of Bay City, Michigan and graduate of what is now Concordia University, Nebraska, Will Neumeyer came to Fort Wayne in 1974 to teach at Unity Lutheran School. Five years later, he became principal there. In 1987, he was hired by Concordia Lutheran High School to create the school's media arts program.
There was no blueprint for high school level media production classes at that time, so Neumeyer spent a year traveling around the region to visit television stations, production studios and other schools that were trying similar things, then built his own curriculum based on what he had learned. What he devised was unique in how it emphasized the creative process as much as technical proficiency.
The result was Video Voice, Concordia's student-produced weekly television program that debuted October 19, 1989 on local cable access. Initially devised as a news broadcast, it evolved into a magazine-style format, featuring on-set interviews, comedy segments and even short films. Others took notice, and it wasn't long before Video Voice was winning local, regional and even national awards.
Neumeyer also encouraged his students to participate in Project XL, a state-wide arts competition sponsored by Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance. Over the course of its 21-year history, his students went to the state finals 14 times, including three runners-up and one state champion in the video art category. That first place entry was also selected as Best in Show for all six categories (2-D art, 3-D art, original music, original performance, writing and video art).
Neumeyer's main legacy, though, is not the awards his students won but the life-long impact he had on them. “He saw something in me and opened more doors for me because I needed more doors to open for me,” remembered Joe Harkenrider ('02), who studied film and television production at Columbia College in Chicago and is currently a producer in Comedy Central's digital division.
For Ken Loechner ('00), who went on to work as an editor for Warner Bros. and Disney, it was Neumeyer's unique way of interacting with his pupils that set him apart from other teachers. "There is a fine line between giving too much credit, making a student feel they have reached their full potential, and reserving just enough credit to draw out ambition without stifling desire," Loechner said. "He could do this at whatever level you were."
In 2005, Neumeyer was awarded a Lilly Grant to make his own creative project: Land Rich, an hour-long documentary on Montana's disappearing family ranches. It premiered at Indiana Tech the following August and later made its broadcast debut on Montana's only PBS station, where it was soon added to their regular programming rotation.
In 2011, at the age of 60, Will Neumeyer was called home by the Lord after a two-year battle with cancer. Five years later, the studio where he spent so much time teaching and inspiring students was named in his memory.