Vermillion, USD lose ‘Renaissance Man’

Vermillion, USD lose 'Renaissance Man'
There's nothing that Michael Myers, an associate professor at The University of South Dakota School of Law, has enjoyed more in recent years than the noon meals he and fellow law school professor Frank Slagle regularly shared.

Sadly, that ritual has come to an end. Slagle, 58, died Sunday, Sept. 24, after putting up a remarkably valiant battle after he was diagnosed with cancer approximately 18 months ago.

"Frank and I probably had between 1,100 to 1,300 lunches together," Myers said, "over the last six or seven years.

"We had an opportunity to solve, if not all, most of the world's great problems," he added with a laugh, recalling one of the simple ways Slagle brought joy not only to his life, but to those of his students and fellow community members.

Slagle, Myers said, was a renaissance man.

"He could do it all," he said. "I really admired him a lot."

Slagle joined the law school faculty at USD in January 1984 and taught courses in federal income tax, business entity taxation, business planning and employee benefit plans.

He served on numerous School of Law, campus and national committees, boards and panels. Slagle also served four terms as chair of the University Senate and many years as the School of Law's representative to the University Senate. His teaching was widely recognized and twice he received the School of Law's Jackson Memorial Award for Outstanding Professor.

Slagle didn't limit his talents to the university. He successfully filled the role of public servant in Vermillion, after voters twice elected him to terms on the Vermillion City Council.

He also served two terms as president of Vermillion's Trinity Lutheran Church and a term as president of Concordia Lutheran Church, Vermillion. He chaired the South Dakota Synod Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).

Slagle earned a bachelor of pharmacy degree at�Washington State University and a master of business administration from the University of Washington. He subsequently earned his J.D. degree at Gonzaga University and LL.M degree in taxation from the University of Florida.�He was member of the bar�in South Dakota�and Washington.

"When my father died many years ago, I began to realize that there is a measure of immortality that results from our impact on others," said Barry Vickrey, dean of the USD School of Law. "Frank's measure of immortality includes his wife Ruth Ann, who is a school principal, and two daughters, Jennifer, who will soon be a great lawyer, and Elizabeth, who will be a great doctor a few years from now. All share Frank's passion for public service and carry out that commitment in tangible ways."

Slagle was diagnosed with a very aggressive brain tumor almost two years ago. Myers noted that his unique zest for life kept him active until the disease finally started taking its toll this fall.

"He's the only guy I ever knew who said that he enjoyed riding on a bus," Myers said, noting Slagle's adventuresome spirit. "He said he would meet so many interesting people. He would sit right behind the bus driver, and start up conversations with everyone around him. That's just the way Frank was."

He had an extraordinary range of talents that far exceeded his job as law school professor.

"He could do anything. He was a woodmaker, he could handle tools and he was a pharmacist and tax professor. He really had a broad range of skills," Myers said. "He was in the Shrine as a clown, and he rode a unicycle. He did so many different things."

Myers remembers how his friend, who owned three or four cars during the span of his time in the community, would always check to see how easy it would be to change the vehicle's oil before purchasing it.

It was a task he always enjoyed doing himself. "He taught his daughters how to change spare tires, and he taught me how to put a commode in, and I told Frank, 'I appreciated that, and with any luck at all, I'll never have to do that again.' "

The faculty and staff of the law school were some of the direct beneficiaries of Frank's generosity. We were inspired to be better teachers by his commitment and skill as a classroom teacher," Vickrey said. "We were enabled to use technology through his patient leadership and mentoring. We were entertained by his humor and enlightened by his political observations.� "Many of us even got a tax refund some years because of Frank's assistance; there was always a line outside his door right before April 15," he said.

"He was really the technology guru of the entire campus," Myers said. "He was so far ahead of everybody else."

Slagle died two days before his birthday.

"He turned 59 on Tuesday chronologically, but I think in the terms of the ground he covered and the things that he's done, he was more like 159," Myers said. "Frank was quite a Frank, right up to the end."

Myers said he was amazingly resilient, even while battling the cancer that eventually claimed his life.

On Wednesday, Sept. 20, Myers was teaching a health care law and policy class at the law school. One of his students is Jennifer Slagle.

Myers said discussion during this particular class turned to a section of the Internal Revenue Code that imposes sanctions on non-profit hospitals under certain situation. In particular, Myers wanted to see if anyone in his class knew the definition of a "disqualified person" under this code.

"The class wasn't prepared on that and no one knew the answer, not even Jennifer," he said.

Myers found a logical way out of this dilemma. He had Jennifer call her father, while class was still in session, to see if he knew the answer.

Jennifer shared her father's reply, word-by-word, and naturally, he correctly defined all of the complicated characteristics of a "disqualified person" as defined by this legal code.

"The whole class burst out in applause," Myers said. "Even when he was virtually on his deathbed, he was sending out good legal information. That was Frank Slagle for you."

Despite the demands of his medical treatments after his cancer diagnosis, Slagle continued to teach and carry out his other duties throughout last summer.

� "During the 2005-06 academic year, Frank was as passionate and effective as always in teaching tax law and related subjects, a task beyond most mere mortals," Vickrey said. "He continued to represent the law school within the university and to advocate for higher education to state political leaders.� Vickrey added that Slagle continued to provide pro bono legal advice to nonprofit organizations. This past summer, he completed the grueling assignment of teaching and evaluating the applicants in the law screening program.�

"He never stopped teaching. He never stopped using his immense intellect and inexhaustible compassion for the benefit of others," Vickrey said.

One of Myers' last conversations with Slagle occurred Friday.

"He called me," he said, "and we had a pretty intense discussion on the political condition of the country."

A memorial scholarship fund in Slagle's name has been established at the USD Foundation. A generous alumnus has already pledged $10,000 for this scholarship endowment. Contributions may be made to the USD Foundation, P.O. Box 5555, Vermillion, SD 57069-5555.

Visitation will be held at Trinity Lutheran Church, 816 E. Clark Street, Friday, Sept. 29, from 5 to 7 p.m. and immediately followed by a prayer service at 7 p.m.�

Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 30, at Trinity Lutheran Church.

The state flags on campus at USD will be lowered to half-staff on Friday and Saturday in memory of Slagle.

He is survived by his wife, Ruth Ann, and daughters Elizabeth and Jennifer.

Those interested in sharing or reading about memories of Slagle may visit:�to sign a guest book and to view the guest book.

"He had some strong beliefs," Myers said, "but he could really open up and go right to the heart of almost any issue."

The lunchtime ritual Myers and Slagle enjoyed for so long began to end two months ago as Slagle's health worsened.

"It certainly changed my day," Meyers said. "It was really a pleasure and a privilege to have known him that well, and I know we will all be together again someday."

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