Fred Merrill, long-time benefactor and friend of LSI dies

Fred Merrill, long-time benefactor and friend of LSI dies

Karen Salisbury Henry

photo of Fred and Virginia Merrillphoto of Fred and Virginia MerrillFred Merrill, who with his wife, Virginia, established the Merrill Advanced Studies Center at LSI in 1990, died Oct. 20 in Mission Hills, Kan. A leading businessman in the flour milling industry and a longtime philanthropist, Fred was a graduate of Kansas State University and chaired the K-State Foundation board. But Virginia studied speech correction at KU, which prompted the couple to visit Lawrence in 1988 to consider an endowment at her alma mater. A chat with Dick Schiefelbusch, long-time director of the Bureau of Child Research (forerunner of the Life Span Institute), changed LSI history.

In 1990 the Merrills established the Merrill Advanced Studies Center to serve as a catalyst for scholarship in disabilities with an emphasis on communication disorders. The scope later expanded to include policies that shape university research. In 2003 they established the Fred and Virginia Merrill Distinguished Professorship of Advanced Studies, which is held by Mabel Rice who also serves as the director of the Merrill Advanced Studies Center.

According to Rice, Fred and Virginia were actively involved not only as benefactors but as members of the Merrill Center Board of Directors. “Fred brought a lively, inquiring mind to his participation in the Merrill Advanced Studies Center. He also brought a mischievous sense of humor including an uncanny ability to see through complex scientific issues and diverse scientific opinions while, at the same time, adopting the position that he was a novice at all such things. He enjoyed providing occasions in which scientists gathered for the purpose of advancing knowledge and was especially pleased when the outcomes could benefit the lives of others.”

Rice noted that Fred “was proud to be a graduate of Kansas State University and proud that Virginia was a graduate of the University of Kansas, and each of them was always proud to be a Kansan. It was a pleasure to work with him and is an honor to continue to extend his legacy in the Merrill Advanced Studies Center.”

Virginia Merrill survives along with their three children and several grandchildren.